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Driven: Volkswagen Touareg SE 3.0 TDI. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: Volkswagen Touareg SE 3.0 TDI
Revised, entry-level Touareg driven for a week; does it win our hearts?

 



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Volkswagen Touareg SE 3.0 TDI

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: nice looks, excellent cabin, super-smooth drivetrain.

Not so good: no seven-seat option, ride not as good as hoped, poor economy returns, quite pricey, you need the 262hp model.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Touareg SE 3.0 V6 TDI SCR 204hp
Pricing: 43,415 standard; 48,290 as tested
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 173g/km
Combined economy: 42.8mpg
Top speed: 128mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Power: 204hp from 3,200- to 4,400rpm
Torque: 450Nm from 1,250- to 3,200rpm

Our view:

Many years ago, a friend of mine bought an early Volkswagen Touareg. It was a 3.0-litre V6 TDI in that dark blue colour so many of the first-generation cars were specified in and in general he thought it was a good car. But he had a couple of issues - he said the ride wasn't as smooth as he expected it to be (in spite of it being on the smallest set of wheels you could imagine, with entire feet of space on show between the top of the tyre and the wheel arch) and it wasn't very good on fuel. Having been in that car and experienced these problems first-hand, the Touareg has never really registered on my luxury 4x4 radar; I'd rather recommend something from the rival German manufacturers, or Land Rover.

These issues don't seem to have affected the Touareg, however, as over two generations Volkswagen has sold nearly 800,000 of the things across the world and a recent facelift - giving it the more lantern-jawed appearance of the current Volkswagen range - is only going to help matters. This is because the v2.1 Touareg is a handsome machine, with its new grille, headlights and alloy wheel designs (although it'd look even better in R-Line spec, which Volkswagen says is the preferred option to SE in the UK). It is big and imposing but manages to stay just the right side of the 'acceptably sized' line, something the outgoing Audi Q7 can't claim. Oddly, despite its external dimensions, in a day and age where even Land Rover is offering seven seats (or 5+2) on the Freelander-replacing Discovery Sport, you can't specify any more than five chairs in the Touareg - although that deficit hasn't put buyers off previously, either.

Inside, it's typically Volkswagen - beautifully made and comfortable, if not the most exciting dash architecture in the world; it's all very safe in terms of design, but (and sorry if I'm sounding like a stuck record here) staid cabins have never put people off Volkswagens before. The only real changes here are some chrome for the knobs and the addition of active safety software that you're never going to want to use, all things being equal.

This might all sound a bit lukewarm and, to be honest, it is. Like many, many Volkswagen products, the Touareg is quietly competent in a wide variety of areas but there's no one facet of it that makes you go 'wow'. Being fair, the 3.0-litre V6 engine is a peach and is mated to a seamless eight-speed automatic, so there's one big tick. The brakes and steering are both more than acceptable - another tick. It has a remit to be comfortable before it's a sports car, as the Porsche Cayenne can deal with that 'handling' stuff, so it limits road noise, tyre roar and body roll to prove pleasant to tool about in.

But here comes the first major problem with this Touareg - the ride. Just like that Mk1 of my friend's, for something supposedly softly sprung it picks up more surface imperfections than is strictly necessary, especially as it rolls on 265-section 19-inch tyres with a tall 50-profile sidewall. By no means is the Touareg V6 actively uncomfortable, but it's not as floaty-floaty smooth as a relatively uncomplicated SUV of this size should be. That might be because the tyres are low rolling resistance items, which often upset ride composure thanks to stiffer sidewalls.

And also just like that Mk1 Touareg, the fuel economy returns experienced were poor. This is not a case of less is more, as even on paper the 204hp 3.0-litre V6's figures - 42.8mpg, 173g/km CO2 and 450Nm - do not compare well to the more powerful version of this motor, the 262hp 3.0 (same combined economy figure, 174g/km and 580Nm). Presumably the extra torque of the 262 is what helps, as this 204 could not even achieve 30mpg on average during our time with it, returning 29.1mpg. This is what happens when you put an engine that's underpowered in something too big, and is presumably why Volkswagen also reckons the 262 will outsell the 204.

Volkswagen should be commended for the standard kit it fits to the Touareg, as the SE comes with twin-zone climate control, RNS 850 touchscreen satnav with DAB and an eight-inch colour screen, Bluetooth, a multifunction computer with a seven-inch instrument cluster colour screen, cruise control, rain and light sensors, heated front seats with leather upholstery and bi-Xenon headlights as standard. That's a good level of equipment. But, as ever with German brands, options can quickly escalate matters, as this SE weighed in at 48,290, thanks to a Driver's Assistance Pack (2,395, featuring Automatic Cruise Control, Front Assist, Lane Assist, Side Scan, Traffic Sign Recognition and Pre-Crash Preventive Occupant Protection), metallic paint (755), upgraded Vienna leather with 14-way electrically adjustable front comfort seats (1,400) and a heated, paddleshift-equipped multifunction steering wheel (325). Nearly 50 grand for a largely unremarkable SUV that's struggling to hit 30mpg seems a bit steep to us.

My problem with the Touareg is this - Volkswagen clearly views it as a premium product SUV, designed to take on the likes of the BMW X5, the Mercedes ML (sorry, GLE), Land Rover Discovery, Lexus RX and its own cousins, the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne; you can bet Wolfsburg would be dismissive if you suggested it should be compared to any US or Japanese rivals, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, ageing Mitsubishi Shogun and Toyota Land Cruiser.

But if those US/Jap cars are the Championship and the Germans are the Premier League, then the Touareg is like a club that has a storming season in the lower tier: losing only five or six games across a 46-match campaign, scoring goals for fun, promoted by the end of March - simply outclassing the opposition. Fair enough. Yet when the team plays in the top flight the next year, it's involved in a season-long relegation battle. The Touareg is perfectly pleasant but nothing about it makes it stand out in a tough marketplace, just made even more fiercely competitive by the arrival of the sensational new Volvo XC90. It's like the QPR of the large SUVs, which is perhaps a touch unfair on something that's perfectly acceptable in every respect.

Alternatives:

Audi Q7: all-new version blows the Touareg away - and has seven seats as standard.

BMW X5: the sharper driving SUV, which still looks good despite getting on now. Much wider choice of engine options for the X5 than for the Touareg.

Land Rover Discovery: seven seats available and, in this marketplace at least, one of the few brands that will have better residual values than even Volkswagen.


Matt Robinson - 26 Mar 2015









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2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.



2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Touareg. Image by Volkswagen.
 






 

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