First DriveLowest-powered diesel Touareg offers decent performance with refinement, though pricing means you might as well go for the extra punch.
First DriveRevisions make Volkswagen's five-seat SUV a better car all round, meaning it is worthy of consideration in a tough market segment
With a V10 diesel heading the Touareg line-up, the 2.5 TDi’s got as much chance of making headlines as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political opponents. But, unsurprisingly, this £28,600 option – nearly half the price of the V10 – is the one most likely to populate UK roads. So half the price, but half the engine – literally – as it’s an in-line five-cylinder version of the 5.0-litre V10, sharing its basic architecture and the pumpe düse injection system. In this bisected form it produces 172bhp, optimised at 3500rpm, while 1500rpm lower down the rev range you get the full 295 lb ft slug of torque. Despite the on-paper appeal, this isn’t another ‘VW diesels are good news’ story. The problem is refinement, or rather the lack of it. In an age of big, creamy diesels, the VW simply isn’t up to scratch. There’s an unruly clatter right from start-up, and it never diminishes; there’s pronounced intrusion when ticking over in traffic or wafting along at cruising speeds and everything in between. And you don’t get the payback of lusty performance, either, especially not with the £1390 auto ’box. Lethargy off the line is frustrating, and so is the age it takes to pile on pace through the all-important 30-70mph zone. Regaining urge after mixing with slower-moving traffic is tiresome – and going hard on the throttle just sends more noise into the cabin. It’s a pity, because we’ve got a lot of time for the Touareg. Elsewhere, it acquits itself well on the road, soaking up bumps and not feeling ungainly through corners or unstable at speed. As with the rest of the range, it’s good news behind the wheel, too. VW has turned the perceived build quality dial up to 10 – meaning that it surpasses virtually every rival. What’s more, you get plenty of space, practicality and standard kit – even in this, the humblest version. Doubtless the 2.5 TDi will prove the best residual investment and make the most cost-effective company car choice. So it’s all the more a shame that VW didn’t fit one of its better-refined diesels. Chas Hallett