One-day test: Volkswagen Touareg 4.2 V8 TDI
In the past, Volkswagen’s large Touareg was never considered particularly pretty. Yes, it was unequivocally functional, could handle almost anything from an off-roading point of view, and offered a luxurious and very well appointed cabin. But in the end it was fairly bland, and predictable.
The truth of the matter is that the previous Touareg’s real claim to fame was a monstrous 5,0-litre V10 turbodiesel producing 230 kW of muscle, and 750 Nm of torque. This made it somewhat of a hooligan cruiser, with all the power in the world but a chassis that wasn’t really made to cope with all that urge, and a gearbox that needed a viscous coupling to act as torque convertor.
Responsiveness was not the Touareg’s forte.
I had actually never driven a Touareg before this test unit arrived, and was not expecting too much based on what I knew about at the first generation. It would have a lot of kit and probably be quite comfortable, but I might as well have been in any other large SUV. Hell, even the mighty V10 diesel had since been canned from the second generation, so there wasn’t even a hope of torque-powered tomfoolery.
But as with most assumptions, things turned out quite differently.
The Touareg is still fairly bland on the outside, but where it used to be the love child of a Jetta and Passat on stilts, the new Volkswagen grille better suits the car’s dimensions. It is still very much aligned to that vision, but a slight sheen of styling has replaced the previous dreary undercoat.
The dullness has also morphed into, well not something exciting, but rather muted. If the Cayenne Turbo is the SUV equivalent of a flashy U-Boat watch, then the Touareg would be an Omega Seamaster: easy to miss, but purposefully so.
The interior is as expected: luxurious, with all the creature comforts you would ever realistically need, but in combination they feel familiar. It is easy to sprinkle some technology in a cabin and call it premium, but in the Touareg’s interior everything seems to fall in place. It is comfortable and comforting.
Ride quality is equally good, with the car’s air suspension actively controlling numerous factors that could intrude on the occupants’ wellbeing. There is also a large panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, climate-controlled seats and Volkswagen’s Area View parking assist cameras. Basically everything you could ask for.
As for the disappointment of the V10 diesel engine’s absence, Volkswagen has kind of remedied this by offering a smaller V8 TDI unit, which is meant to serve the same purpose. It has two cylinders less and only 4,2 litres of displacement, but thanks to (more) modern technology, the engineers at VW have managed to wring out 250 kW and 800 Nm of torque from it.
That’s more than the V10 TDI delivered, and while it will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5,8 seconds, Volkswagen claims that it will manage that while only consuming 9,8 litres/100 km.
Power delivery is not a problem and thanks to a new gearbox and four-wheel drive system, the car feels agile and responsive to driver inputs, but never strained.
The Touareg has come into its prime in this second generation. It took a facelift to really get the styling to a point where it doesn’t detract from the car, but the mechanicals, luxury kit and overall drivability are far above what I would expect from a SUV.
It might not have the cutting edge styling of a Range Rover, but then it also doesn’t come with any anecdotes about Range Rover drivers.
At R990 600 the 4.2 V8 TDI it is not cheap, but if you want something luxurious, low-key, comfortable, and formidable, you cannot go wrong.