Volkswagen is a car manufacturer on the up, within the next decade it aims to be the largest car manufacturer in the world. Encompassing VW itself as well as SEAT, Skoda, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti and last year Porsche and Ducatti, key to VW’s success has been the successful use of shared platforms in different models, which mean that cars are cheaper to develop and therefore a higher profit can be made. Compared to other companies, VAG seems particularly adept at giving each model its own distinct styling, interior and driving characteristics, as opposed to some others who have merely slapped a different badge on what is effectively the same model (though let’s not mention the Up! triplets shall we?).
The Touareg and its sister car the Porsche Cayenne were there result a costly programme between the two manufacturers (at the time still seperate) to create a pair of luxury SUV rivals that would take the market by storm. Rivals such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML may have beaten VW to the market, but the new duo’s mix of Porsche’s handling expertise and VW’s solid engineering skill, alongside a big smattering of off-road hardware, meant that they had most bases covered.
However a few things meant that the neither car was quite the market dominating force that was intended, for various reasons I will shortly outline. Nevertheless both are good cars and the Touareg in particular is a strong consideration for me and anybody looking at this segment of the market. Why not the Cayenne? Well there is much about the Porsche that appeals over the VW and in many ways it is a more appealing car (looks aside), but a diesel engine was only introduced in 2009 and as such prices are still pretty stratospheric. The earlier petrol V6 and V8 engines whilst good performers did have a huge thirst…20 mpg is only just achievable!
So the Touareg itself…compared to the Cayenne it is much more tamely styled, more like a bloated Golf than the 911 on stilts that its sister is. This is not a bad thing per se, but the facelifted car (out of my price range) is much more distinctive and usually comes with larger, more attractive alloys. Inside though the Touareg is near the front of the SUV pack…Volkswagen make great cabins; high quality plastics and a strong Germanic design give the car a solid feel, even compared to the Cayenne. Equipment levels are generally high with sat nav, heated seats and leather being on the majority of vehicles I have seen for sale online. There is only seating for 5, but the boot space is big and the pop up tailgate glass is a neat feature.
On the road is where the Touareg starts to fall apart, as whilst it doesn’t do anything particularly bad the sheer weight of the car means that it is apparently quite soft both in terms of handling and ride. The weight is also a drag on the performance from the strong engines; the V6 and V8 petrol engines are rare, as is the mammoth V10 diesel (which can tow a 747 apparently). Most buyers opted for one of the 2.5L 5cyl or 3L V6 diesels which gave differing levels of speed…the 5cyl is pretty slow and although the V6 is considerably better it suffers from fuel consumption that is often bettered in petrol versions of rivals (26.5 mpg for the V6 and only 28 for the 5cyl).
These factors combine to make the Touareg a less appealing choice than some of its rivals for my budget; it is not any cheaper to buy nor run than competition from Volvo or Lexus, and whilst the BMW X5 is more pricey to insure it is also more fuel efficient and likely to hold its value alot better. So whilst a good first effort, the Touareg is not going to my next choice.