What is it?
The impact of Dieselgate is now being seen in the most unlikely of places. The widespread switch away from the fuel since you-know-what has now even reached big, heavy SUVs like the Volkswagen Touareg, which have almost universally been fuelled by the black pump this century.
Big diesels, with huge amounts of low-end torque and significantly better real-world fuel economy, are nearly always better suited than petrols to cars like the Touareg, but here comes a surprise new arrival in the engine range of Volkswagen's range-topper: a V6 petrol.
The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 is familiar from other big Volkswagen Group SUVs using the MLB Evo platform, including Audi’s Q7 and Q8 and the Porsche Cayenne. It’s a potent engine, producing 335bhp and 332lb ft, and drive is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The rest of the Touareg fare is present elsewhere, although the engine does bring a 50kg weight reduction over the V6 diesel and the towing capacity remains unchanged.
What's it like?
Driving this Touareg makes you realise why petrols have dwindled so much in this class over the years. While the V6 is quiet and refined, and has a decent punch up the rev range, your eyes are always drawn to the live fuel economy figure on the digital instrument screen. When driving around town and on shorter journeys, you’ll struggle to get that number out of the teens. In such a high-tech car to look at and sit in, this feels a good generation or two old to experience. The official WLTP combined figure of 25.6mpg is at least a pretty accurate reflection of what you can expect on a longer run.
This is worth flagging so early because such running costs undermine the case for this Touareg, when the V6 diesel version offers not only far superior economy but also better driveability in such a big car. The petrol engine lacks the low-end potency so vital in getting a heavy car like this moving, and you have to kick down to really feel its reserves (and it does then feel very brisk). Its figures might look very good indeed on paper, but the engine lacks the kind of real-world, easily accessible flexibility that we’ve become used to from large-capacity diesels. Or rather the way it has been tuned with the transmission and with a stiff throttle pedal for the first 50% of travel to try to mitigate the poor economy.