What Car? says...
The Volkswagen Touareg offers buyers of luxury SUVs a less ostentatious alternative to the premium-badged rivals.
Indeed, the Touareg shares lots of parts with the Bentley Bentayga so it promises the best the VW Group has to offer but without the big Bentley price tag.
The latest version should be the most compelling example of that to date too, because Volkswagen has updated its flagship SUV's tech, adding features never before seen on a VW. You can even park it using your smartphone.
This updated third-generation Touareg also gets upgraded suspension and new engine options. For example, you can now have a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine without upgrading to the sports SUV version (the Touareg R).
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The entry-level engine for the VW Touareg range is the 3.0 TDI, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 228bhp.
We reckon it's the one to go for, because it offers plenty of low-down grunt and officially goes from 0-62mph in a swift 7.7 seconds. What’s more, it can tow up to 3,500kg, making it a solid workhorse.
Next up is the 282bhp 3.0 TDI 286 diesel, which cuts the acceleration time to 6.4 seconds and offers a truly monumental amount of low-down grunt. In fact, it doesn’t feel much slower than the fastest Touareg model, a sports SUV called the R (you can read about that in our VW Touareg R review).
Both diesel engines emit a slight rumble when idling and you'll feel mild vibrations through the steering wheel that remind you which colour pump they drink from. Once you're on the move, they quieten down nicely, much like they do in the Audi Q7 (another VW Group car that shares parts with the Touareg and the Bentayga).
What if you want a petrol rather than diesel engine? Well, in that case, you have two choices: the 335bhp 3.0 TSI 340 V6 or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, called the eHybrid.
The non-PHEV petrol has the smoothest engine in the Touareg range, and stays creamy and quiet all the way from idle to maximum revs. It’s also surprisingly quick, with a 0-62mph time of just 6.1 seconds (only the BMW X5 40i petrol feels significantly stronger among its petrol equivalents).
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly, but can be hesitant when you're trying to accelerate briskly away from a standstill. It can also be a bit slow to kick down when you need a sudden burst of acceleration, even in the sharper Sport mode. That's not great when you're overtaking.
The eHybrid PHEV, meanwhile, combines a 242bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6 with a battery and a 134bhp electric motor, producing a total of 376bhp.
It can officially travel up to 31 miles on electricity alone, and is as quick as you'd expect with all that power: 0-62mph should be possible in 5.9 seconds. Its instant off-the-line oomph fixes any hesitation issues you get from the standard gearbox.
Non-PHEV Touaregs come with air suspension, which is great for comfort, soaking up lumps and bumps with ease, and also allows you to increase the ride height for off-road driving. It's surprisingly impressive off-road, tackling far harder obstacles that you’d expect from something with comfy seats and a heated steering wheel.
Instead of air suspension, the PHEV version – the eHybrid – gets firmer traditional springs that make the ride a bit firmer. It doesn’t thud over road imperfections, but you’ll find your head is tossed from side to side more as you drive along.
If you're considering the eHybrid, we'd recommend thinking carefully about adding air suspension as an option. That said, even with it fitted, the Touareg doesn’t ride as well as the BMW X5 xDrive50e PHEV.
For such a big machine, the Touareg steers neatly, with a better sense of connection between you and the front wheels than in a Volvo XC90.
Black Edition cars come with the option of adding four-wheel steering, which turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds or in the same direction at high speed. It makes the Touareg far better in tight car parks than a big SUV has any right to be, and while it’s not a must-have, it’s certainly an option to consider.
The Touareg has four-wheel drive as standard, and delivers masses of traction. The car grips tenaciously, resisting body roll relatively well, and it’s definitely more nimble than the XC90.
That said, you’re still very conscious of its weight during fast changes of direction, and it’s never what you’d call fun. For more enjoyable handling, try the BMW X5, the Porsche Cayenne or the Porsche Macan.
Strengths Strong engines; impressive towing capability; good body control
Weaknesses Hesitant gearbox; firm ride without air suspension
The interior layout, fit and finish
Finding a comfortable driving position in the VW Touareg is pretty easy, with the cheapest Black Edition trim getting electrically adjustable front seats, adjustable lumbar support and a handy memory function.
Strangely, Elegance trim costs more but gets manually-adjustable seats and misses out on the Black Edition’s four-way adjustable lumbar support.
You sit high up in the Touareg, and when combined with the large windows, that means you have a great view out in all directions.
Even so, to make parking easier, every Touareg comes with front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera. For even more help, you can add the Parking Assist Pro option, which allows the car to park itself whether you’re sitting inside it or not (using a smartphone app).
Matrix LED headlights, which allow you to leave full beam on without dazzling other drivers, are standard.
The third-generation Touareg is the first Volkswagen to get the brand’s new Innovision Cockpit, which combines a 15in touchscreen infotainment system with a 12in digital instrument panel. The digital instrument panel is one of the best in class, proving clear and easy to read and very customisable.
Likewise, the large infotainment screen is really crisp and has large icons to make hitting them on the move easy. Annoyingly, though, the physical knobs and dials that are used to control the climate control have been replaced by permanent virtual controls on the screen. The large icons make adjustments easier than in the Volvo XC90, but we’d still rather physical controls.
Volkswagen infotainment systems have always been a bit of a sore spot, with a lot of systems proving buggy and unresponsive, but the Touareg is definitely an improvement. For the most part, it responds to your prods really quickly and rarely pauses as you switch between each bit of the system.
