Our long-term VW Touareg: diesel or petrol?

Published: 12 June 2020

► Third-gen Touareg on fleet
► Flashy R-Line Tech spec
► Chris Chilton's regular reports

Everyone's talking about EVs right now. Except Touareg salesmen.

There's no hybrid or EV in the regular Touareg line-up (the 456bhp hybrid V6 Touareg R is on its way), meaning it's still a straight fight between petrol and diesel. On the petrol side there's a 335bhp 3.0 turbo V6, while diesel fans get the choice of 228bhp or 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 engines.

We went for a diesel when choosing this test car because, despite the exodus from diesel in smaller cars, it still makes more sense in jumbo SUVs. Or does it? We borrowed a petrol Touareg to find out.

The 53bhp-beefier petrol is quicker on paper, 5.9sec versus 6.1sec to 62mph for our diesel. And it feels quick, too, when you throw some revs at it. Both use the same eight-speed automatic transmission, but the petrol car's application seemed less ponderous when asked to kick down, and while it makes a great noise under load, its lack of noise and vibration at low speeds and start-up was even more welcome, and a better fit to the Touareg's role as VW's luxury flagship.

But the diesel still makes more sense. We're regularly seeing mid-30s mpg on our car, but the petrol is around 7mpg thirstier and costs £1010 more to buy. Most of all, though, we missed the diesel's mammoth 443lb ft of torque – that's 111lb ft more than the petrol can muster.

The blue SEL loaner also gave us an opportunity to find out what life is like without the wowzer-looking dual screens you see in all the marketing shots.

Usually a luxury trim on lesser VWs, the SEL was the standard Touareg model until an SE was added recently, and comes with conventional analogue speedo and revcounter dials and a smaller main touchscreen. That pairing managed to make the interior look spectacularly ordinary next to our R-Line Tech, but the joy of having old-fashioned physical buttons for functions like the heating, heated seats and menu access almost made up for it.

Almost, but not quite. We'll stick with our diesel, and its Currys PC World's worth of screens, thanks.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech

Price £52,235 (£72,005 as tested) 
Performance 2967cc turbodiesel V6, 282bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph  
Efficiency 33.6mpg (official) 32.5mpg (tested), 173g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18p per mile 
Miles this month 1304
Total miles 6320


Month 4 living with a VW Touareg: voyage of discovery

Eeeny meeny miny moe
Absolutely love this Panamera GTS I borrowed from Porsche, and with four seats and big boot it's surprisingly practical. But the Touareg's 35+ motorway mpg means it gets the vote for this particular mission.

Touareg Panamera

Misstra Know it Oil
'Oil level low' warning appears. Swallows a litre of 5w-30 at services and for the first time in 25 years of topping up I manage not to spill it all over the rocker cover.

A la mode
Touareg has fashionable driving mode selector. We've stuck to two of the seven modes available: Sport for the twisty stuff and Eco for the motorway. Overall is 32.5mpg but we see 38mpg on M5.

Touareg LTT dial

Lane indiscipline
We've got adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance available. I prefer to switch LKA out: experience says other cars I've tested are better at staying between the white lines.

Simply stunning
Flashy grille apart, the Touareg is pretty understated, just as you'd expect from a VW. It's got that muscles-in-a-suit look, and definitely benefits from the 21in wheel upgrade.

Sink hole
Getting there is only half the battle. Unpacking all the stuff you've wedged into the colossal 810-litre loadbay is the other half. No kitchen sink, but if we'd slid the back seats forward it would have fitted.

Touareg LTT boot

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech

Price £52,235 (£72,005 as tested) 
Performance 2967cc turbodiesel V6, 282bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph  
Efficiency 33.6mpg (official) 32.5mpg (tested), 173g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18p per mile 
Miles this month 1625
Total miles 5016


Month 3 living with a VW Touareg: a rally meet

Touareg LTT AWD

Bobble hat? Thermos? Wales? Check! Check! Check! The Touareg ferried me to Brecon for a meeting with some '80s four-wheel-drive rally icons. It looked enormous next to an Audi Quattro, though it never feels unwieldy on the road.

Some of the credit for that goes to our car's optional rear-wheel-steering system. High-speed stability and twisty-road agility are the most often trumpeted positives for this tech. But the way it shrinks the turning circle is just as valuable.

And after hours on a frozen Welsh hillside, the VW's heated steering wheel was a lifesaver on the drive home.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech

Price £52,235 (£72,005 as tested) 
Performance 2967cc turbodiesel V6, 282bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph  
Efficiency 33.6mpg (official) 32.5mpg (tested), 173g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18p per mile 
Miles this month 1701
Total miles 3391


Month 2 living with a VW Touareg: deflated again

Touareg flat tyre

When was the last time you had a puncture? According to tyre maker Continental, they hit the average European driver once every five years, or 44,000 miles. And since I do around 30,000 a year, I suppose I can't grumble about falling victim to my second in 18 months.

My last blow-out debacle, driving our long-term-test Skoda Octavia vRS 245, resulted in a five-hour wait in the car for the AA to fetch a new tyre because we didn't have a spare and the patrolman's universal spare wouldn't fit over the 245's big brake kit. Since then I've always opted for a spare wheel whenever possible. And there it was, a black rubbery rescue beacon beaming back at me from beneath the boot carpet.

It started off well. The jack made light work of the Touareg's 2070kg heft, though to be honest I would have welcomed another one to help hike the mammoth, now redundant, 21-inch alloy up high enough get it into the boot to take home. But the real problem came when I tried to inflate the spare.

