When the original Mk1 VW Touareg was released in 2002, CAR Magazine drove it across North Africa and even let the real Tuareg tribespeople have a go in it across the Sahara. Now our own Georg Kacher has had a go in the latest hybrid version.
4x4=bad, but hybrid 4x4=good?
This is the first VW to use the same hybrid technology as the Porsche Cayenne. The big VW has the same Audi-sourced 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 from the S4, supplemented by a 46bhp electric motor.
The parallel system allows the usual hybrid party piece of two miles of silent wafting up to 30mph, but also works at high speed, decoupling the petrol engine under a trailing throttle at speeds of up to 100mph. This clever tech silences the usual hyrbid critics, who often gloat that most hybrid systems are useless during motorway cruises.
VW Touareg Hybrid: the new oily bits
The new Touareg is more than just a cosmetic facelift. Underneath, 47kg has been saved from the suspension largely through substituting aluminium for the previous car's steel. Further changes include wider front and rear tracks and 72 extra litres in the boot. The cabin has also been stretched, updated and redesigned, creating a more functional, better equipped place to sit.
On the road, VW's engineers have provided us with a car that is almost unrecognisable compared with the last model. Body roll is minimal, with pitch and yaw all but eliminated due to chunkier anti-roll bars. Equally, early understeer and brake dive have been culled. Steering is still on the light side, but is more direct and easier to moderate than the previous generation.
Yet the system is far from perfect; the eight-speed auto can be hesitant and jerky, with the brakes feeling artificial and spongy when trying to combine both mechanical and regenerative deceleration. The fundamental switch between electric and petrol motors can on occasion prove jerky.
How does the new VW Touareg ride?
That is not to say that the VW Touareg Hybrid itself is a bad car, far from it; although it lacks the sporting edge of an X5 or Range Rover Sport, it rides much better than both. If one is so inclined one can spec a Touarge with adjustable air suspension, giving the option of either comfort or sport mode, which lowers and stiffens the entire set-up.
For those who want to wallow in lots and lots of mud, you may also specify the 4XMotion off-road pack, which increases wheel travel, ride height, fording depth and so forth. But we'd rather save the money and have the sat-nav and panorama sunroof.
Aside from the attraction of a nice smug look whilst silently wafting around town, there is sadly very little reason to recommend the hybrid Touareg over its diesel sibling. The TDI is more economical, significantly lighter, faster accelerating, has a higher top speed and is £18,000 cheaper.
That's a helluva lot of money for a smug grin. So while we're impressed by the new hybrid, it's hard to recommend it over the diesel.