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 unit with 282bhp, while a 335bhp V6 petrol is due before the summer. A plug-in hybrid and a V8 diesel are also on the way but haven’t been confirmed for the UK.
Although both diesels have a slightly coarse note when idling and the mild vibrations through the steering wheel remind you which colour of pump they drink from, there’s little to complain about on the move.
They’re smooth even under hard acceleration and both are virtually inaudible at a motorway cruise. The 282bhp version is quick, too; Volkswagen claims a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.1sec, which is perfect for embarrassing hot hatches with your 2.1-tonne SUV. But we’d be tempted to stick with the entry-level 228bhp unit: it’s still more than powerful enough and usefully cheaper to boot.
More importantly, both make plenty of power low down in the rev range, so you don’t have to thrash the wheel nuts off them to make quick progress or pull your horsebox down the road.
Every Touareg comes with four-wheel drive for sure-footed progress on the road, even when conditions get tricky. The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, meanwhile, slurs smoothly between gears when driven gently, but 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 great when overtaking. You’ll also find it scratching its head if you call for full acceleration from standstill. That can be frustrating if you’re trying to nip into a gap in traffic, although the dithering is less pronounced on the 228bhp model.
All Touaregs get conventional coil-sprung suspension as standard, but it’s way too firm – especially on R-Line cars – jostling you over bumps and thumping through potholes. We’d therefore recommend adding the optional air suspension, which also brings four-wheel steering.
Not only does air suspension allow you to raise and lower the Touareg to suit high-speed running, off-roading or easy loading, but to stiffen or slacken the suspension depending on whether you’re cruising or charging. It certainly gives the Touareg a relaxed motorway ride that allows you to cover long distances comfortably, but broken urban roads do still make the car jiggle a little, particularly if big 20in or 21in wheels are fitted.
The four-wheel steering turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front ones at low speeds, and in the same direction at high speed. The upshot is a tight turning circle (only 20cm bigger than a Golf’s) plus greater agility through the bends and greater stability at speed. We just wish the system was more gradual in its operation: it seems to whack a load of extra steering lock on once you go past a quarter of a turn on the steering wheel.
If you really want to push the boat out, you can spend twice as much the air suspension costs and add the Professional Chassis pack, which brings active roll compensation. What’s that? Well, put simply, it automatically adjusts its anti-roll bars in an effort to prevent the Touareg leaning over too much when you’re cornering hard. Yes, there is still a bit of body roll, but the system reduces it to a level more akin to that of an estate car than a high-riding SUV.
Such 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’re still very conscious of its weight during fast direction changes and it’s never what you’d call fun. With that in mind, we’d stick to the regular air suspension: it’s much cheaper and still does a good job of containing body lean. So-equipped, the Touareg is definitely more nimble than the Q7 (if not as comfortable), but still not as enjoyable as the Cayenne.