First drive: Volkswagen Touareg R50
* VW builds sporty Touareg * V10 TDI gets even more pull * On sale now at 61,990...
All this doom and gloom about tax and fuel prices and you'd think manufacturers would be toning down their thirsty 4x4s.
Not Volkswagen - it's decided we need a faster one. The R50 is the new range-topper of the Touareg family, so you've probably guessed it also costs a bit more than the rest.
Grunt and glam
So what do you get for your 61,990? More power and more glam - that's what. Volkswagen's biggest diesel engine was never short on grunt before, but the R50's got an extra 74lb ft of pull, which gives it as much 'heave-ho' as eight Vauxhall Corsas - 627lb ft, in fact.
The Touareg has always looked fairly low-key, but this new R50 sure isn't subtle, with its whopping 21-inch alloys, wider wheelarches, twin exhausts and roof spoiler.
'R' logos are plastered on the seats, door sills - even the pedals, too - and there's acres of brushed metal around the cabin.
So the R50 has the looks and the legs, but we still can't recommend it. The first problem is the price - nearly 62,000. That's nine grand more than the equivalent Mercedes ML and eight more than the Range Rover Sport, in other words.
The second is that it isn't as good as either. Why? Well the Range Rover is better to drive, the Mercedes is faster and both are more desirable - so they'll hold their value better. Not the wisest investment, then.
Still, at least it's a diesel, so you'll save a bit on fuel, right? Bad news again - the 5.0-litre V10 will carry you only 22 miles on every gallon.
Elsewhere things are much the same as the standard 5.0 TDI. The ride isn't as supple (because of the bigger wheels and skinnier tyres), and the steering isn't sharp enough for an even remotely sporty car.
The interior is rather plush, though, and - as with the previous range-topping 'Altitude' - you still get leather seats, xenon headlights, satellite-navigation and climate control as standard.
Buying and owning
The R50 is only being imported in very small numbers, which is just as well, because we predict that its market will be tiny.
Buy one and you'll lose money from every angle, but forget your finances and you'll probably feel rather swish behind the wheel.
Pulling power 627bhp
Average economy 22.4mpg
CO2 g/km/tax band % 333/35
Top speed 146mph