Volkswagen Touareg R Line Review
- Model spec: VW Touareg R-Line
- Price: £68000
- Engine: 3.0-litre V6 TDi
- Max Speed: 146 mph
- 0-60: 6.1 seconds
- BHP/Torque: 286 / 600
- Economy: 36 mpg combined
- C02: 173g/km
- Tax: 465/year
The Volkswagen Touareg, a big luxury bargain or just another conveyor belt product from the Volkswagen? It’s a bit of both, to be honest. It’s been around since 2002 and as of 2018 it entered it’s third generation re-invention. Now it’s a little bit longer, a little bit wider. And that’s the history lesson over with. So then, the third-generation Touareg… It looks great but what I really like about it is that the platform is shared with the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and the Bentley Bentayga. In theory, you could argue you’re getting a cut-price Bentayga. Which is a sad argument to make if you are sober. The third-generation Touareg is better looking than ever before and I would dare say better looking than any of its sister brands. SUV image? nailed.
So the Touareg has the purposeful SUV looks. It’s available in six trims levels, the entry-level SE trim was introduced a few weeks ago and reduces the starting price to £45k for the UK market, standard Touaregs are packed full of technology. The top-spec all singing all dancing V6 Black Edition will set you back a cool £58k. The engines? you have a choice of three, one diesel 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel in two states of power, 231-286bhp and a 3.0-litre V6 petrol TFSi… which no one in the UK will ever buy. These are tried and dare I say it tested engines – just don’t mention dieselgate – from the VW stable and all are mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, AWD is standard across the range.
The Touareg R-Line V6 TDi, 286 bhp on test was fitted with quite a few optional extras which bumped the price past £65k and counting. The highlights being a 15-inch infotainment system – which is a £3,560 option -, 19-inch alloys, air suspension – £2370 option – Adaptive cruise control (ACC), 4-zone climate control, park assist, Vienna Black leather upholstery with 6-way adjustment and heated front seats, full LED headlights and 19 power-assisted boot. Indeed too much to mention, so check this link for the full spec sheet. Curiously electric front seats do not come as standard in a vehicle that costing over £60k when options are taken into account. This is simply unacceptable. Nor is an electrically adjustable steering column fitted as standard. Again unacceptable for a car at this premium price.
OK, so the VW has the exterior looks, premium on the outside for sure. But if I owned a Touareg I would not be spending all of my time looking at it. So, very obviously, VW has to nail the interior, especially at this price. And generally speaking, it’s a hit and miss affair. Admittedly once you step into the driver’s seat you instantly get a good premium impression. The seats are flat in appearance and therefore look uncomfortable, but they are indeed comfortable enough. They just lack the cushioning you get, when compared – as an example – with entry-level Land Rovers.
The dashboard sweeps across, from right to left, dominated by screens and very few buttons. But that digital driver’s instrument and the upgraded 15-inch touchscreen is a near £4k optional extra. That is the price to pay to join the future club. Surely digital instrument binnacle displays should be standard for every car in 2019.
Nevertheless, the whole interior is solidly built, but as with all VW’s look closer and you feel where the accountants have been doing their very best to make you feel miserable.
A VW is a little like an Onion, its made up of layers, the top layers are soft-touch, lower down the materials are – what is professionally known as – “scratchy plastics”. It’s cost-cutting you expect to find on a Dacia which is fine for Dacia but for a vehicle costing £60k, it is unacceptable. However, the build quality is as good if not better than say a BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE so the Volkswagen Touareg just about gets away with the low rent material quality in that the perceived quality makes up for the “Dacia-ness”.
The infotainment system is OK to use, it’s blighted by a lot of sub-menus but as with any infotainment system you get used to operating it after a while and you find ways around the “tense” usability experience. The heating controls, mostly everything is accessed via the 15-inch touchscreen. And just to mention lower-spec models get smaller screens and horrible physical buttons. Surely even at the base level price point of £45k the Touareg should have fully integrated the 15-inch. The 9-inch touchscreen is flanked by physical buttons. But it looks so mid-2000s it leaves you wretching with disgust.
What is acceptable is the cabin space for there is plenty of it on offer at the front and rear for all shapes and sizes. And the boot is plenty big enough with the seats raised and mahoosive with the rear seats lowered. Air suspension allows you to lower or raise the rear to give easy or more difficult access should you require it.
First world problems aside, how does the Volkswagen Touareg drive? It’s rather good for a large heavy 2.1 tonne SUV. The R-Line spec was equipped with the optional air suspension and all-wheel-steering. Driving through narrow twisty country roads was not a problem, the suspension was supple enough to iron out the worst that pot-hole Britain could muster. I don’t really care about steering feedback in a large SUV or even precision and the Volkswagen Touareg offers none whatsoever. What it does offer is predictability, plenty of traction and grip. Not much body roll and it feels stable and safe from behind the wheel. And when I turn the steering left the Touareg turns left, the same thing happens when I make a right turn. I like how it drives, relaxing, boring but concise. Nothing wrong with that.
The 3.0-litre diesel is very smooth across the rev range and very quiet on the move at any speed. There is plenty of power and torque and the whole mass is shifted at pace if required. The 8-speed transmission charges through the gears with lightning force and can return 36mpg, for a 2.1-tonne car that’s pretty good. However at low speed – say pulling out of a junction – the dual-clutch transmission will stutter off the line, in reality, it is a first-world problem.
So overall the Volkswagen Touareg is a bargain SUV, if you opt for the entry-level SE. But if you want the equipment, and the looks you’re going to have to pay for it. And if you do then you are entering the premium luxury SUV territory with the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE and in that company, the Touareg suddenly looks overpriced.