DT Garage: Is our VW Touareg the rarest mass-market car out there?
If you’re a good person you’ll listen to the DriveTribe Podcast, and it was on a recent episode of this rambling audio experience that I explained exactly why I’ll miss my long-term Skoda Kodiaq. It was an expensive diesel SUV, sure, but its greatness came not only from the way it fitted into my family life, but also the way it served as a vehicle for lots of family memories. Soppy, I know – but the thing carted my brood around Europe on some valued time off work, and it wafted us all around the country back when that wasn’t an arrestable offence.
However, after six months I was ready for something a little different. And there was a man from Skoda at my door demanding the keys.
The moment I swapped from the Czech to the German. Back in the days when we could go outside
I still wanted an SUV, because my daughter is only just one year old, and that means she has to be transported alongside the world’s supply of nappies, pushchairs, slings and badly stuffed toy llamas. Admitting to being a fan of SUVs makes you about as popular as coughing near an old folk’s home, so I wanted to see if I could make my next family SUV as un-family friendly as possible.
Step forward my new car for the next six months – the Volkswagen Touareg. Because Volkswagen UK was remiss enough to let me spec my own car, I can confidently say that this might be the rarest car made by a mainstream brand in the UK.
How is that a rare car, you numpty?
Well, for a start the Touareg isn’t exactly prolific in the UK yet. Secondly, mine is brown. More correctly, it’s Tamarind Brown, an £850 optional metallic colour. It’s almost black under overcast skies, but in direct sunlight the whole car turns into a four-wheeled slice of pecan pie. I like that, but I don’t imagine hordes of people are buying brown Touaregs – and the VW UK press people have never seen one.
I’ll admit, a brown SUV isn’t necessarily that rare. But how about a petrol one? See, 92% of UK buyers (according to VW) are taking their Touaregs with the prolific (and brilliant) V6 turbodiesel, in either 231hp or 272hp forms. Both will see this big SUV hit economy figures just above 30mpg.
But Volkswagen has – rather quietly it has to be said – released a petrol V6 version. With 340hp. Obviously a six-cylinder turbo petrol donk in a big car like this is going to rinse through petrol like James May through salad cream and probably not provide much of a performance boost over a diesel. So you’d have to be a bit silly to order it… which is exactly what I did, along with 8% of UK customers. You rich fools.
Nope, it's not a TDI
Right, so it’s brown and petrol – “you idiot, Rodie” I hear you scoff.
Let me stop you there – because this might also be one of the most highly specced Touaregs ever made as well. It’s an R-Line Tech edition, which means it gets the simply huge central infotainment cinema screen, as well as a digital dashboard. But I’ve gone a bit silly with the options to see if I can make this petrol SUV into something a bit… racier.
As well as all the usual comfort options – which I’ll cover in another update – I’ve added air suspension for extra comfort on long drives (I may get to do one of those in 2023), rear-wheel steering to help park on my tiny road, and – drumroll – 48v electric anti-roll bars.
These cost £5,000 as part of the Professional Chassis pack. This also gives you active roll stabilisation and should mean that I can hoon my large brown petrol SUV to my heart’s content without smearing vomit on the side windows. It also means I can say it has more than just its basic platform in common with a Bentayga.
But what’s it actually like, you idiot?
Initial impressions of the Touareg are that it’s a properly luxurious thing. From the way the doors thud shut to the chauffeur-smooth mapping of the throttle and brakes, to the way the air suspension smothers the worst of the M25’s expansion joints, this car genuinely feels like a bargain Bentley.
All the screens, all the maps – a few functions (such as the heated wheel) are buried in the infotainment system, but it's quick and logical to use
I say bargain, because this car still cost Volkswagen £75,000, but it genuinely feels like a luxury item. Volkswagen attempted this back in the noughties with the Phaeton, and they soon stopped that – but they’ve quietly worked the same sense of poshness and tranquility into the Touareg.
I’m being gentle with the engine for the first 1,000 miles, but it simply disappears into the background both in terms of noise and vibration intrusion. Even a V6 diesel would feel clattery compared to this. You’re barely aware it’s there until you go past half throttle, when you’re treated to a complex and expensive sounding thrum pulling you down the road.
It's definitely brown. A handsome colour, I'm sure you'll agree
It’s not blisteringly quick away from the lights – the official 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds seems about right – but as the revs surge past 5,000rpm, the speed on the head-up display starts shooting up with amusing pace. It’s one of those cars that always makes you feel like you’re doing 30mph less than you are, simply because it’s so good at isolating you from the horrors of the outside world.
I'll take some better photos soon, promise
And the fuel costs? Well, I’m currently averaging 26mpg, and short trips will see the trip computer show 20mpg. But they’re short trips and aren’t going to ruin me. Motorway runs will get it near to 30mpg. Do I care? Given that a litre of petrol’s cheaper than diesel and my ears aren’t being subjected to dieselly rattle, no – I’m fine with it. Let’s just hope I get to put some more miles on this rare and gentle brown beast.