From £35,550
The newest version of Volkswagen's flagship SUV shares much with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, but it's taking a different route to head upmarket

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Touareg

The second-generation Volkswagen Touareg has gone on a diet and become more efficient

1 March 2018

What is it?

It was back in 2002 that Volkswagen introduced the original Touareg, its first SUV. Sixteen years later, the company has sold close to a million Touaregs across two generations, a success story that has encouraged it to continue launching new SUVs of varying sizes; having not offered a single one two decades ago, the brand's SUV line-up is four-strong today.

The all-new, third-generation Touareg sits at the head of that quartet; at the top, in fact, of the entire VW range. As if to acknowledge that top-dog status, VW has delivered not only a new Touareg that’s laden with technology, but also one that ranks among the best-executed models it currently sells. 

Like most of the group’s large 4x4s, the Touareg is based on the MLB platform, the same basic architecture that underpins the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. However, VW is quick to point out that the Touareg isn’t merely a Q7 or Cayenne by another name. Its wheelbase is 70mm shorter than the Q7’s, for one thing, and its chassis tuning is entirely bespoke. Compared with the previous Touareg, VW says this latest version is lighter – although there are no exact numbers just yet – despite being 77mm longer and 44mm wider.

One outcome of the world’s rapacious hunger for SUVs is that car makers have put huge amounts of effort into improving the breed. The very earliest 4x4s were big and heavy, with very high centres of gravity. The latest examples are no exception, but rather than surrender to those fundamental traits with a defeated shrug – traits that would conventionally make a car feel more like a lumbering bus – manufacturers have developed reams of very clever chassis technologies. The new Touareg is dripping with them. 

At least, it is if you pay to specify it that way. A base Touareg rides on steel coil springs and passive anti-roll bars, but you can add two-chamber air suspension and rear-wheel steering; specify both and you can add active anti-roll bars, too. Between them, these widgets attempt to stop the heavy, high-riding car from driving like a heavy, high-riding car. 

What's it like?

Pitched at the luxury side of the SUV market, the Touareg doesn’t have the same high-performance remit as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio or BMW X5 M, so it isn’t as agile in outright terms. But on the basis of our early drive in Spain, it’s clear the Touareg does disguise its size, weight and height as well as any other SUV before it. 

The engine line-up includes a pair of 3.0-litre V6 diesels – one with 228bhp, the other with 282bhp. In the autumn, around the time that the Touareg will reach the UK, a 335bhp petrol V6 will join the range. A diesel V8 and a plug-in hybrid will follow in due course, although VW is yet to confirm which of these will be offered in the UK.

An eight-speed automatic gearbox and 4Motion four-wheel drive will be common across the range. The four-wheel drive system can send up to 70% of drive forwards and 80% rearwards. Unlike in some rivals, though, notably the Cayenne, there's no torque vectoring capability across the rear axle; VW says the Touareg’s existing chassis trickery means it simply doesn’t need it.

A 3.5-tonne towing capacity, incidentally, marks the big Touareg out among other premium SUVs

It mightn’t scale rocky inclines or descend muddy slopes with quite the disdain of the Range Rover (we will report back as soon as we’ve had an opportunity to properly explore the Touareg's off-road talents), but VW insists it is capable in the rough. The suite of off-road driving modes should see to that.

While we wait to find out how effective it is in the mud, we wait to see what it’ll actually look like, too. The front and rear styling, as well as the interior, are being kept under wraps, at least until the Touareg makes its world debut in – notably – Beijing, China, towards the end of March.

Our car's camouflage wrap was peeled back for the assembled media on our drive event, though. The new Touareg is handsome, with sculpted flanks and prominent rear haunches, while the front end is dominated by a flashy grille and headlight assembly that’s finished in eye-catching chrome.

If it was the understated styling and relative anonymity that appealed to buyers of earlier Touaregs, this new model might not strike those same notes, but when the Touareg’s biggest market – yep, China – asks for a more premium look, a more premium look is what it gets. 

Equipped with the full arsenal of chassis tech, the new Touareg is very good to drive. Those air springs give it the composed, sophisticated ride quality of a big luxury saloon and the electrically assisted steering is crisp and precise.

The rear-wheel steering, meanwhile, is extremely effective at low speeds, giving the Touareg the compact turning circle of a London taxi. The rear-steer hardware is shared with the Cayenne, but the tuning is specific to the Touareg. Specific enough, in fact, to make the two cars feel very different.

VW’s chassis engineers set out to make the car seem as though it’s pivoting about a point somewhere between the rear seats, not its centre point as with the Cayenne.

 It’s just one example of VW having worked very hard to give the Touareg its own dynamic identity, despite the shared platform. What strikes you first is its manoeuvrability around town, and its stability, refinement and ride comfort on the motorway.

Apart from all that, VW wants the Touareg to be fun to drive too. Wishful thinking? Not necessarily. In all driving modes, but particularly Sport, the Touareg keeps its masses under such tight control that you drive it the same way you would a saloon. You don’t ever have to make allowances for its height or its weight. 

It’s all to do with the chassis trickery. The active anti-roll bars cancel out around half of the normal body lean in corners, which is enough for the car to feel stable and secure but not so much that you don’t get any impression of how hard the tyres are working.

