Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The entry-level engine of the Volkswagen Touareg range is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 228bhp, which brings 3.0 V6 TDI 231 badging. We reckon this is the one to go for because it offers plenty of low-down grunt – so you don’t have to thrash the wheel nuts off it to make quick progress or to pull a horsebox – and it'll go from 0-62mph in 7.6sec when you give it full beans.
The 282bhp 3.0 V6 TDI 286 is quicker if you need more welly, with a claimed 0-62mph of just 6.1sec and a truly monumental amount of low-down grunt, it doesn’t feel much slower than the sporty range-topper, the Touareg R.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly up and down through the ratios but sometimes proves annoyingly hesitant when you're trying to accelerate briskly away from a standstill. It can also be a little 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.
All Touaregs (except the top-spec Black Edition and performance-focused R) come with conventional passive suspension as standard, but the set-up is too firm. Even in SE trim with the smallest 19in wheels, it is quite agitated over road imperfections and thumps across harsh potholes.
R-Line models, with stiffer sports suspension and bigger wheels, are even less comfortable. We’d suggest adding the optional air suspension, which settles things down. That's quite a pricey option, though, and even with the Touareg has it fitted, it does not ride as well as the Q7 and X5 (which have air suspension too).
For such a big machine, the Touareg steers neatly, with a better sense of connection between you and the front wheels than an XC90.
Adding the optional 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, gives you a tighter turning circle (only 20cm bigger than in a Volkswagen Golf) and greater stability at speed. That's not a must-have addition, though.
The standard four-wheel drive delivers masses of traction, and the Touareg grips tenaciously and resists 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 an X5, or the Porsche Macan or Cayenne.