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VW brings plug-in hybrid power to its big family SUV for a lower price

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The Volkswagen Touareg is a full-size sports utility vehicle of quite a particular sort. Now in its third decade, it has long been used as a technological testbed and demonstrator for its parent company, a little like the S-Class limousine once was by Mercedes-Benz and the A8 by Audi.

But despite that, and even though it has been available with some pretty immodest-sounding engines over the years, this remains a singularly humble, functional and understated kind of car – something much closer in character to a Land Rover Discovery or old-generation Volvo XC90 than the Porsche Cayenne or Audi Q7 to which it’s technically related. 

At its height – when close to 100,000 examples a year were rolling off the Bratislava production lines and you could buy one with anything from a V6 diesel to a V10 TDI or even a petrol W12 – this car’s appeal was almost entirely defined by its mechanicals, what they could do (towing a Boeing 747 may spring to mind), where they could take you  and how. The conferred status and kerbside allure of so many of today’s ‘aspirational’ SUVs could hardly be more different.

Now, with VW’s cheaper, American-built Atlas having moved in on its patch somewhat, the Touareg has a smaller part to play in the firm’s fortunes – but a no less important strategic role. And growth areas for the model still exist, as shown by this week’s road test subject: the eHybrid Elegance.

This derivative was added as part of a 2023 mid-life facelift. Plug-in hybrid power first came to the Touareg in 2021 in the guise of the range-topping R – and now this car becomes a second, cheaper PHEV that’s a bit more accessible for those wanting an alternative to diesel.

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The range at a glance

Models Power From
3.0 V6 TDI 231 4 motion Black Edition 228bhp £68,065
3.0 V6 TSI eHybrid 4Motion Elegance 376bhp £69,150
3.0 V6 TDI 286 4Motion Black Edition 282bhp £70,745
3.0 V6 TSI 4Motion Black Edition 335bhp £72,530
3.0 V6 TSI eHybrid 4Motion R 456bhp £80,170

The facelifted Touareg has a curious derivative hierarchy that makes a more powerful electrified petrol cheaper than a less powerful diesel. That’s because the car’s equipment levels don’t neatly align for comparison.

If you want unhybridised V6 petrol or diesel power, you can get it only in Black Edition trim. The cheaper of the two eHybrid PHEVs comes in Elegance trim only and the more powerful PHEV only as an R.


vw touareg review 2024 02 side panning

The facelifted Touareg’s front and rear fascias are both new. When this car was unveiled in 2023, it became the first Volkswagen model to get the latest-generation IQ Light HD LED matrix headlights.

They are standard on UK models and lend the car a slightly more ornate-looking stare. The wider radiator grille underneath the lamps, complete with a thin LED light bar running across its width, help to complete the refreshed look.

At the rear, another LED light bar has been added and replaces the car’s old tail-lights. On upper-trim models, even the VW badge on the car’s rump can be illuminated in red to match to look of the light bar. (Opt for Elegance trim and you will avoid this, and most testers were rather glad that our test car did).

Underneath the aluminium and steel bodywork is a mixed-metal monocoque chassis derived from the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform.

It accommodates engines north-south, all of which are now 3.0-litre turbo V6s of one sort or another; with eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearboxes immediately downstream, with or without a sandwich-style electric drive motor integrated ahead of them; and with a Torsen torque-biasing centre differential supplying the permanent four-wheel drive from there on out. 

UK buyers can choose either a 228bhp or 282bhp V6 TDI diesel or a 335bhp V6 TSI turbo petrol. Then there’s our 376bhp petrol-electric eHybrid (priced below two out of three of those ICE options) and the range-topping 456bhp eHybrid R.

It makes for a slightly odd-looking pricing hierarchy, but that’s partly because this new, more affordable PHEV misses out on some of the standard equipment of other Touaregs. While combustion-engined cars (offered in the UK in Black Edition trim only) get adaptively damped, self-levelling, height-adjustable air suspension as standard (as does the range-topping eHybrid R – and both Black Edition and eHybrid R models can have optional four-wheel steering), the eHybrid Elegance gets fixed-height steel coil springs and passive dampers instead (air springs being a cost option).

