Latest Touareg offers decent refinement and low emissions, but no driver fun
New Touareg is a significantly modified first-gen car, not an all-new model
Touareg has lost up to 200kg between generations
Interior finish isn't flawless, but it's well laid out
Refinement, a long-time strong Touareg strong point, has been improved
V6 hybrid will be the only petrol Touareg in the UK
First DriveThe 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
First DriveLowest-powered diesel Touareg offers decent performance with refinement, though pricing means you might as well go for the extra punch.
What is it?
This is the hybrid version of the new Volkswagen Touareg. It is the range's most intriguing model, even though it won't be the best-seller. It's the only petrol Touareg that'll make it to the UK, yet it has the lowest CO2 emissions and the highest power output of a range that also includes 3.0 V6 and 4.1 V8 diesels.
At the hybrid's heart is a 328bhp, supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine coupled to a 45bhp electric motor. They work in parallel so, like a Lexus RX450h, the engine can be uncoupled from the drive to shut down altogether.
Unlike the Lexus, which has an electric motor for the back axle, the Touareg's engine/motor combination both have a say in all four wheels, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a Haldex four-wheel drive system.
That new transmission contributes much to Touareg's headline-grabbing 200kg weight loss between generations. A heavier-duty option, called 4XMotion, is available on the V6 TDI only; it has a low ratio and a centre differential lock for serious off-road use.
Another big weight saving comes on steel-sprung versions, whose suspension is 47kg lighter than before. Optional air-sprung cars, like our test car, lose 20kg underneath. There's about the same as from the body itself, which is a significantly overhauled first-generation Touareg shell rather than an all-new architecture.
What's it like?
Inside, the Touareg is new and mostly decently appointed. A few interior surfaces on the lower – and a couple on the upper – part of the cabin are disappointingly brittle, but it's all efficiently laid out. Roominess is improved too. The rear seats slide and the boot is big, but there's no seven-seat option.
Performance is brisk, but the engine needs to be worked surprisingly hard to give its best and the gearbox can be sluggish to respond in auto mode. It can be overriden and, given it's better that way and has eight speeds, it's a shame there aren't steering wheel paddles to assist.
Refinement is sound, the ride is above average and, unsurprisingly, there's nothing here for the enthusiast. The Touareg is a more agile road car than a Discovery but far less so than an X5.
Should I buy one?
That depends on whether you were attracted to the Touareg in the first place. Because even the hybrid powertrain and improved overall refinement don't add much to the equation. The technology and emissions have moved on, but the Touareg's overall ethos remains unchanged.