The Volkswagen Touareg has been given a makeover that includes fresher styling and a streamlined engine range, with lower CO2 emissions across the board.
Gone are the V8 diesel and the V6 petrol hybrid, with only the 3.0-litre V6 diesel remaining in two states of tune: 201bhp and 254bhp. Both engines get stop-start and battery-regeneration technology as standard to trim emissions and boost economy.
The standard eight-speed auto gearbox also comes with a coasting function, which decouples the engine from the gearbox when the driver removes their foot from the accelerator pedal. These changes mean the 201bhp model’s emissions are down 10g/km to 174g, while economy is 2.4mpg better at 42.8mpg.
The 254bhp version’s emissions are cut by 11g/km to 178g, while economy is up to 41.5mpg – an improvement of 2.3mpg, small gains perhaps, but every little helps when it comes to running costs.
Outside, the Touareg gets a revised front end, with new, larger bi-xenon headlights as standard, a new grille and a redesigned lower bumper and spoiler. At the back, the bumper has also been tweaked, with integrated LED foglights. There are also two new styles of optional alloy wheels and five new colours.
As before, there are three trim levels: SE, Escape and R-Line. Escape is a more off-road-focused version with higher suspension and 4XMotion four-wheel drive (with a 40:60 front/rear torque split). The other trims get the regular 4Motion system.
What’s the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg like to drive?
We tried the more powerful diesel, which has plenty of punch – its gets to 62mph from rest in 7.3sec, while the 201bhp V6 gets there in 8.7sec. Power is delivered smoothly right up to the red line, although engine noise only ever becomes raucous at the top end of the rev range. In fact engine refinement is excellent at all speeds, with no hint of vibration making its way into the cabin.
The conventional eight-speed automatic gearbox does a good job of changing gears in most situations, but it’s slow to change down when you want to overtake. You can control it via steering wheel-mounted paddles, but even then it’s not as responsive as we’d like.
On the upside, there’s very little wind noise at speed and even road noise is kept to a minimum, despite a minimum of 19-inch wheels, even in SE trim. However, our test car was fitted with laminated glass. This won't be fitted to UK cars, even as an option, so we'll revisit refinement when we drive the Touareg here.
The steering is light, which is great for manoeuvring in town, but it’s pretty slow and devoid of feedback so there’s not much pleasure to be derived from threading it down a twisty B-road.
Our test car was fitted with the optional air suspension (which costs from £2170). It does an excellent job of dealing with ruts. Occupants are kept isolated from all but the worst surfaces; you can hear the suspension doing its thing over potholes, but it’s very effective.
The air suspension also brings with it adaptable dampers, although it’s hard to discern much of a difference between the three Comfort, Normal and Sport settings – and even with the latter selected there’s a fair amount of body roll in corners.
The standard suspension on SE cars gives a great balance of comfort and control. The ride is reasonably cushy, yet the body doesn’t lollop about in bends. On Escape models, the suspension is raised for off-road use, while R-Line models have a lowered, sportier setup, but we haven’t tried either of these yet.
We also drove the Escape – fitted with off-road tyres, underbody protection, mechanical locking centre and rear differentials and height-adjustable air suspension – to test its off-road abilities, and it really is an impressive thing, tackling 80% slopes with real ease.
What’s the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg like inside?
Smart, thanks to new leather colours and different wood options, plus new white lighting and chrome details on the dashboard. There are lots of soft-touch materials and the dials and buttons feel very good. Yes, the interior is devoid of flair, but everything is well ordered and where you’d expect to find it.
There’s a wide range of electric seat and steering wheel adjustment, so everyone should be able to get comfortable. There’s also plenty of room in the rear (but there isn't a seven-seat option), and the boot is large and well shaped; the rear seats slide back and forth to prioritise rear legroom or boot space.
The seatbacks can be folded onto the bases via buttons in the boot or levers next to the seats, although they don’t go completely flat, and when they are slid forwards there’s a noticeable gap between the boot floor and the folded seatbacks for loose items to fall into.
SE trim brings a DAB radio, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, leather seats and an 8.0-inch touch-screen with sat-nav that features Google Earth maps and Google Street View. The touch-screen is particularly responsive. There are also front and rear parking sensors, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The Escape model features a black roof lining, sports seats and aluminium pedals, an enlarged, 100-litre, fuel tank (as opposed to the SE’s 85-litre tank), headlight washers and black roof rails.
R-Line trim has a more sporty bias and comes with a panoramic glass sunroof, a heated steering wheel, a keyless entry and start function and a powered tailgate. Outside it gets bespoke bumper designs, sill and wheel arch extensions, lowered sports suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Should I buy one?
The new Touareg range starts at £43,000 for the 201bhp 3.0 TDI SE. That’s an increase of less than a grand over the outgoing model. The same engine in the R-line model costs £46,000.
The higher-powered 254bhp engine costs an extra £1500, bringing the price of the SE to £44,500, and the Escape model is offered only with the 254bhp engine and is priced at £44,700.
However, the VW Touareg faces stiff competition. The BMW X5 offers excellent on-road dynamics and the option of seven seats, although xDrive versions start at more than £45,000. The xDrive25d SE is still four BIK tax bands lower than the lower-powered VW, though.
Then there’s the Audi Q5, which in even its top level 3.0 TDI 245 quattro S line Plus trim costs £43,270 and offers a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec, average fuel economy of 44.1mpg and CO2 of 169g/km.
Make no mistake, the new Touareg is a decent large SUV, especially with the air suspension specced, but we’d be inclined to choose one of its accomplished German rivals instead.
What Car? says...
Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 204
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Price from £43,000
Torque 332lb ft
Top speed 128mph
Fuel economy 42.8mpg
Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 262
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Price from £44,500
Torque 428lb ft
Top speed 140mph
Fuel economy 42.8mpg