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.
Standard Touareg too tame? Try the W12. There’s certainly nothing subtle about this version of Volkswagen’s strong selling off-roader. Running the same 6.0-litre engine used in the Phaeton W12, this limited-edition 4x4 (500 will be made, all left-hand drive) packs a Porsche Cayenne Turbo-equalling 450bhp – 140bhp more than its 4.2-litre V8 sibling.The Touareg W12 signals its added reserves through a series of unique exterior styling tweaks: deeper front bumper assembly with larger air ducts, a heavily chromed grille, chunky side sills, widened wheelarches, 20-inch wheels and quad chromed exhausts. Inside, there are body-hugging sport seats as well as a load of extra leather, aluminium and electric goodies, including a roof-mounted monitor for the standard DVD player.The real story here, though, is the engine. Thumb the starter button and there’s a brief whine from the starter motor followed by… well, nothing. The W12 is so refined at idle it remains all but inaudible. Once under way the delivery is as creamy as it is hushed. With 443lb ft of torque arriving at 3300rpm, it doesn’t take much before the big Touareg begins to haul in earnest, the rate at which the needle arcs around speedometer and a build-up of wind noise around the exterior mirrors being the only real indicators of the rapid increase in speed.The six-speed auto ’box perfectly complements the engine with quick reactions and a smooth meshing of cogs even under full load. Despite a kerbweight of 2542kg, the Touareg will sprint to 62mph in 5.8sec and hit 100mph in 13.6sec – just 0.3 and 1.1sec slower than the Cayenne respectively. Top speed is limited to 155mph.A downside to such spectacular performance is equally spectacular consumption. We managed an average of just 13.4mpg, giving a less-than-impressive 296-mile range from the 100-litre tank. The ride from the standard air suspension is also noticeably firmer than that on lesser Touareg models. The Touareg W12 is an awesome cruiser – smooth, cultivated and refined. It’s just a pity that it isn’t a little better resolved.