Wider experience suggests this will have been done in a bid to save weight and cut electrical power consumption on the car’s standard homologation model, boosting lab-test electric-only range. But it doesn’t quite boost it enough for the car to sneak below 50g/km of WLTP-rated CO2 emissions, which leaves this Touareg as a relatively expensive 15% benefit-in-kind PHEV company car, when most direct rivals are 8% and some now hit 5%.

On the proving ground scales, our test car weighed 2446kg, 52% of which was over the front axle. That’s a respectable figure for a full-size, V6-engined, PHEV SUV, although the drive battery (14.3kWh of usable capacity) is quite small by class standards.


vw touareg review 2024 09 dash

The Touareg has never been affectatiously sporty, and it’s reassuring to find that, at the big-selling business end of the model range, it remains resolutely versatile, comfortable, functional, pleasant and just a little reserved.

There is some modern material ritz and glitz about the dashboard and driving environment here – a little more piano black trim on the centre console than in the pre-facelift car and some plusher soft-touch materials on the upper door panels and around the margins of the footwells. But even here, the shinier decor is deployed with a note of moderation and a clear rejection of any chintziness. 

Its light leathers and standard panoramic roof lend a subjective impression of airiness and space to a cabin that isn’t as expansive or luxuriant as some key rivals but still makes good use of the space it does have. Excellent front seats offer a wide range of cushion and squab adjustment and independent, adjustable head restraints.

Although the three second-row seats aren’t the roomiest for taller adults, they slide and recline and they support their occupants fairly well. Rear occupants are also surrounded by their own climate controls and useful storage areas.

In the boot, the position of the battery rules out underfloor storage and puts a limit on outright loading height in a cargo bay that is generous for length and width.

Because there’s nowhere else to store the car’s twin charging cables, you end up with a sizable soft cable bag taking up some boot space. It can be attached via clips to the lashing points of the cargo bay floor so that it doesn’t slide its way around while you’re driving, but really it’s high time that cars like this offered neater solutions for cable storage.

Multimedia system

This generation of the Touareg came along a couple of years before Volkswagen’s MIB-based infotainment systems were fitted to its ID electric cars and the Mk8 Golf. Its Innovision Cockpit system is designed to sit within the fascia, so it looks neater, but it still has a lot of technological appeal, with a 15in central display that’s connected to a big digital instrument pack.

Volkswagen added wireless smartphone mirroring to it as part of the Touareg’s facelift. It also upgraded the navigation system with higher-resolution mapping and lane-level navigation and it uprated the USB-C charging ports to 45W (so that they might be powerful enough to keep laptops and tablet PCs powered up).

We would prefer physical climate controls and more physical shortcut keys but, for an all-touchscreen system, this one is fairly easy to navigate. It also renders Apple CarPlay mirroring at usefully large scale, making the icons very easy to hit.


vw touareg review 2024 03 rear cornering

Although it’s positioned towards the more affordable end of the full-size PHEV SUV niche on price, this Touareg does offer a multi-cylinder engine where plenty of direct rivals (Lexus RX 450h+, Mercedes-Benz GLE 400e, Land Rover Defender P300e) can come back with only four-cylinder alternatives. So a decent, assertive turn of pace wouldn’t go amiss.

The Touareg has one matching that description. It’s perhaps only a very marginally quicker car than some of those four-pot rivals in practice: it needed 6.2sec, on a clear dry day, to hit 60mph from rest and probably should have been a little quicker still against a 5.9sec 0-62mph manufacturer claim.

But then it doesn’t have a driveline particularly given to explosive starts (torque-converter ’box, Torsen centre diff) and the 5.7sec it took to cover 30-70mph through the gears (Lexus RX 500h 5.5sec, Range Rover Sport D300 6.6sec) is perhaps a truer indication of a powertrain that does feel like it has some potency to dish out when called to.

There’s certainly a sense of ‘torque fill’ here – of an electric motor effectively filling in the gaps the car’s power delivery. The electric motor can actually feel slightly brusque as you tip into the throttle pedal from either rest or crawling speed, as the torque fights its way through the friction imposed by gearbox and differential, but there’s an eerie consistency about the way it seems to make the Touareg accelerate after that.

