Lowest-powered diesel Touareg offers decent performance with refinement, though pricing means you might as well go for the extra punch.

What is it?

Given the relentless association of big SUVs with prestige and 'premium-ness' it’s a pleasure to come across an unpretentious model, especially when it has several key advantages over most peers — excellent space, comfort, and comparative lightness.

This is the cheapest version of the refreshed Touareg you can buy – a 3.0-litre SE diesel with only 201bhp, instead of the 258bhp available in other V6 models, but it’s by no means a poor relation. It comes with all conventional luxuries, such as an infotainment system that includes DAB radio and a full navigation system, plus two-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights and 19-inch alloys. For its place in the range, the SE is a well-rounded car.

Read more: 2017 Volkswagen Touareg to go upmarket

One reason why the VW Touareg is so good is that it that it provides the underpinnings of the pricier Porsche Cayenne, the profitable cornerstone of the Stuttgart-based company’s modern era, and VW has used this mid-life refresh to round off some of the car’s rougher edges and make it more civilised.

The Touareg has an imposing a shape made mostly of steel, which still manages to undercut Land Rover’s latest full-size aluminium crop on weight, possibly because it doesn’t make quite such big claims about robustness for full-on off-roading duty as its British rival, and it offers only five seats. 

It has very generous interior and boot space — and especially spectacular kneeroom — yet still avoids being truly cumbersome because its actually quite compact, with an overall length of just 4.8m from headlights to towing eye.

What's it like?

Everything about the Touareg is generously proportioned. The seats are wide and inviting, without offering quite the commanding position of a Range Rover or Discovery, because the body’s windowsills are that little bit higher. 

The interior is durable and built of good quality materials, with chunky switches for the heater and lights that can be operated even with gloved hands (perfect on frosty winter mornings). It stops short of being luxurious, though, much in the way of a Golf.

The diesel engine surprises you with its refinement; there’s a little grumble at high revs but little else to disturb the occupants. The eight-speed auto (a conventional ZF unit rather than a twin-clutch affair) offers no paddle-shift, but has both Sport and Manual positions available through the imposing central lever. 

It delivers its generous maximum torque from 1200-3200rpm – in other words, across the entire useable rev range – so the gearbox is a set-and-forget item, especially since it has the intelligence to hold indirect gears to hold the car as it heads downhill, and changes down if you toe the brakes. 

It has plenty of performance, too. The 0-62mph sprint is very brisk at 8.7 seconds, and the car will cruise as fast as you can go in Europe, on a relaxed top gearing that sits close to 40mph/1000rpm.

For a big and tall car, the handling is easy and accurate. The steering is very car-like – light and precise – and even in SE spec and on softer springs, the Touareg deals well with the weight transfers when driven fast through S-bends. The brakes feel very powerful, too.

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Should I buy one?

The entry-level Touareg SE is a very good option for all good reasons except one: the company is currently offering more enticing deals on the models above it, which makes those the more attractive buys just now. 

When things return to normal, and there’s a margin of around £2000 between models again, the SE’s market position will once again seem to offer the best balance between value and equipment. Especially since the main performance penalty is how it reads on paper rather than how it behaves.

However, it’s worth noting that a BMW X5 25d SE is not much more expensive, and sharper to drive, with a better eight-speed ‘box.


Price £43,415 0-62mph 8.7 sec Top speed 128mph Economy 42.8mpg CO2 173g/km Kerbweight 2179kg Engine type: V6, longitudinal 2967cc  Power 201bhp/3200-4400rpm Torque 332lb ft/1250-3200rpm Gearbox 8-speed auto

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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marker 9 December 2014

Apples and apples

I do get fed up of testers not looking beyond the list price of vehicles when they make value comparisons. 'There are better cars out there at this price' and 'the X5 25d is not much more expensive' ...

There is nothing on the VW options list you actually NEED - not so on an X5 or Audi, Merc etc. so suddenly the VW becomes great value - and that's before you beat the dealer down by £5k (to match the incentives on the 258bhp model). Oh and we're talking here a rattling 4 cylinder in the X5 and ML.

My wife's just taken delivery of a facelift R Line '262' and it's awesome. And that's from someone who drives an X5 xdrive50i.

pauld101 9 December 2014

You'd have thought....

...VW could have started up a 'styling' department, maybe with a few people employed to do 'styling' and generally try to tidy up the exterior appearance and stuff like that. Maybe buy them some crayons and paper, just so they can sketch out a few ideas first. As it is, it is boxy, awkward and as dated as a first edition Cayenne. Not a pretty sight at all....
289 9 December 2014

@ pauld101 "Boxy is Good"

.....if you actually want to use the vehicle rather than to ponce around in. Its not a beauty contest, its a usability contest here.
I like the shape anyway, knocks spots off all the LR baubles, BMW X's and current ML.
Just shows how dipartite we...the buying public are!
Madasafish 9 December 2014

its actually quite compact,

" its actually quite compact, with an overall length of just 4.8m from headlights to towing eye."

The average supermarket parking bay is 4.8M... so this 4x4 will just fit: IF you are a really expert parker.

So in reality, useless for daily parking...

Rich boy spanners 9 December 2014

Madasafish wrote:" its

Madasafish wrote:

" its actually quite compact, with an overall length of just 4.8m from headlights to towing eye."

The average supermarket parking bay is 4.8M... so this 4x4 will just fit: IF you are a really expert parker.

So in reality, useless for daily parking...

That's only barely 2cm longer than a Passat though...

More importantly, as far as UK (and other places in Europe) is the thought of buying an expensive diesel that may well be banned in many cities within the decade.

289 9 December 2014

@ Madasafish

....the size is fine, the same length as my ML and I have never had a problem parking in a supermarket car park....and shorter than say a BMW 5 series Touring.