► Third-gen Touareg on fleet
► Flashy R-Line Tech spec
► Chris Chilton's regular reports
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.
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.
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
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.
Hardware upgrades on our test car include air suspension with rear-wheel steering, 21-inch 'Suzuka' alloys and a bigger fuel tank.
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