And these bars get cleverer still. If the car is about to understeer or oversteer, they can finely adjust the amount of roll resistance at each axle, while the computers juggle damper stiffness and rear toe angle, to claw back stability. It’s remarkably clever, and the result is an SUV that simply doesn’t drive like one.

Most impressive of all, though, is that the technologies are all deployed with such subtlety that they feel intuitive, not artificial. Elsewhere, the more powerful of the two diesel V6 engines is strong and responsive when you want it to be and refined when you don’t. Only the dim-witted gearbox response in Comfort mode lets the side down. 

Should I buy one?

We’ll have a fuller opportunity to assess the new Touareg on the international media launch in a few weeks. For now, though, the signs are that VW has built its finest SUV yet.

Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI prototype

Where Spain On sale Autumn 2018 Price £54,000 (est) Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel Power 282bhp at 3500rpm Torque 440lb ft at 1800rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2140kg (est) 0-62mph 7.0sec (est) Top speed 145mph (est) Economy 43.0mpg (est) CO2, tax band 175g/km, 37% Rivals Audi Q7, BMW X5Land Rover Discovery

Join the debate


1 March 2018

"VW is quick to point out that the Touareg isn’t merely a Q7 or Cayenne by another name"

Err...  VW group, I think you may need a few more fire extinguishers...   err..  your pants....  [gesticulates towards underwear]...


2 March 2018

....I think it is the other way round actually. Q7s and Cayennes are actually a Touareg by another name - Cayennes actually built on the same Slovakian production line making the premium even more ridiculous.

I see the car is nearly 4 inches longer _why, it was spacious as it was and more parkable than a Q7....and even more importantly nearly 2 inches wider...this is just daft - the car doesnt need this extra girth at all. When will car manufacturers wake up to the fact that roads and parking spaces arent getting any bigger and that the only thing that is getting bigger is the size of the potholes....and yet they still fit 21 inch wheels with low profile tyres, which will by the way severely undermine the ability of this car to keep moving in the snowy weather we are currently experiencing!

I also note the complex and again unecessary suspension set-up....a secondhand nightmare in the making!

Talk about ruin a good car.

Fair point about the Diesel engines. For a German manufacturer this is shortsighted to say the least. I am pretty sure that I wouldnt expect to pay €60+k for my car and then have to park out of town and get on a bus to go shopping in town....and worse then carry said shopping back to my car on a bus!!!!!  No wonder more shopping chains are going into receivership as the internet makes life simpler.

A decent V6 petrol SUV should be capable of 30 mpg + today....enough to be acceptable.


1 March 2018

This is the same lump that was presumably supposed to end up in the Cayenne. If Porsche were having the wobblies about it, why aren't VW?

1 March 2018

Amusing that this story (and the full story in this weeks mag) has a disguised car and the 'In next weeks issue' preview in last weeks issue had a small picture of the undisguised car!

1 March 2018

With yesterday’s decision to ban diesels all together in certain German cities and the various punitive taxes, this car seems an irrelevance. The decline in diesel sales has been circa 20% year on year, but it would be reasonable to expect with the sheep like behaviour of the buying public that the rate of decline in diesel sales will accelerate and demand will suddenly collapse. Weird this car being announced only a week after Porsche announced a “cultural” shift away from diesels from their customers.

1 March 2018
Marcus Mackay wrote:

With yesterday’s decision to ban diesels all together in certain German cities and the various punitive taxes, this car seems an irrelevance. The decline in diesel sales has been circa 20% year on year, but it would be reasonable to expect with the sheep like behaviour of the buying public that the rate of decline in diesel sales will accelerate and demand will suddenly collapse. Weird this car being announced only a week after Porsche announced a “cultural” shift away from diesels from their customers.

I hear you, definitely. My cynical thought is Porsche want to distance themselves from VW and Audi with the sustained bad press over dieselgate and diesel before all of the general public understand they are part of the same group. To be seen to be different (and sporting) and all that.

1 March 2018

Riley, Austin, Morris..... they all have their own character......

Steam cars are due a revival.

1 March 2018

It will be good off road. And a great tow car. But a stupid buy for 90% of its customers, who need neither capability.

1 March 2018

The car is clearly complete and ready for it's official release date.


1 March 2018

Autocar car were told by VW to review this ...  afterall autocar's got to survive.!!  :)



Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
    First Drive
    19 March 2018
    The Mercedes-Benz E-Class could be all the estate car you’ll ever want — or it could be overkill. Let’s see which...
  • Dallara Stradale
    The Stradale is the first road-legel car from Italian motorsport constructor Dallara
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    The motorsport constructor's first road car is inspired by Lotus minimalism. Does it thrill on road and track?
  • Hyundai i30 N
    Standard spec is good so paint colour is our car’s only option
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    What’s Hyundai’s first hot hatch and N-brand debutant really like? Let’s find out
  • Porsche Boxster GTS
    This is the new GTS version of the Porsche Boxster
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The 718-generation Boxster is our favourite roadster of the moment – so is this new GTS variant worth the extra outlay?
  • BMW 5 Series
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The BMW 5 Series is top of the mid-exec pack, but is there still room for a diesel saloon in everyday family life?