It's one of those collapsible spares that looks flat when stored, like you've got a Pirelli P7 from a mid-1970s Countach inexplicably stored under your SUV's boot floor. To make it useable you need the supplied air compressor. To make that work, you need electricity.

But we had none. No power from any of the three on-board 12v sockets. I'd never noticed before because I use the wireless charging tray to juice my phone. I turned the car on and off, tried locking it and restarting it, even dropping it down off the jack in case there was some weird anti-tilt thing going on. Nothing.

So it was another wait for the AA, whose compressor wouldn't work off the VW's sockets either, meaning there's some kind of circuit issue, possibly just a blown fuse. I blame the kids. Probably trying to play hairdryer badminton or something equally daft and fuse-unfriendly. Whatever it is, it needs investigating – I've only got another 44k 'til the next one...

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech

Price £52,235 (£72,005 as tested) 
Performance 2967cc turbodiesel V6, 282bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph  
Efficiency 33.6mpg (official) 32.5mpg (tested), 173g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18p per mile 
Miles this month 1430
Total miles 1690


Month 1 living with a VW Touareg: hello and welcome

The last time we ran a Touareg on our long-term test fleet it was one of only two SUVs in VW's range. That was in 2011. Now the family has mushroomed to five.

Fortunately, my family hasn't got any bigger in the same period, because this third-generation Touareg sticks firmly to a five-seat layout when competitors like the BMW X5 and the VW's in-house rival, the Audi Q7, both offer, or give the option of, seven seats.

But a third row of chairs is about the only thing you can't have on the latest Touareg. It might be the least glamorous of the VW-Audi-Porsche-Bentley-Lamborghini SUVs to use the Group's MLB platform, but kitted out like this it feels every inch a proper luxury car.

There are more of those inches than last time, the new car measuring 77mm longer and 44mm wider, yet the kerbweight has fallen by over 100kg. There goes the justification for ordering ours with the 282bhp version of the 3.0 TDI instead of the stock 228bhp motor, but we did it anyway.

The extra horses push the base price up from £49,135 to £51,735, but that still undercuts the £52,675 we'd have paid if we'd ordered the sole petrol engine option, the 335bhp 3.0 V6. The petrol car's a touch quicker off the line (5.9sec versus 6.2sec) but not so much speedier that it justifies the 8mpg increase in fuel consumption.

Touareg LTT interior

Besides, we'd already busted the budget upgrading from entry-level SEL trim (heated leather seats, adaptive cruise control, 9.2-inch touchscreen) to R-Line Tech. Sporty-themed R-Line trim ups the wheels to twenties, and adds four-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, an electric tailgate, park assist and a rear-view camera for £3500. And for £3100 on top of that you step up to R-Line Tech. From the outside only a different style of 20in wheel gives the game away, but you don't notice the rest of the changes until you open the door. The 'Tech' tag means keyless entry, high-beam assist, 14-way electric seats, a 12-inch Digital Cockpit instrument panel and a stunning central 15-inch navigation screen. My first television had a smaller screen.

Last time out I kept the spec fairly simple to more accurately reflect the kind of car you might buy – and regretted it the minute I realised how badly the non-air-sprung ride was. So this time we were more liberal with the option ticks, adding a panoramic roof (£1260), 730w Dynaudio hi-fi upgrade (£1230), footballer-tastic Oryx White paint (£1780), head-up display (£1080), night vision (£1520), air suspension with rear-axle steering (£2370), the Driver's Assistance Pack Plus safety suite (£860) and LED matrix headlights for £1420.

Touareg LTT cornering

Mindful that if we didn't stop we could end up with a car that shared both a platform and price with a Lamborghini Urus, we opted not to plump for the self-latching doors (£500), climate-controlled massage seats (£1050), softer Savona leather upholstery (£2110) or the £4890 'Professional' chassis pack with its electromechanical anti-roll bars.

But we managed to sneak in two more options: a £750 upgrade to 21-inch Suzuka alloys because we really didn't like the look of the standard 20s; and to make my frequent cross-country journeys easier, a long-range 90-litre fuel tank that cost £100 (but costs an eye-watering £120 to fill).

The result of that shopping spree is a car with real kerbside presence and enough kit to give us plenty to talk about over the next six months. But it also resulted in a total bill for £72,005. Ideas above its station? Or a half-price Bentley bargain?

Our Touareg's spec highlights

Bigger badges
This isn't just R-Line spec – we've gone half a grade up to R-Line Tech. This includes fancier seats, keyless entry, high-beam assist and the combination of a 12-inch digital instrument panel and 15-inch central touchscreen. That's a lot of screen.

More metal
Hardware upgrades on our test car include air suspension with rear-wheel steering, 21-inch 'Suzuka' alloys and a bigger fuel tank.

Touareg LTT screen

Health 'n' safety
The cabin benefits from a panoramic sunroof and a hi-fi boost. Safety upgrades include a head-up display, night vision, LED matrix headlights and Driver Assistance Pack Plus (a sensor upgrade to help you dodge other traffic and pedestrians).

Under the hood
There's so much smooth, slick digital tech going on that you could forget that under the bonnet there's a pretty potent – and reasonably frugal – but ultimately old-fashioned diesel V6.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech

Price £52,235 (£72,005 as tested) 
Performance 2967cc turbodiesel V6, 282bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph  
Efficiency 33.6mpg (official) 32.5mpg (tested), 173g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18p per mile 
Miles this month 260
Total miles 260

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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