What is it?
This is most expensive model in the recently facelifted Volkswagen Touareg line-up, all of which are now better equipped and more efficient than before.
Under the bonnet is the more powerful of two 3.0-litre V6 diesels that complete the engine line-up. It produces 258bhp and a healthy 428lb ft of torque from a usefully low 1750rpm.
As part of the revamp, the Touareg’s standard eight-speed automatic gearbox now comes with a coasting function. This, and the Touareg’s new stop-start and battery regeneration technology, mean this particular model’s emissions are down by 11g/km over its predecessor to 174g/km, while fuel economy is 2.3mpg better at 42.8mpg combined.
Outside, the facelift brings a revised front end, with new, larger bi-xenon headlights as standard, a new grille and a redesigned lower bumper and spoiler. At the back, the bumper has also been tweaked, with integrated LED foglights.
The rest of the standard equipment is impressive, too. R-Line models get more aggressive styling touches, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, climate control, sat-nav, automatic headlights and wipers and front and rear parking sensors.
However, priced as it is, it’s up against some talented rivals such as BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q5.
What's it like?
This 258bhp version of the V6 diesel is noticeably more muscular than the 201bhp version. It starts pulling, as promised, from low revs and delivers that power over a relatively wide band to ensure confident overtaking at all speeds.
It’s slightly coarse at its top end, sending a fizz back through the pedals and steering wheel, but it’s not bad enough to ruin what’s otherwise a relatively smooth six-cylinder experience.
The slick eight-speed gearbox helps, too, and is rarely caught out, but the Touareg’s new coasting function interrupts the calm. The decoupling part isn’t the issue; instead, there’s a noticeable jolt that's felt inside the car when the engine and gearbox are reintroduced. The Touareg’s stop-start system feels rudimentary, too, leaving you waiting for power longer than you’d like once the brakes are released. Happily, both can be switched off.
There’s little to get excited about with the Touareg’s handling. Ultimately, grip is good and its steering is light enough to help tight urban parking, but there’s little feedback for the driver and its body isn’t quite as well behaved in tight bends as that of BMW’s X5.
The ride isn’t up to the standards of the best cars in this class, either. Standard R-Line suspension is 25mm lower than the entry-level SE’s set-up, and it struggles to smooth out broken asphalt at low speeds, even if the ride as higher motorway speeds is better.
Cabin quality isn’t class-leading, but everything feels solid and the switchgear is logically laid out. Even so, the Touareg’s touchscreen system is looking and feeling old with its dated graphics. Four adults will sit comfortably inside, although three across the back will be a bit of a squeeze. There's more load space than in an Audi Q5 but less than what's on offer in the X5.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you might be tempted. The Touareg is well built, has a strong engine and comes with lots of standard equipment. It is, however, a decent way short of being the best large SUV you can buy.
BMW will sell you an X5 xDrive25d SE for considerably less money, and it comes with its own long list of equipment, better infotainment and a sharper drive. Its four-cylinder engine is also smooth and considerably cleaner and more frugal.
For around £3000 less, you could also drive away in a twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel Audi SQ5. It offers more power and is quicker in an outright sprint, yet it emits barely any more CO2 and uses only marginally more fuel while doing so.
Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI SCR 262 R-Line
Price £48,215; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 42.8mpg; CO2 174g/km; Kerb weight 2185kg; Engine V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power 258bhp at 2500rpm; Torque 428lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic