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.
Leave the transmission in Normal driving mode and don't press the throttle hard enough to kick down and it all feels rather lazy and glacial. Moving the shift selector to Sport mode does sharpen responses, however. It seems Sport should really be the standard mode, with the default one feeling more like a power-sapping Eco mode. It's a shame the appeal of a big, powerful engine has been blunted so much in how it's been integrated into this car.
The lighter weight over the diesel version isn’t something you can really notice in the Touareg’s handling, given the car still weighs more than two tonnes. As such, it’s all very familiar from the diesel, which is no bad thing. Its ride is smooth and comfortable and the handling predictable if never involving. Given the engine is a quiet one, this Touareg makes for a very comfortable and compelling car for covering long distances in, if a pricey one to run while doing so.
The rest of the package also carries over unchanged from the diesel version. That means everything we liked from the Touareg we road tested last year – its spacious interior, strong equipment levels and off-road potential – is present, along with everything we were less keen on: the poor usability of the 15.0in infotainment touchscreen, the sheer size of the car and an overall lack of desirability for such an expensive product.