Continuing my review of the latest models from Volkswagen that I recently sampled at a press day, here’s a review of one of my personal favourites seen in its natural environment – The mighty Touareg SUV.
The basic exterior shape hasn’t changed that much since its introduction way back in 2003 but it has been considerably refreshed over time and was face-lifted again in 2014 to resemble the overall look of the VW range. It was an impressive vehicle upon release and it is even better now. While it retains all the virtues of space, comfort, refinement and off-road and towing ability which have made the Touareg so popular, this latest refresh takes the model forward thanks to the use of lightweight construction techniques, more fuel-efficient engines and new technologies.The front-end design of the Touareg features larger headlights (now bi-xenon as standard across the range), a deeper new radiator grille with four instead of two horizontal fins and a re-profiled bumper, all of which lend the big SUV a wider appearance.
At the rear as at the front, the redesigned bumper gives the Touareg a wider look than before, with a new rear diffuser between the twin tailpipes and LED rear fog lights integrated in the bumper. New door mirror caps, a range of new wheel designs and new paint colours complete the exterior makeover. Inside, the Touareg also gets the option of new colours for the standard leather upholstery, new design accents and new lighting.
Power is derived from a new 3.0L V6 TDI. There are two versions; a 201bhp (332lb/ft) entry level and the engine tested here that delivers 258bhp with a huge whoosh of 428lb/ft of torque. This is the power plant you want on this SUV and it’s twinned to a new eight-speed tiptronic gearbox which is more frugal and greener than ever before. With the 258bhp engine, the Touareg returns 42.8mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting, say VW, 174g/km of CO².All Touaregs are now badged as BlueMotion Technology models, and feature a number of economy enhancing features including battery regeneration (recuperation or energy recovery during braking phases) and a Stop/Start function. Standard equipment across the three trim levels – SE, Escape and R-Line – is comprehensive. On the entry-level SE model, leather trim, touchscreen satellite navigation with DAB radio, six airbags, burr walnut interior trim, 2Zone climate control and 4MOTION four-wheel drive are all standard. Our car also featured some options that included special Reef Blue metallic paint.The interior is smart, in an almost austere business-like way, and very uncluttered with most functions organised via the big screen. The leather front seats come with lumbar support and there’s also two optional wood trims on offer although our car didn’t feature these. In any case I prefer the brushed aluminium look. Choose the R-Line model and Nappa leather upholstery in two-tone grey and black is available as an option. On brief acquaintance the Touareg’s cabin seems built to the highest standards with a massive boot at the back.All key information – including the rev-counter, speedometer, engine temperature, fuel gauge and computer display – is displayed within the driver’s visual field in the instrument cluster. These classic, round analogue instruments have electroplated chrome bezels and illuminated red pointers; they are backlit by white LEDs and have a three-dimensional look showing a real attention to detail. As you would expect for around £44,000 (depending) there’s excellent VW navigation and the whole gamut of DAB, Bluetooth and connectivity controlled via buttons or the large central command dial.Out on the road it’s more refined than previously. Handling is much improved with better poise into corners. Long gone is the woolliness of the steering which is now precise and accurate making for an easy-going drive. The Touareg offers comfort and refinement yet it’s still a very good car to drive especially given the size of the thing. I enjoyed a very spirited drive around the Wiltshire countryside and enjoyed it hugely, King Of The Road style. Ride quality is brilliant and kicks sand in the face of our ruined roads. Overall, the Volkswagen Touareg is refined, quiet and the perfect vehicle for distance travel and most off-road encounters. It’s a bit pricey and there are a huge number of big SUVs to choose from, most of them decent cars. The difference is that it is made by VW and you can feel the 4×4 heritage. Geoff Maxted