Interior quality is quite impressive, as you’d expect from a luxury SUV, with all surfaces covered in leathers and glossy plastics, and any scratchy plastics hidden low down. However, the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5 have more impressive interior quality.
Strengths Great all-round visibility; very customisable driver display; sound driving position
Weaknesses Elegance doesn’t have standard adjustable lumbar support
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Volkswagen Touareg is a five-seater only, so it can't carry as many people as seven-seaters including the Audi Q7, the Land Rover Discovery and the Volvo XC90.
It’s very spacious, though. Front space is verging on palatial and even the tallest and broadest driver and passenger pairing won’t have any complaints.
In terms of places to store oddments, the Touareg has two big cupholders and storage under the front armrest, as well as a big cubby in front of the gear selector that can include wireless phone-charging.
Rear space is very impressive too. There's enough rear leg room for six-foot-plus adults and head room is equally generous, even with the standard-fit panoramic roof. There's a wide hump in the floor in front of the middle passenger, but it's not as big as in some luxury SUVs.
The Touareg’s rear bench can be reclined to three angles, ranging from upright (to prioritise boot space) to seriously chilled – useful if your rear-seat passengers fancy a snooze. You can slide the rear bench backwards and forwards, depending on how much cargo you’re carrying and how long your rear passengers’ legs are.
The vast boot is warehouse-like and can swallow up to 10 carry-on suitcases, the same number as an Audi Q7 and two more than the Mercedes GLE. The load area is a square shape with virtually no loading lip, and on models with air suspension (most Touaregs), there’s a function that lowers the back of the car to aid access.
If you fold down the 40/20/40 split rear seats, you’ll have 1,800 litres of storage capacity. To put that in context, think of a small van.
Strengths Huge boot; loads of front and rear space; versatile rear seats
Weaknesses No seven-seat version
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you buy the Volkswagen Touareg outright as a cash purchase, it’ll cost you lots more than the Volvo XC90, a little more than the Audi Q7 and pretty much the same as the equivalent BMW X5.
The thing is, the Touareg is predicted to depreciate quicker than all those rivals except the XC90, meaning you might get less of your investment back if you decide to sell in three years. It can also have an effect on monthly PCP finance payments, pushing them up compared to rivals that hold their value better. You can check the latest prices using our New Car Deals pages.
You get plenty of equipment regardless of which Touareg trim you go for. The cheapest Black Edition comes with 21in alloy wheels, heated windscreen washer jets, wireless phone-charging, four-zone climate control, heated front seats, an electric tailgate and lots of other kit.
If you want the eHybrid PHEV engine, you’ll have to go for Elegance trim. It costs slightly more and gets similar levels of equipment – although, it does get smaller 20in alloy wheels and loses out on the Black Edition’s electric seats. Top-spec R trim ticks every box but is not exactly cheap, costing only a little less than the Porsche Cayenne S, so it’s harder to recommend.
Official CO2 emissions from the non-PHEV versions are higher than some rivals', but almost all of its rivals are in the same top 37% benefit-in-kind (BIK) company car tax bracket anyway. The PHEV is in the 15% tax bracket, while the BMW X5 PHEV is in the lower 8% bracket one.
In terms of fuel economy, both the diesel versions will manage around 34.5mpg officially, while the petrol promises a less impressive 25.7mpg. Those figures pretty much rival the equivalent versions of the Audi Q7.
On paper, the Touareg eHybrid PHEV will manage up to 126mpg, but don’t expect to get near that figure unless you keep the battery charged up at all times. Speaking of which, the PHEV has a maximum charging speed of just 7.2kW. It’ll charge from 0-100% in around two and a half hours from a home wall box charger.
The standard Touareg received a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating back in 2018. There were issues over chest injuries for adults in the front, which gave it a lower adult occupancy score than many of its rivals, especially the Volvo XC90. Still, it is a very safe SUV and comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), driver attention monitoring, traffic-sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance to help you stay out of trouble in the first place.
The Touareg wasn’t included in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but VW as a brand was. It managed to place 22nd place out of the 32 included manufacturers, above Audi and Land Rover but below Lexus (in first place), Volvo, BMW and Porsche.
For some peace of mind, VW offers a three-year/60,000-mile standard warranty which is pretty standard for the class.
Strengths Lots of standard kit; competitive cash price; plenty of standard safety kit
Weaknesses Quicker depreciation than rivals; so-so warranty; sits in a higher BIK band than PHEV rivals
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If you’re after a big and comfortable five-seat luxury SUV, the Touareg is a good option – our expert road testers scored it three stars out of five. It has a strong selection of engines and lots of standard kit, but can’t quite compete with the Audi Q7 or the BMW X5 when it comes to handling and ride comfort.
While it can’t really compete with the Land Rover Discovery off road, it is capable, especially if fitted with air suspension (which lets you increase ground clearance). The off-road modes give you access to loads of cameras and dedicated off-road displays.
Yes, the Touareg is the biggest Volkswagen SUV you can get, so it's larger than the VW Tiguan. Both have five seats, but the Touareg gives passengers loads more space and has a bigger boot.
|RRP price range||£67,780 - £80,510|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||122.8 - 35.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,515 / £5,175|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£3,031 / £10,350|