Volkswagen has revealed five engine options for the Touareg. At the bottom of the range is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 228bhp. If you fancy a bit more shove, you can get this V6 with 282bhp, while a 335bhp V6 petrol is due in the autumn.
If a mere six cylinders aren’t enough, there’s a 415bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel if you’ve got a pair of shire horses to pull or just want to go very quickly. Finally, there’s a plug-in hybrid option with 362bhp and zero-emissions running.
For the moment, we’ve only sampled the 282bhp V6 diesel; that’s no bad thing, since it’s likely to be the big seller in the UK. Although its slightly coarse note when idle and the mild vibrations through the steering wheel remind you of what colour pump this V6 drinks from, there’s little to complain about on the move.
It’s smooth even under hard acceleration, while it’s virtually inaudible at a motorway cruise. It’s quick, too; Volkswagen claims a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.1sec – perfect for embarrassing hot hatches in your 2.1-tonne SUV.
More importantly, the car has plenty of power low down in the rev range, so you don’t have to thrash the wheel nuts off to make progress or pull your horsebox down the road.
All Touaregs come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard. The latter provides sure-footed progress on the road, while the former slurs between gears smoothly when driven gently.
The ’box isn’t perfect, though; it can prove rather hesitant at times. Even in Sport mode, there’s a pause before it’ll shuffle down a couple of cogs and give you full acceleration – not good for overtaking. You’ll also find it scratching its head if you call for full acceleration from standstill.
Before we discuss ride and handling, there is a caveat. Because Volkswagen wanted to show us all the shiny new technology available on the Touareg, our test car came with optional air suspension, active roll compensation and four-wheel steering.
The air springs allow you to raise and lower the Touareg to suit high-speed running, off-roading or easy loading, and also stiffen or slacken the suspension depending on whether you’re cruising or charging. The air suspension certainly gives the Touareg a relaxed motorway ride that allows you to cover long distances comfortably. Unfortunately, broken urban roads do make the car jiggle a little.
So what’s active roll compensation? Put simply, it stops the Touareg from leaning over too much when you’re cornering hard. Yes, there is a bit of body roll, but it’s more akin to that in an estate car rather than a high-riding SUV. Impressive as this tech is, we’ll have to find out how much it costs before we can give our stamp of approval.
As for four-wheel steering, this makes the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front ones at low speeds and the same direction at high speed. This means you get a tight turning circle (only 20cm bigger than a Golf’s) and more agility in the bends, plus greater stability at speed. We just wish the system was more gradual in its operation, rather than whacking on a load of extra steering lock once you go past a quarter of a turn on the steering wheel.
The tech helps the Touareg feel like a smaller, lighter thing up to a point. But while the car grips tenaciously, resists roll exceptionally well and turns tightly, you can feel the weight behind it in fast direction changes and it’s never what you’d call fun. If you want the best-handling luxury SUV, we’d look elsewhere.