The VW Touareg R takes the R badge in a comfy new direction
Is it really an R?
Let's get this out of the way up front. The VW Touareg R isn't going to get under your skin and make you chuckle like the rest of the Volkswagen R family. It won't skid about like the latest Golf R, or rattle off some staccato DSG brap gearshifts like a T-Roc R. It's big. It's heavy. It's a hybrid. But it's still an intriguing car for reasons that we'll get on to – watch the video to find out more, or read on for more thoughts.
What is it?
The Volkswagen Touareg R is a £72,000 big SUV that uses a 340hp 3.0-litre petrol V6 and a 136hp electric motor to put out a combined 462hp to all four wheels. The electric motor runs from a 14.1kWh battery, and you can drive it up to about 80mph on electric power alone, with a maximum electric-only range of 27 miles.
Performance is pretty startling from a standstill in sport mode – it gets from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, but it's the savagery of the electric motor that really thumps you in the back. Performance tails off slightly as the slightly anodyne V6 takes on the bulk of the work – and it is quite a bit of work, thanks to the weight of the batteries taking the Touareg R's weight to 2.4 tonnes.
So does it feel like an R on a twisty road?
No. While the Touareg R grips impressively well, the steering is as light and uninvolving as in the regular Touareg. Volkswagen's also failed to give the R any of the fancy chassis stuff that's optional on the normal Touareg – the batteries and motor take up space around the back axle which means you can't get four-wheel steering nor the 48-volt active anti-roll bars.
You get Volkswagen's new R badge as well as an e-hybrid badge to tell the world this isn't just another 4.0 V8. Actually, that would be quite good…
You can get the R into a rhythm down a twisty road, but you're always aware of the mass, the light steering and the fact that this is just a car that doesn't love being hustled. You can quite easily hit the boundaries set by the stability control system – just as we found when we ran a Touareg for six months in 2020.
So it's not a thrilling car to drive – but thanks to the standard-fit air suspension it's as comfortable as the regular Touareg, which makes the R an absolutely fantastic cruiser for long-distance trips. It's hushed inside and the powertrain is beautifully smooth. The electric motor masks the slow-witted nature of the eight-speed automatic gearbox, and eradicates the lethargic pull-away of the regular Touareg.
It's still easy to drive around town too, despite its massive size. A litany of all-round cameras makes parking a doddle too, despite it lacking the extra convenience of the four-wheel steering system we had last year.
Six-piston calipers grip 400mm discs to help slow the 2.4-tonne Touareg R
The front brakes use 400mm discs – the largest on any current Volkswagen – and they feel well up to the task of slowing you when you get really carried away revving out the V6.
What else do I need to know?
Thanks to batteries taking up space, the Touareg R's boot space is down 145 litres over the regular Touareg to 665 litres. It's still a vast space, but you miss out quite a bit of storage under the boot floor.
You can add a tow bar to the Touareg's rump that will let you tow a whopping 3.5 tonnes – that's more than most other plug-in hybrids.
The interior's much the same as an R-Line Tech Touareg – you get a 15-inch touchscreen which still hides a lot of the air-con controls (and the switch to put the drivetrain in pure EV mode), and there's still no wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – you need to plug your phone in to get these to work.
The Touareg's interior felt lovely anyway, but the R gets some R badges and leather bits on the door cards
Cabin quality is brilliant, however, with comfy heated-and-cooled leather seats up front and acres of space in the back that'll please even your most agoraphobic passengers.
Isn't there an elephant in the room?
Sort of. Under the skin, the Touareg R is very similar to the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid – the two share a powertrain and a basic chassis platform. The Cayenne is actually about £2,000 cheaper than the Touareg, which sounds nuts until you add options to the Porsche to get it to the same equipment level as the Volkswagen… by which point the Porsche will set you back £85,000.
Should I buy one?
It's unlikely driving enthusiasts are the target market for the Volkswagen Touareg, and the R model just gives you a spicier, meaner-looking version that retains the comfort (and slightly inert driving feel) of the regular car.
Bear in mind it's very easy to spec a 'regular' Touareg to north of the R's £72,000 list price – so it's entirely feasible the R will just become the 'default' version of the car for families that can charge it at home.
It's not a thriller, but it's a quick and spacious car that's only improved by having an electric motor as part of its DNA.