You can even see it in our in-gear acceleration numbers: in third gear, there’s only 0.8sec of difference between how long the car takes to get from 60mph to 80mph, for example, than from 30mph to 50mph.

Robustness of performance is also impressive. We retested standing-start performance when the drive battery was fully depleted and noted no significant deterioration in acceleration – something that suggests this hybrid system could possibly work a lot harder if it was calibrated to.

The eight-speed gearbox shifts very smoothly, and quickly enough when you flick a paddle. Brake pedal feel is progressive enough, and not overly soft or artificial in the upper reaches of travel too.

What about the diesel version?

During other tests, the Black Edition's 3.0-litre V6 diesel, in midfield 282bhp spec, felt very much in tune with the Touareg’s size and weight and suited the car exceptionally well. Also boasting 442lb ft torque there is more than enough punch and more.

Only at lower speeds do you detect a bit of gruffness from the engine, but that soon fades into the background once up to speed. Even around town it's smooth, melding nicely with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

Sure, in some instances the powertrain can feel a bit unresponsive: the gearbox takes a moment to find a gear when more forceful pedal inputs are applied.

There are a few modes to choose from too. Sport helps to dial up performance, removing some of the lag experienced in Normal mode; although the latter feels smoother in all environments.


vw touareg review 2024 02 side panning

One of the key dynamic advancements for this facelifted Touareg, it’s claimed, is a sensor that detects when the car has a load on its roof.

With it, Volkswagen has been able to configure the car for greater mechanical grip and with an electronic stability control system that can switch into a more risk-averse calibration only when it needs to.

Our test car had 20in alloy wheels with fairly wide-section Pirelli P Zero ‘summer’ tyres – and even without VW’s variable-height air suspension and four-wheel steering systems, it did indeed have quite a strong and tenacious kind of grip and stability about it.

It didn’t extend as far as to create much in the way of driver appeal, or to make the Touareg feel like anything other than the mature, pragmatic, unpretentious family car you would take it to be. But, in its readiness to be pressed along a well-surfaced road, carrying greater speed through bends than you might expect it to, the car does handle maybe 10% or even 20% better than the average big SUV.

The fairly fast, ‘progressively’ geared steering (2.4 turns between locks and quicker off-centre than on it) can feel a little heavy and cumbersome at parking speeds. Although it’s typical of smaller Volkswagens, it doesn’t always work as well on something of this size and weight, where a simpler rack and a wheel with greater mechanical advantage might simply have felt more intuitive.

But above walking pace, the Touareg’s manoeuvrability and wieldiness improves. It tucks in when negotiating roundabouts and tighter bends very neatly; is stable and assured at motorway speeds; and, aside from making you occasionally put in that extra bit of momentary physical effort when parking than you might prefer, manages to be a big SUV that’s easy to drive and so feels characteristically Volkswagen.

Comfort & Isolation

The particular combination of kerb weight and suspension specification of our Touareg eHybrid test car gave it a ride that varied from quiet and settled to slightly restive and busy, depending on the road it was travelling on.

All-round noise and vibration isolation was good. We measured 62dBA of cabin noise at 50mph on a warm and fairly still day at Millbrook Proving Ground. A Range Rover Sport is quieter still (D300 60dBA), but plenty of full-size SUV rivals aren’t (BMW X5 50e 65dBA, Audi Q8 50 TDI 62dBA).

The Touareg’s hybrid powertrain sits firmly in the background of a driving experience that, for the most part, feels smooth, hushed and well mannered.

As we’ve already recorded, the front seats are very good – adjustable, enveloping and sensibly supportive and not a shred too ‘sporty’ for their own good. Visibility is likewise good, backed up by a 360deg parking camera in our test car’s case (which came as part of an £850 option).

It was a slight shame, then, that the car’s otherwise pervading sense of calm tended to disappear over uneven country roads, when the stiffness of Volkswagen’s standard-fit passive dampers and anti-roll bars made for just a little more lateral fidget and occupant head toss than was conducive to good passenger comfort. 

