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VW Touareg 3.0 TDI (2012) long-term test review

By the CAR road test team

Long Term Tests

22 May 2012 09:22

Is our VW Touareg 3.0 TDI good value? 22 May 2012

In another life, Rory Lumsdon, VW’s PR manager was a magazine sub editor tasked with polishing my road test words when we both worked at Autocar. Seems like old habits die hard, because after I’d mentioned the price difference between my V6 Touareg and our European ed, Georg Kacher’s, V8 TDI last month, he rightly picked me up for not mentioning the extra kit the V8 comes with.

Bi-xenon lights, electrically adjustable seats covered in better quality cow, adaptive cruise, electronic tailgate, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and metallic paint are all standard on the V8, but optional on the V6. And even though we specced our car with very few options, the lights, sunroof, keyless entry and metallic paint were all options selected by us.

Factor the whole list into the price equation, and the gap between the two shrinks from £15,295 to £7850. That’s starting to sound like better value, but I’m still convinced that our more frugal - and still rapid - V6 TDI is all the Touareg you’ll ever need. Naturally, Georg ‘on the limiter’ Kacher disagrees entirely.

By Chris Chilton


CAR's Georg Kacher and his VW Touareg - 27 April 2012

On a recent trip to Germany to shoot an upcoming feature in CAR Magazine, I discovered that our man-mountain European ed, Georg Kacher, also has a Touareg, but hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. Truth is, he’s an incredible news hound and the world’s worst photographer, so often keeps his wheels secret in case we ask him to deliver some pictures. 

Anyway, while I opted for the pokier of the two 3.0 TDI diesels, Georg, who lives life on the limiter-pounding Germany’s autobahns, went for the V8 TDI instead. Mine pumps out 245bhp and a healthy 405lb ft of torque; his develops 335bhp and an half-shaft torturing 590lb ft. 

Little wonder it gets to 62mph in 5.8sec, nearly 2sec quicker than our V6. I was impressed by the V8’s extra refinement too, but looking at the specs when I got back to the UK, I remembered why I gave it a miss: it’s £15,285 more expensive and a 25% juicier to run, according to Volkswagen's official figures.

Sampling Georg’s car reinforced a couple of thoughts, though. First, that the posher all-electric seats on Georg’s car (and available as an option on the V6) are probably worth the expense for the extra lumbar support alone. And second, that the air springs are a must-have. But whatever the spec, we’re both in agreement that the Touareg is a real unsung hero among big SUVs.

By Chris Chilton


Should we have air suspension on our VW Touareg? 21 March 2012

I’ve been wondering if I’d regret not ordering the optional £2075 air suspension kit, and I already know the answer. Well, actually I really need to try an air-sprung car to be sure, but what I do know is that the low-speed ride on steel coils is pretty dire. But a few months into our relationship, there isn’t much else I don’t like about the Touareg.

Yes the fuel consumption is proving slightly disappointing too, but to be fair, I doubt many two-tonne SUVs would fair better. Predictably I can’t get near the 38mpg combined figure even on a gentle motorway run, and with all the local driving I’ve done since swapping back after a month in Walton’s C-Max, I’ve been getting nearer 25mpg. With that Bluemotion badge on the rump and its standard stop-start system, I’d hoped for more.

At least there’s a performance pay-off. As detailed below, I recorded 0-60mph in 6.9sec, 100mph in 19.1sec and a 15.3sec quarter mile. Great numbers for a big car with no real sporting pretensions, and backed up by a chassis that actually responds well to some brisk driving.

It’s not quite as sharp to drive as its Porsche Cayenne twin, but the steering is pretty crisp, the body control solid. In fact even steppping out of the new BMW M5 and into the VW, it never felt like a letdown.

Apart from the air suspension, the only other thing I’m regretting not ordering is the Area View camera-based parking sensor kit. At £860, it seemed an expense I could live without, but having had it on my last four long termers, I’m now realising how much I’d come to rely on it, specifically at the front, where the Touareg’s standard audible parking sensors are sometimes a bit slow to wake up.

But other than that, I think I got the spec about spot-on. I like how generally uncomplicated it is. No tediously slow electric tailgate, no tv that would never get watched, and just good old-fashioned non-adpative cruise control, operated by what must be the most intuitiuve set of controls in the car world.
 
I have been caught out occasionally by the stop start system though. More than once I’ve pulled up, the engine has died, and after being distracted collecting my phone and wallet, I’ve mistakenly presumed I’ve killed the ignition and got out. You can’t lock the door, but with a toddler wailing in your ear, you can’t always hear that it’s failed to lock.

