Volkswagen’s biggest beast has always been a handsome car with class and presence, but how does turning it green change things?
With the price of diesel soaring and the pressure on to down-size and eco-up, the manufacturers of the largest luxury 4x4s are making serious efforts to improve economy and emissions, yet still provide the power and performance buyers would expect for their bucks.
Enter VW’s 3.0-litre V6 TDI Touareg, a slimmed down version of its (by all expectations) polar opposite, the R50 5.0-litre V10 monster machine. Still substantial, solid and imposing, its 19” alloys, large bore twin stainless steel exhaust pipes and fresh headlights leading into the aggressive new grille give more than a hint of something special under the bonnet. Moving inside, whilst conventionally styled, the cabin’s well appointed with all the switchgear and gadgetry you’d expect for its circa £40,000 asking price; including two-zone climate control, a touch screen DVD/satnav system and luxe soft leather interior. But, its typical buyer may want to opt for some fancy extras on offer, and may I recommend the bi-xenon headlights (£1,300) and special air suspension pack (£2,395).
Typical of this luxe large type of car, there’s acres of space in this cosseting, well insulated and airy cabin for four or five large adults to travel in some style. The boot is not overly capacious though, rather on the shallow side - more useful for carrying a Waitrose weekly shop than taking bulky broken white goods down to the local tip. For the driver, there are plenty of adjustment possibilities to enable you to achieve your perfect cruising position, and enjoy a commanding view over the countryside.
Whilst the 5.0 litre V10 R50 boasted a hot hatch 0-62mph sprint time of just 6.7 seconds, and enough torque and power to tow a Boeing 747 (yes, it’s been done), the 3.0-litre takes 7.8 seconds to 62mph. A small sacrifice that ups economy from a woeful 22.4 to a more respectable official figure of 39.2mpg combined, and emits just 189g/km CO2, compare that to the V10 R50’s frankly embarrassing 333g/km and it’s suddenly worth the sacrifice of super-speed. The integration of a BlueMotion technology pack, which includes a stop-start function and regenerative braking helps achieve these figures, but nevertheless, we found when driven with any real gusto, the fuel economy drops alarmingly to the sub 20mpg mark.
Stats aside, the 3.0-litre still packs plenty of punch to play with and to drive - this is an absolute powerhouse. The eight-speed triptronic box is smooth and a good match for the engine, the ride is stable and there’s little wind and engine noise. But if you are lucky to be able to afford this as your family ferry, you’ll have some very comfortable passengers indeed. On the tighter twists and bends though, it fares less well despite understeer control logic and the likes of ESP, off-road however, it’s actually better than initially expected. Whilst not as out and out capable as the true mud and rut specialists from Land Rover, thanks to 4MOTION four-wheel drive working with a Torsen limited-slip differential and an electronic diff lock on all four wheels, it made short work of some medium difficulty inclines, wading and powering along on slippery grass and muddy tracks.
With serious competition from the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover or Range Rover Sport, all of which some would argue are the better cars overall, the Volkswagen Touareg is still a handsome, classy and powerful family car which is rewarding and will still command the respect it deserves.