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Driven: 2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: 2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI
Can a light refresh propel the Touareg into the major leagues alongside other premium SUVs?

   



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2024 Volkswagen Touareg

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The Touareg has always occupied a slightly strange place in the large SUV market, with all the quality and space of a luxury model, but the badge from a people's car. A halfway house between the likes of the Kia Sorento and the Audi Q7, it's a slightly odd proposition, but it's VW's flagship and a statement of intent for the brand. Now, with some visual and tech tweaks, VW reckons it's as good as it has ever been, but will that be enough to see its market share increase?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Volkswagen Touareg Black Edition 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion
Price: £73,240 as tested
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 286hp
Torque: 600Nm
Emissions: 215g/km
Economy: 34.4mpg
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
Top speed: 147mph
Boot space: 810-1,800 litres

Styling

VW has made a few changes to the Touareg, but itís still recognisably the same car as its predecessor underneath. Nevertheless, new headlights, a new grille and a new rear light cluster with an illuminated rear badge all set it apart. In truth, itís made a previously handsome car somewhat less attractive ó particularly in Black Edition form, with all the black trim everywhere ó but itís still unmistakably premium and it has plenty of presence. We just remain unconvinced by VWís insistence on giving everything a full-width light bar at the front and rear. While the Touaregís implementation is one of the better examples, itís still an odd look.

Interior

Although Volkswagen has a reputation for build quality, some of its recent products haven't really been up to scratch. The ID.3, for example, feels a bit cheap in places, and the same is true of the latest-generation Golf. But any fears that the same thing would happen to the Touareg were unfounded, and it feels very nearly as solid as anything built by Audi these days. Sure, the dashboard styling doesn't look quite as smart, but the materials are largely very good and they've been stitched together fabulously.

Tech plays a big part in the Touareg's cabin, too, and while touchscreens haven't been VW's forte for the past few years, the Touareg's massive central display really isn't bad at all. Sure, it would be better if the climate control and seat heater controls were physical buttons on the dash, rather than icons on a screen, but the menus are reasonably logical, the responses are sharp and the whole thing works pretty smartly. It's particularly good with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration tech.

There's a decent digital instrument cluster, too, although it's predictably less impressive than that of the Audi Q7 and Q8. Nevertheless, it offers a selection of different views, all of which are clear and easy to decipher, and they can be paired with the optional head-up display if you so wish.

Practicality

Being a family SUV, space is a key part of the Touaregís appeal, but itís immediately at a disadvantage compared with some. Thatís because these days, the Touareg is only offered in five-seat form, with no option for two occasional seats in the rear. That might put some customers off, but for those with no real need for extra seating, it offers a big advantage. Because while the BMW X5 has a 650-litre boot in its most spacious diesel form, the Touareg offers more than 800 litres of carrying capacity ó and thatís only if you fill it to the window line. Fold the back seats down and fill the car to the roof lining, and you get 1,800 litres to play with.

The other advantage is space in the back. Though VW has prioritised boot space, the rear seats have plenty of head- and legroom, so four adults can sit in there quite comfortably on journeys of any distance. And thereís ample storage space, too, which means odds and ends can be packed away easily enough.

Performance

The Touareg is offered with a choice of five different powertrains, with two diesels joined by two plug-in hybrids and one pure petrol option. The cheaper of the two plug-in hybrids, the 381hp eHybrid option will probably play well thanks to its promise of low emissions and fuel consumption, but itís only really suited to a very particular lifestyle Ė namely one in which the driver can charge regularly and only usually covers short distances.

The petrol feels like an outlier, mainly because itís neither efficient around town nor on the motorway, and the 462hp hybrid in the R model seems like a strange choice for the high-performance Touareg, particularly when it isnít that much more powerful than the cheaper option. That leaves us with the diesels, which we expect to be the most popular.

Both diesel engines are 3.0-litre V6s paired with eight-speed automatic gearboxes and VWís 4Motion all-wheel-drive tech, but they are separated by their power outputs. The basic 231hp option is fast enough to get from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 138mph, while the 286hp version tested here manages 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and a 147mph top speed.

In truth, there isnít all that much to choose between them Ė they both offer similar (and very achievable) economy in the mid-30s, and similar emissions, while both offer ample grunt and a relatively smooth delivery. But the 286hp option is likely to feel a bit more effortless, thanks to that smidgen of extra get-up-and-go, and that will keep it that fraction more hushed.

Ride & Handling

The Touareg is not designed to be sporty even in R guise, and certainly not in Elegance or Black Edition form. So while the performance of our diesel test car was almost on a par with a hot hatchback, the ride and handling were somewhat different.

Comfort is the name of the game in the Touareg, and it very nearly delivers perfectly on that front. Certainly, itís an incredibly relaxing car to drive long distances, but it doesnít quite have that cushioned, magic carpet feel we were hoping for. Every now and then, a lump will make its presence felt more harshly than you expect, almost as though the air suspension (fitted as standard to every Touareg except the Elegance eHybrid model) has been caught out in a way it really shouldnít have been. And that sensation only gets more regular at lower speeds. It isnít uncomfortable at all, and the UKís terrible road surfaces donít help its cause, but it just doesnít feel as settled as it probably should.

Even in Comfort mode, it still feels all wrong, with the suspension seeming to slacken off too much, leaving the car feeling wallowy and unsupported, rather than soft and pliant. It feels like a setting for American highways, not British A-roads. But then the Sport setting doesnít do much, either, failing to combat the laws of physics and stop the Touareg leaning over in any meaningful way. It doesnít even solve the insipid steering that feels slightly detached from the front wheels.

In fairness, the Touareg isnít bad at all when itís driven with a bit more verve, but itís clear thatís not what it wants. Grip is ample, though, and though there is plenty of movement from that big body, it never makes you feel seasick by lurching around unpredictably. Itís controlled and composed, but it never feels exciting or engaging.

Itís better, then, at doing 4x4ish things. The maximum trailer weight is 3,500kg Ė the same as it is in a Ford Ranger pick-up truck Ė and the standard all-wheel-drive system gives it ample traction. Put all-season tyres on there and itíll be a cracking off-road vehicle thatís still perfectly at home on the road.

Value

The Touareg range is a little complex, so bear with us on this one. The basic trim is Elegance, which gets all the kit you expect, including leather upholstery, four-zone climate control and a reversing camera, as well as a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats. But it is only available with the 381hp plug-in hybrid powertrain, so it costs £69,150 Ė more than £1,000 more than the mid-range Black Edition model tested here.

Now, the Black Edition is offered with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, with the least powerful diesel coming in at £67,980. That pays for all the black trim, bigger wheels and air suspension, as well as a more upmarket reversing camera and tinted windows. Or you could pick the high-performance R model with its distinctive styling, massive wheels and clever active climate front seats.

In truth, the cheapest Black Edition is all the car Ė and all the kit Ė you really need, but the nigh-on £68,000 price tag makes it more expensive than a Land Rover Discovery and on a par with the Audi Q7. Itís a completely premium price point, and though thereís plenty of standard kit and the car feels upmarket, the badge struggles to justify the price tag.

Verdict

Viewed in isolation, the Touareg is a perfectly capable and amiable luxury SUV, and one with which buyers will be very happy. It's a wholly competent all-rounder with no great weaknesses and some impressive strengths, including ample interior space, but it struggles to justify such a lofty price tag. Particularly when the Kia Sorento doesn't feel much less upmarket but is significantly cheaper.



James Fossdyke - 8 Mar 2024



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2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.2024 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Black Edition 286. Image by Volkswagen.








 

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