Overall though, I’m impressed. The Touareg is quitely handsome, fast, roomy and a real surprise on a good road. But I think Volkswagen should take another look at the chassis settings, because a poor ride is about all that’s preventing a very good car from being truly brilliant.

By Chris Chilton


Timing the VW Touaregs, old and new - 14 February 2012

Before Christmas I strapped the timing gear to our VW Touareg 3.0 TDI and recorded 0-60mph in a very respectable 6.9sec. It feels quick, too, its off-the-line punch meaning it’s actually a lot easier to thread through city traffic than you’d imagine, given its considerable size.

But it’s not quite in the same league as this monster I stumbled across on Youtube:

The W12-powered first-gen Touaregs are a rare sight in the UK, but this one has had a couple of turbos bolted on for good measure plus the ability to send all that grunt to the rear wheels. Makes the Paris-Dakar Touareg look almost sensible.

By Chris Chilton 


Modern light technology on the Touareg - 26 January 2012

Almost since the birth of the car, we’ve been able to tell one design from another (often very similar one) by the radiator grille, and more recently, air intakes. Fine in daylight, but not much good in these winter months. Modern light technology though, makes it easy for designers to create a distinct, and instantly recognisable, face (and backside) for their cars.

Our Touareg’s LED daytime running lights came as part of the £1330 Bi-xenon option pack that includes cornering lights. They’re not cheap, but once you’ve had xenons, it’s difficult to go back. These work brilliantly too, don’t flicker over bumps despite the iffy ride, and the cornering function is useful and unobtrusive. And they look great, much less tacky than some manufacturer’s efforts. The rears are even more handsome, and combined with the Touareg’s pronounced hips, help make this one of the best looking SUVs on sale. I bet it looks superb when you’re following behind.

But of course, I’m unlikley to ever find out. LED daytime running lights (as opposed to true LED headlights) are a strange idea, because as a driver you’ll never really get to enjoy personally. Choose a wheel upgrade or a unique colour scheme and you can admire your good taste every time you walk up to your car, as well as showing off to everyone else on the road. But generally, your pretty LED lights are only ever illuminated when you’re behind the wheel. So they’re pure pose, but I have to admit that knowing they look good gives me a warm xenony glow.

By Chris Chilton


Speccing our Volkswagen Touareg – 17 October 2011

The large SUV-shaped hole in CAR’s long-term line-up is about to be filled with a second-generation Volkswagen Touareg. Once again the big VW is twinned with Porsche’s Cayenne, though the new VW corporate nose means you’ll not mistake one for the other. There’s still no seven-seat option, but a longer wheelbase means it’s much more roomy inside, and we know from the short-term test cars we’ve driven that it handles brilliantly for its size.

In the old days speccing your car meant a trip to the local dealer for a brochure, but now you can research and option-out your car without leaving the house. So I should take an opportunity to praise the Volkswagen UK retail website, and in particular, its car configurator. The web is such an important tool in the car buying process, yet so many manufacturers get it wrong. The VW configurator is simple and logical, with every option clearly explained.

The Touareg range includes four engines, but at £60k apiece, the thirsty 3.0 V6 hybrid and 4.2 TDI V8, are of minor interest. For most UK buyers, it’s a choice between two 3.0-litre diesels. The basic motor produces 201bhp and does 62mph in 9sec but we splashed out £1615 on the 242bhp version that lops 1.2sec from that standing start time for a meagre 1mpg penalty. And speaking of mpg, its claimed 39mpg combined fuel figure is nearly 10mpg better than my old Range Rover Sport diesel’s, thanks to a kerbweight some 400kg lower.

Common sense suggests we should have gone for the basic SE spec: heated leather trim, navigation, Bluetooth and an eight-speed ‘box are all standard for £40,155. There’s an off-road-themed Escape version too, but to sample the version most UK buyers will choose, we stumped up another £2525 for the sporty Altitude. The colour palette is about as varied as food choices in a 1970s Warsaw supermarket, but the metal-look dash trim does differentiate it from the warmer wood decoration of the SE.

Having rubbished the hybrid for its £60k price I thought I’d better go easy on the options for our TDI. I passed on the optional electric seats (£1340), four-zone climate (£670) and driver assistance pack (£2095) with its radar cruise, lane departure warning and multiple parking cameras. And I decided to take a big gamble by not ordering the £2075 air suspension package. After that I promptly fell off the wagon and splashed out on a full-length sunroof (£1120), Dynaudio hi-fi upgrade (£1095) and £1310’s worth of Bi-xenon cornering lights. The only worry is those air springs. Will my meanness come back to haunt me on the first stretch of bumpy road? We’ll find out soon.

By Chris Chilton