It’s not a constant problem and could be as easy to solve as simply ordering the optional air suspension (£1705) – but we would certainly do that with optimum ride comfort front of mind.


vw touareg review 2024 01 front cornering

Having positioned and priced the car as the value hybrid option in the Touareg range, Volkswagen is also offering quite a lot of manufacturer finance support for the eHybrid Elegance at present. 

The company will currently put £8000 towards your deposit if you buy on a PCP. That should help to offset the impact of the pretty poor residual values forecast by Cap HPI for the car and bring it in at an equally appealing monthly price for private buyers. For fleet users, of course, Volkswagen’s failure to hit a sub-50g/km CO2 lab test result could be quite costly, which might explain why the company is incentivising PCP deals as it is.

Our testing suggests the car should return a real-world 26-mile EV range in mixed in- and out-of-town use. While that’s a fraction of what rival PHEV SUVs might do, it might still be enough to deliver savings to the right kind of owner, who can charge at both office and home. It would take quite a lot of regular short-range motoring to get average fuel economy above 50mpg, though, from a car in which ‘range-extended’ motorway cruising is typically done at about 34mpg. 

More broadly, the Touareg is arguably no longer the value proposition it once was: the entry-level 228bhp V6 TDI in Black Edition trim starts from £67,780. That’s right in the ballpark of the BMW X5 30d.

In the diesel, during our 32-mile test route around Wiltshire, which included predominantly B-roads and rural lanes, we averaged 30.7mpg. With more motorway use, you'll see closer to the quoted 34.4mpg.

If you’re planning on using the car’s off-road potential or towing, and cover fewer than 10,000 miles annually, VW recommends fixed servicing intervals. The majority of owners will drive their Touareg almost entirely on the road, and for greater mileage, the Flexible Service regime is suggested, whereby the various sensors establish whether a service is required and alert the driver via the on-board computer.

The Touareg retains its three-year/60,000-mile mechanical warranty as the pre-facelift model, with a year’s subscription to European breakdown cover thrown in as a bonus. 


vw touareg review 2024 24 front static

It must be a real challenge to maintain the mature appeal of a car like the Touareg in an SUV market increasingly taken with superfluous sporty styling, outright design appeal and misplaced performance tuning – and yet VW is managing it. 

There’s something classically Volkswagen about the positioning of this new petrol-electric Touareg, which packages up PHEV tech and presents it at a price to beat all but the cheapest diesel derivative.

It fulfills its role as a luxury flagship SUV, but its price - and eHybrid's EV-only range - might be a sticking point for some.

What results is an electrified SUV that isn’t as fast as some or as tax-savvy as others, but it is a car that feels functional and moderate in its outlook, rather than one dominated by any particular part of its brief. It will off-road a bit; tow and haul a bit; cosset and comfort fairly well; handle both school run and tip run with ease; and find a turn of speed and more than a modicum of handling dynamism when it needs to.

Many will overlook this car because it doesn’t have the outright desirability of key rivals or because it won’t save them money in quite the same way – and that’s understandable enough. But there’s a quiet competence and genuine versatility to it that may be all the recommendation it needs.

Will Rimell

Will Rimell
Title: Deputy news editor

Will is a journalist with more than eight years experience in roles that range from news reporter to editor. He joined Autocar in 2022 as deputy news editor, moving from a local news background.

In his current role as deputy news editor, Will’s focus is with Autocar and Autocar Business; he also manages Haymarket's aftermarket publication CAT.

Writing is, of course, a big part of his role too. Stories come in many forms, from interviewing top executives, reporting from car launches, and unearthing exclusives.

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips
Title: Staff Writer

Sam has been part of the Autocar team since 2021 and is often tasked with writing new car stories and more recently conducting first drive reviews.

Most of his time is spent leading sister-title Move Electric, which covers the entire spectrum of electric vehicles, from cars to boats – and even trucks. He is an expert in electric cars, new car news, microbility and classic cars. 

Sam graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2021 with a BA in Journalism. In his final year he produced an in-depth feature on the automotive industry’s transition to electric cars and interviewed a number of leading experts to assess our readiness for the impending ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.

Volkswagen Touareg First drives