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Driven: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.

Driven: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line
This stunning new Touareg SUV feels like Volkswagen is finally giving its own products the most premium of finishes.

 



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Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI 286 R-Line

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: the best Touareg to drive by a mile, and it looks sensational outside and in

Not so good: it's very pricey if you want it at its best, still no seven-seat option

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech 3.0 TDI 4Motion 286
Price: Touareg range from 48,995; R-Line Tech 286 from 58,195, car as tested 72,975
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, 4Motion all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 173g/km (VED Band 171-190: 830 in year one, then 450 per annum years two to six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 42.8mpg
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Power: 286hp at 3,500-4,000rpm
Torque: 600Nm from 2,250-3,250rpm
Boot space: 810-1,800 litres

Our view:

A bit of a selfish one, here, as I'm going to write this review from my own, personal point of view - because, hopefully, that will put what is about to come into some kind of context. But, for the record, I've never been a fan of the Volkswagen Touareg. Not since the original Mk1, which rode badly and had huge, ungainly gaps in its wheel arches; not even the mad, 5.0-litre V10 R50 could save it from mediocrity. Same goes for the second-gen Touareg, which wasn't impressive enough to come across as 'properly' premium and so it felt like it fell between two stools, not matching the Audi/BMW/Mercedes rivals its parent company so clearly felt it was equal to, while also being much too expensive compared to more mainstream fare. . . which did everything it could do to an equivalent standard.

However, having been to a preview of the third-generation Touareg earlier in the year, where I (and others) marvelled over the sharp looks and high-end technology of the Volkswagen SUV, I was eager to drive it and see if it could match up to rising expectations. And then Shane went on the international launch and gave it a favourable review, so that was it - it was time to book in a test example and see what was what, after a week of driving it in the UK.

When the 286hp version of the 3.0-litre TDI Touareg finally turned up on my driveway, resplendent in Oryx White premium signature paint (a whopping 1,780, though!) and R-Line Tech trim, it was very hard not to be utterly seduced by it there and then. It looks fantastic: big grille, sleek rear light clusters, the model name in neat capitals that are all spaced out across the bootlid (this a feature that has suddenly been adopted as 'premium', as if it's new, but cars in the 1960s and '70s used to feature this sort of thing regularly), taut crease lines down the flanks of the body, just the right sort of rakish roofline. . . the Volkswagen is magnificent to behold. But it's the inside which seals the aesthetic deal, mainly because of that colossal, 15-inch touchscreen dominating the dash. It's part of the standard-for-this-specification Discover Premium infotainment system and not only does it all work beautifully and intuitively, it also conveys the clear air that Volkswagen has had enough of seeing some of its in-house brands creaming all the critical 'upmarket' plaudits - this cabin smacks of Wolfsburg figuratively telling Ingolstadt, Stuttgart and Crewe (among others) where they can stick their versions of the HMI. Add in the 12-inch TFT configurable cluster and the Touareg feels as thoroughly premium as premium can be.

Something which translates into the driving experience. I might as well get the minor grumble out the way now and say the Touareg isn't massively involving on the handling front - although it's a lot better than its predecessors ever were and no worse, say, than an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90. The steering's clean, consistent and reasonably informative, the brakes are well up to the job of reining in 2,070kg of fast-moving SUV with no fuss and the body control is very good. With a super-slick, eight-speed Tiptronic and that monster 3.0-litre TDI doing the donkey work - and, with 600Nm, what a fabulous donkey it is - the performance of the Touareg is potent, something reinforced by the fact the Volkswagen arrived in my care immediately after the closely-related Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and it didn't feel appreciably slower than the 462hp/700Nm petrol Porker. And so you can hook all of the above together and cover undulating roads at a quite remarkable pace. It's just you won't be grinning hugely while doing so.

No matter, because the Touareg strikes back with ride quality and refinement that's unbeaten by anything we can think of at an even remotely similar price point. It is marvellous to travel in - serene, smooth, cosseting and tremendously rewarding, with the ability to turn long motorway grinds into complete non-events. The key to this is the optional, 2,370 air suspension with rear-axle steering. This lowers the Touareg by 25mm and chucks in Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) too, allowing various different driving modes and simultaneously blessing the four-wheel-steer SUV with the sort of low-speed manoeuvrability and agility that defies its sheer size.

