From £35,550
Hybrid SUV is the most effective large petrol-electric hybrid yet

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Touareg

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

4 February 2009

What is it?

This is the Volkswagen Touareg hybrid. It’s Volkswagen’s first real go at petrol-electric hybrid drive, although it will a while before you can buy a Touareg hybrid. This drivetrain - a 323bhp petrol V6 from Audi and an eight-speed automatic - won’t feature in the current Touareg, but will be launched in the next-generation model, due in 2010.

In the VW Touareg hybrid there’s a 38kw (51bhp) motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack mounted underneath the boot in the space usually reserved for the spare tyre.

The layout of the VW Touareg hybrid, known as a parallel system, is familiar, having already appeared in a number of hybrids. But by employing a disengagement clutch, the VW Touareg hybrid has overcome one major drawback, namely that the petrol engine and electric motor are always connected.

In some hybrids the crankshaft and pistons within the petrol engine continue to operate even during electric-only propulsion. This adds to wear and also zaps overall efficiency.

The VW Touareg hybrid uses the disengagement clutch to ensure the petrol engine is shut down completely when the electric engine is in use.

What’s it like?

The VW Touareg hybrid’s electric motor is terrifically refined, providing almost seamless operation in the city, with impressive levels of performance and the sort of fuel economy to make diesel lovers turn green with envy. Still, it does take some getting used to before you feel totally comfortable behind the wheel.

When you crank the key, the petrol engine doesn’t fire up unless the batteries are low on energy or, as we discovered on occasion in a freezing Wolfsburg, it is extremely cold. Instead, the Touareg hybrid wafts away solely on electric power.

The electric motor is powerful enough to provide the sole mode of propulsion for the Touareg hybrid up to 30mph. Yet when the engine kicks in the changeover is barely perceptible.

It’s quick too - 62mph comes in a claimed in 6.8sec, 0.7sec faster than the 4.2-litre V8 Touareg.

More impressive are the increases in economy and consequent reduction in emissions. Combined economy is 31.4mpg, 3mpg better than the V6 diesel Touareg, while the CO2 rating is 210g/km.

The hybrid drive system adds around 175kg to the kerb weight of the Touareg, so there’s a new, lighter four-wheel drive system which replaces the multi-plate clutch with a version of Audi’s Torsen differential.

Other drawbacks? By employing a disengagement clutch, The VW Touareg hybrid is to use its petrol engine to charge the batteries while the car is running on electric power.

Should I buy one?

There’s no doubt that hybrid drive greatly extends the appeal of the Touareg, providing it with performance and green credentials, so it’s a shame that you won’t be able to get the VW Touareg hybrid until the second-generation model arrives in 2010.

Still, that at least gives VW’s engineers time to further improve what is already one of the most effective combinations of petrol and electric propulsion yet devised.

Join the debate


4 February 2009

[quote Autocar]In the VW Touareg hybrid there’s a 38kw (51bhp) motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery [/quote]

- wonder why they went for a NiMH battery and not the supposedly superior Lithium Ion.

4 February 2009

And I wonder why they stuck it in a chuffing great brick.

Actually, it's simple - cynical marketing/PR.

Pity, detracts from their take on it all. Let's see it at work in a Passat.

5 February 2009

[quote] Other drawbacks? By employing a disengagement clutch, The VW Touareg hybrid is to use its petrol engine to charge the batteries while the car is running on electric power. [/quote]

So what is the drawback is it able or unable to charge the batteries?

Poor subbing on this one I think.

Presumably they chuck out these SUV hybrids because an extra 300kg/£10000 on an already stupidly heavy/expensive car isn't going to make too much difference. I guess a golf or passat would collapse under the weight.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Genesis G70
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Based on the Kia Stinger, Genesis' new G70 saloon shows plenty of promising signs that it could be a hit in Europe
  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Still visceral and dramatic as ever, but does the vast number of mechanical changes and tweaks help make the Lamborghini Aventador S more engaging?
  • Renault Koleos
    Car review
    22 September 2017
    Renault’s new crossover sees the Koleos name return, attached to an SUV of a quite different stripe
  • Nissan X-Trail
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    On our first chance to get the facelifted Nissan X-Trail on UK roads, the petrol proves a viable alternative, although for outright pulling power the 2.0 dCi is the better bet
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2d 210
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    Most powerful diesel version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is swift and more frugal than its closest rivals, but makes less sense than the range-topping petrol version