‘HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME’ - Volkswagen Touareg Range Independent New Review (Ref:718/10672)


Car and Driving’s Independent New Review of the Volkswagen Touareg Range.

By Jonathan Crouch Added 8th March, 2019 , updated 8th September, 2023

The third generation version of Volkswagen's Touareg large SUV looks a stronger proposition in this updated form. Jonathan Crouch reports

Ten Second Review

Volkswagen's third generation Touareg is a large luxury SUV that in this updated form is now smarter looking, better-equipped and more efficient. As before, this car's dynamically better than you expect it to be, both on road and off it. True, it can't offer more than five seats, but then neither can key rivals like the Lexus RX or Porsche's Cayenne. If you're looking at one of those contenders in this segment, then this under-rated Touareg offers a very complete package with a value proposition that could prove hard to resist.



Large luxury SUVs tend to be more about style than substance. Here's one that's different, the much improved version of Volkswagen's third generation Touareg. The original version of this car, launched in 2003 and named after a North African tribe, represented the Wolfsburg brand's first venture into the luxury SUV market and that '7L' design struck a chord with quite a few buyers in this segment. The second generation '7P' version, introduced in 2010, was less successful but Wolfsburg regained momentum in 2018 with that model's successor, the third generation 'CR' design we look at here.

Five years on from launch, this MK3 Touareg was significantly updated, to create the car we're looking at in this Review. As with the pre-facelift model, it use the same MLB Evo platform you'll find in Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini large SUVs. And, unlike them (also as before), it's actually quite at home off road. As before, the idea is to provide an appealing compromise between the extreme 'SUV'-ness of, say, a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And more paved-surface-orientated large SUVs like the BMW X5 and the Mercedes GLE.

Driving Experience

The Volkswagen Group has been careful to ensure that this third generation Touareg doesn't prioritise sharp tarmac handling to quite the extent of its close cousin, the Porsche Cayenne. Even so, it can still be fitted with some of the Wolfsburg conglomerate's choiciest elements of dynamic technology - things like a rear axle steering system and Active Roll Compensation. Well conventionally-engined variants can anyway, those being the 3.0 TDI V6 diesel that most customers choose (offered with either 231 or 286PS); or the alternative minority-interest 340PS 3.0 TSI V6 petrol version. If you're not bothered about that extra optional drive tech, there are a couple of Plug-in hybrid models that do without it, the 381PS eHybrid and the 462PS flagship Touareg R version. These mate a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine with a 136PS electric motor energised by a 14.3kWh battery capable of a (slightly disappointing) 31 mile EV driving range.

Avoid base trim and your Touareg will come with a two-chamber air suspension system - which you'll need if you're to be able to properly put its quite accomplished levels of off road prowess to the test. It can raise ride height by as much as 70mm. for the gnarly stuff, there are 'Snow' and 'Off-Road' drive modes, the latter with 'auto' and 'Expert' options. And for road use? Well there are the usual 'Eco', 'Comfort', 'Normal' and 'Sport' 'Driver profile selection' settings. The PHEVs offer 'Hybrid' and 'Electric' modes too. On tarmac, this Touareg's quite happy to attack a twisty series of bends in a reasonably spirited fashion, particularly in this R form or with all that expensive extra-cost drive tech fitted. But you never sense that its heart is really in it. The slightly over-light steering doesn't help. Nor, when sharp throttle applications are needed, does the slightly delayed reaction you sometimes get from the 8-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox. Better to settle back and just enjoy this Volkswagen solidly luxurious tank-like vibe. It really is a rather nice way to travel.

Design and Build

This third generation Touareg has been lightly facelifted, with larger lower front bumper air ducts and revised headlights with can be embellished with Volkswagen's IQ Light HD matrix system, incorporating up to 19,216 micro-LEDs per unit. Base 'Elegance'-trimmed models get chrome exterior trimming, while sportier 'R-Line' spec swaps that for a black-themed look. There are revised tail lamps too with smarter graphics; and they're connected by a light bar, in the centre of which is an illuminated Volkswagen logo. Smarter wheel designs of between 19 and 21-inches complete the changes outside. As before, this MK3 Touareg is an imposing thing, nearly 4.8m long, nearly 2.2m wide and over 1,7m high. Under the skin, as before, sits the Volkswagen Group conglomerate's MLB Evo platform (shared with the MK2 Audi Q7, the Audi Q8, the Bentley Bentayga, the MK3 model Porsche Cayenne and the Lamborghini Urus)

There are fewer changes to this updated third generation Touareg inside. As before, the cabin isn't quite up to Audi and Porsche levels of quality, but it feels very nice indeed and is dominated by what Volkswagen calls its 'Innovision Cockpit', this set-up standardised for this facelifted model. It includes a 12-inch instrument display paired with a 15-inch central infotainment screen. The latter has had software and functionality updates which have brought more advanced HD map data, plus an updated voice control system and wireless 'Apple CarPlay/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring.

Otherwise, everything's as you were. You sit more commandingly than is the case with some other large luxury SUVs, surrounded by mood lighting, beautifully stitched finishing and a cool, classy Teutonic ambiance. Detail differences with this improved model include higher-capacity 45W USB-C charging ports and smarter cabin ambient lighting.

