Volkswagen has now rejoined the premium SUV family with the third-generation Touareg.
This new offering bristles with technology, oozes understated opulence and promises to accommodate five adults in limo-like luxury.
The car’s visual evolution has seen it eschew the original’s soft, rounded curves for a sharper image with purposeful-looking creases and a signature chrome grille similar to that on the Arteon.
Volkswagen will be preaching to the converted with this Touareg, as UK buyers have snapped up over 45,000 cars since its launch in 2002.
The market has expanded in recent years though with the Touareg having to do battle with Volvo’s improved XC90, the Land Rover Discovery, Audi’s Q7 and Porsche’s Cayenne.
British drivers are rather partial to Volkswagen’s big 4×4 and it’s popular with private and business customers alike. It presents a respectable face when visiting a client yet it won’t shirk at towing a caravan or boat.
And it’s the vehicle’s generous towing specification that sets the Touareg apart from rivals.
Another difference is that it doesn’t offer seven seats – an odd oversight.
Volkswagen Touareg is capable of the 0 to 60mph sprint in 6.1 seconds
VW points to the Tiguan Allspace and the Sharan MPV for those wanting seven seats but we’re not sure buyers will see it that way. Slow sales of the five-seat Renault Koleos back up that argument.
To achieve such levels of performance you need a muscular motor.
To date, customers have favoured Volkswagen’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel and the first engine offered with the new car will be a 282bhp version of the same engine.
Capable of the 0 to 60mph sprint in 6.1 seconds and a 155mph top speed it will be joined in the range by a lesser 228bhp diesel with a 335bhp V6 petrol available this autumn.
A V8 diesel is also in the pipeline along with a more responsible hybrid engine too. In 282bhp diesel guise though the Touareg is no slouch.
The standard-fit eight-speed automatic gearbox’s seamless changes help foster a feeling of peerless luxury, although it’s not the quickest to respond to the challenges of stop-start urban motoring.
Soft, rounded curves have been replaced with sleeker styling
Its size won’t be an issue around town though. Although longer and wider than its predecessor the optional rear-wheel steering promises to reduce the Touareg’s turning circle.
The added grip from the car’s four-wheel drive system is welcome, just don’t expect it to help you scale mountains with it.
There’s no trick low-range transmission, just a natural bias towards the front wheels that can shift rearwards when the car detects a lack of grip.
The car’s utility is further boosted by various driving modes to exploit the 4×4 system and air suspension.
It does help reinforce the car’s premium status however and ensures a cosseting ride on long motorway journeys.
As a mile muncher the Touareg is a first-rate choice: the roomy cabin, lofty driving position, unstressed diesel engine and all-weather traction are standout attributes.
Well, they would be if it wasn’t for the huge infotainment screen. The 15-inch touchscreen is huge and dominates the car’s front cabin.
A whooping 15-inch display is available as an option
Yes, it’s another option (the standard is 9.2 inches) but it’s a further example of the carmaker raising the luxury stakes.
For some this might be a touch and a swipe too far. The landscapeformat screen is angled slightly towards the driver and offers a cinematic presentation of the sat nav map plus access to a wealth of internet-connected features and the basics such as ventilation and preferences for the car’s many functions.
The rest of the Touareg’s interior is thankfully more in keeping with the understated tone of the exterior.
Subtle trim inlays and premium-grade upholstery counter the feeling that you’ve stepped into a high-street electronics store and the new car’s extra length won’t go unnoticed by rear-seat passengers.
The Touareg is wide and you won’t be allowed to forget that on UK roads but at least you’re not knocking elbows with fellow passengers.
Touareg costs from £51,595 to buy in the UK
Boot space is also generous with 810 litres and 1,800 litres offered with the rear seats up or down. The only disappointment for some might be that lack of a third row for growing families.
A big car deserves a long list of kit and the Touareg is no exception. Occupants are well served by the usual high-quality audio output of Volkswagen’s premium sound systems plus the ability to use Apple’s CarPlay or Android Auto.
A wide colour palette can be called upon to customise the car’s cabin lighting while key safety kit includes familiar items such as active lane departure avoidance, forward collision alerts, intelligent cruise control, forward night vision camera and adaptive headlights.
Although it’s not been stated officially, Volkswagen’s new Touareg SUV is a worthy successor to its Phaeton saloon. Boasting a mature, understated design inside and out the emphasis is very much on refinement and comfort.
Look past the initial novelty of the optional infotainment system’s vast touchscreen and the Touareg delivers a rounded ownership experience for considerably less money than some of its more luxurious rivals.
The Touareg has a lot of features on board
● Model: Volkswagen Touareg
● Price range: from £51,595
● Engine range: Turbo-petrol – 3.0-litre; Turbo-diesel – 3.0, 3.0-litre 282bhp
● Power: 0 to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, 155mph top speed (3.0TD)
● Average fuel economy: 40.9mpg (3.0TD)
● CO2 emissions range: 182g/km (3.0TD)
● Rivals: Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, Volvo XC90
● Rating: 8/10