Here's a tip for you, then: stick the Touareg TDI into Comfort mode and never, ever take it back out of said setting again. Normal and Sport are just a little too firm-edged for my liking, especially on rutted Nottinghamshire back roads, but Comfort is silken, offering supple body movements without ever getting 'floaty' and allowing for the fitment of 21-inch Suzuka Dark Graphite wheels (750) without any detrimental effect on passenger comfort whatsoever. The whole lot - the polished drivetrain, the imperious ride quality, the first-rate noise suppression - makes the Touareg so blinkin' good to travel in that you'll wonder why you'd even consider the mechanically similar Bentley Bentayga. And no, I'm not being needlessly facetious here: that's really how good the Volkswagen SUV is.

I spent 335 miles and 11 hours in it during the week, loving every inch and second of the experience - a far cry from previous, underwhelming drives in Volkswagen's biggest SUV. It also gave back 32.6mpg overall across the week, with an admirable best of 40.6mpg recorded on a run back down the A61, M621 and A1 after a shopping trip in Leeds city centre. Its standard-fit Adaptive Cruise Control also made mincemeat of heavily congested arterial routes, only further adding to the Touareg's stress-free driving manners and making me, a previous Doubting Thomas of the VW, into an evangelical convert.

In fact, I want to give the Touareg five stars overall here, because I like it more than most of the supposedly 'true' premium rivals it must square up to, but I have to retain some kind of objectivity. The slightly inert chassis dynamics can be forgiven, I suppose, as not many SUVs actually handle in a sparkling fashion (although the Porsche and Bentley models which use this same MLBevo chassis architecture most certainly do), but the lack of seven seats is going to put some people off - even if the Touareg has an absolutely vast 810-litre boot, with all its chairs in service, as compensation.

And I also can't reasonably ignore my test car's price-with-options of 25 quid shy of 73 grand. Oof. Now, whether you need or even want all of these items isn't the issue here; it's the cost of some of them that grates. Aside from the aforementioned 1,800 paintjob, 1,080 on a head-up display seems steep, as does 1,120 for a power-folding towbar, 350 for ambient interior lighting, 340 on a heated front windscreen (standard on almost all Fords nowadays, for instance) and 170 for a tyre-pressure monitoring system (come on, VW, this should really be free on a 58,000-as-standard machine).

However, here's the mitigation: the Touareg R-Line Tech 286 with 14,780 of extra gear fitted to it felt worth every penny of the 72,975 asking price, and probably a few more besides. There wasn't a single time I drove it when I thought 'this thing's bloody 73 large, how on Earth can that be?!'. Because the third-gen Touareg is everything its predecessors weren't - a full-sized, bona fide, premium SUV that should utterly convince you that you don't need anything else that originates in Germany. It's one of the best current SUVs, in fact, that is only going to be hobbled as a prospective purchase if you've got overactive loins and therefore a family that's greater than five in number. Otherwise, this quite brilliant Volkswagen ought to be one of the first large off-roaders you look at, if you're in the market for such a thing.

Alternatives:

Audi Q7: Audi uses the same platform and a similar-sized body to better effect, if you need to carry a lot of passengers, but - and this is genuine - the better-looking, air-sprung Volkswagen has the higher-quality interior and nicer ride. No, really.

Maserati Levante: Italian SUV is sharper to drive and quicker than the Touareg. . . and that's all it has in its favour. In every other respect, the cheaper Volkswagen is the far superior machine when compared to the Levante.

Volvo XC90: I never thought it would be the Volkswagen Touareg, of all things, that would come closest to knocking the XC90 from its lofty perch. Swede is similarly all about comfort ahead of speed, while it does boast seven seats, too.


Matt Robinson - 1 Nov 2018









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2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.

2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.2018 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI R-Line. Image by Volkswagen UK.








 

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