As before, the Touareg offers only one rear seating row. But if that's OK for you, you'll find a comfortable back seat with sliding and seat reclining options - the backrests recline in three stages back to an angle of up to 21-degrees for greater comfort on longer journeys. And the relatively low height of the centre transmission tunnel means that three adults can be accommodated without too much discomfort for the occupant who's drawn the short straw and gets stuck in the middle.

Luggage space is huge, with a 1,051mm load area length and a maximum load capacity of 810-litres (seats up) or 1,800-litres (seats down). Those figures fall to 655-litres and 1,675-litres with the PHEV models.

Market and Model

Most MK3 model Touaregs are bought with the 3.0 V6 TDI diesel engine and there are three trim levels - 'Elegance', 'Black Edition' and the top Touareg R PHEV petrol performance variant. Prices start at just under £70,000 for the V6 diesel engine in 231PS form - there's a premium of around £2,700 to get it in 286PS guise. The asking figures range up to about £80,000. Options include electrically adjustable front seats featuring a special pneumatic massage function with no fewer than eight programs. The intensity of the massage functions can be continuously adjusted via individual air cushions. 

Natural light comes in through the standard panoramic sliding roof - the largest offered by Volkswagen. Air suspension's optional with base 'Elegance' trim, but quite pricey at just over £1,700. Go for a conventionally-engined TSI or TDI model with mid-level 'Black Edition' trim and you'll also be able to option in the high tech drive options we briefed you on in our 'Driving' section - active roll compensation and all-wheel steering. Across the range, you might also want to add a Head-up display and a 'Night vision' system, which uses a thermal imaging camera to register infrared radiation emitted by people or animals, displaying them on the Digital Cockpit screen. You could also add coloured ambient lighting, a heated windscreen, laminated rear safety glass and rear window sun blinds. If tarmac traction's a priority, you can option in 21-inch performance tyres.

Camera-driven safety innovations include 'Front Cross Traffic Assist' - which responds to traffic crossing in front of the car. For autonomous driving, there's 'Traffic Jam and Roadwork Lane Assist' which offers partly automated steering and lane departure warning up to 37mph, plus autonomous acceleration and braking.

Cost of Ownership

Don't expect too much here. This is, after all, a large luxury SUV that in 3.0 V6 TDI form carries a substantial 2,070kg of kerb weight. Let's get to the WLTP figures. Expect up to 34.4mpg on the combined cycle and up to 215g/km of CO2 from the V6 diesels. The top Touareg R petrol PHEV manages 122.8mpg on the combined cycle and up to 53g/km of CO2 and can offer an all-electric driving range of up to 31 miles. It's 128.4mpg and 51g/km for the eHybrid. These figures are restricted by Volkswagen's continuing use of the VW Group's older PHEV powertrain, rather than the more modern one you'll find in a rival Cayenne E-Hybrid, which has a much larger battery.

As for servicing, well as usual with Volkswagen models, there's a choice of either 'Fixed' or 'Flexible' maintenance packages. You'll choose the 'Fixed' approach if you cover less than 10,000 miles a year and with this, the car will typically be looked at every twelve months. If your daily commute is more than 25 miles and your Touareg will regularly be driven on longer distance journeys, you'll be able to work with a 'Flexible' regime that can see you travelling up to 18,000 miles between garage visits - or every two years, whichever is sooner. The TDI engines many customers will choose, like most modern diesel powerplants, get a selective catalytic reduction filter to cut down on nitrous oxide and, as with similar rival units, are designed around the injection of a urea-based solution called AdBlue into the exhaust gas stream to help clean up emissions. The liquid used is stored in a 12-litre tank mounted at the rear beneath the boot and this will need topping up as part of regular servicing.


As long as you don't need seven-seats in your large, luxury SUV, this Volkswagen is still a hard option to ignore if you're looking for an appealing balance between style, speed and 'SUV'-ness, with reasonable pricing and running costs that suggest more modest means. True, it doesn't have the brand cachet of some of its illustrious rivals - but perhaps that's no bad thing. For this car's loyal band of buyers, the Touareg's unpretentious approach is, after all, one of its biggest draws. It's a pity though, that so few of them know exactly how capable it is in the rough stuff.

Of course a cynic might ask in what way a Touareg is class-leading and it would be tough to pinpoint one. Its chances of success reside in managing to convince enough people enough of the time that it covers the required bases competently. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it's not meant to. Think of this car as an artful exercise in managing compromises instead. It's still well worth your attention and with prices now overlapping with some smaller upper-mid-sized SUVs, its value proposition speaks for itself.

  • Performance
  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Space
  • Styling
  • Build
  • Value
  • Equipment
  • Economy
  • Depreciation
  • Insurance
  • Total (74/110)

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Terms and Conditions:

  1. Emissions and efficiency data taken from official test results, where available, when new. Data shown is intended to provide a standard figure for comparing the relative fuel economy of different vehicles of a similar age and condition, and does not represent the average fuel consumption that will be achieved on the road. Actual figures will depend on factors including the age of the vehicle, how it has been maintained, road and weather conditions and driving style.