The Volkswagen Touareg first made an appearing in January 2000. Back then, it was revealed as the ‘AAC’ pick-up SUV concept study. It wasn’t until 2002 that the first Touareg production SUV model was launched. Since then, we’ve seen three generations of Volkswagen’s flagship SUV, which has featured engine configurations in 6, 7, 10 and even 12 cylinders. Volkswagen went one step further with the V10 TDI model in 2006. Punching 553 lb-ft of torque, the marketing team came up with the idea of the V10 model towing a 155 tonne Boeing 747 plane, which it did with ease.
In 2023, more than 20 years after the Touareg’s first launch, Volkswagen bring us the fourth generation of Touareg model, along with a whole host of new technology features for owners to enjoy. At launch, the German automaker is offering in the UK the SUV in three trimlines, Elegance, Black Edition and the range-topping R. Each model is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 engine, available in two diesel variants, one standalone petrol, and two plug-in hybrid petrol variants.
The new model – Visual changes
Visually, the front end of the 4th generation SUV has been redesigned that makes it looked wider from the front angle. The Black Edition, which was formerly known as R-Line, and R variants receive blacked out front grille and fascia, which really set off the front end of the Touareg. Volkswagen have introduced what they call IQ.Light HD matrix in the headlights. These are three LED headlight modules that contain over 38,000 individually controlled pixels, and that’s just the start of the Touareg’s new technology. The roof features a new, roof load sensor, that detects if a roof box is fitted and then alters the electronic stability control to improve stability.
At the rear, the Volkswagen Group seem to have adopted a light bar across the rear of all of their models, and the Touareg is no exception. The rear Volkswagen badge illuminates red as part of the brake lights once the vehicle is started, a smart feature, as the badge doesn’t look like it would illuminate when you first glance at the rear of the car.
One of the things I’ve always liked about previous generation Touareg models are the driver’s cockpit and infotainment screens. They really form part of the driving experience and surround the driver, as opposed to looking like they’ve been stuck to the dashboard as with some of Volkswagen’s competitors. The fourth generation Touareg takes this to the next level, with a 12-inch driver’s cockpit, and a whopping 15-inch infotainment screen. To put that into perspective, that’s the same size as the Macbook screen that I’m typing this review onto!
Beneath the infotainment screen, within the centre console is the gear selector, which has grown in size from the previous generation. The button to put the vehicle in ‘Park’ is inconveniently located next to the button to select drive or reverse, and it was slightly frustrating when knocking the Touareg into park by accident when trying to reverse, although this is something to get used to over time, for sure.
Drivers can choose from seven driving modes on the selector wheel at the rear of the centre console. From eco mode, where you can engage EV only on the hybrid models, to off-road and snow. Another one of the new features on this generation of Touareg is the air suspension. This is selectable via another control wheel on the centre console, allowing the driver to raise or lower the SUV’s suspension at will. At lower speeds, the Touareg even has an Off Road + suspension setting, for more rugged terrain.
Volkswagen allowed us to experience the off-road capabilities of the new model too, and whilst the vehicles were taken on a soft off-roading course, I do believe that the extremes that we were putting the SUV through were far greater than any owner would ever dare take their shiny, new Touareg through. The hill descent control was particularly impressive, as it kicked in without the need of pressing any buttons to ensure it was enabled. As the driver, you only need to select Off Road + suspension, and the SUV takes care of the rest. This really gives you the feel of the all roundedness of the new Touareg.
Back on the road, the SUV was comfortable as expected, and with plenty of legroom for the rear passengers. Wheel choices range from 20-inch in the Elegance Model, to 22-inch in the R model, but don’t make a noticeable difference in ride quality. The range topping R model features a hybrid powertrain with the petrol V6 engine, producing a cool 456 bhp. Alongside the R badging, the Touareg R gets the iconic Lapiz Blue paintwork that we’re used to on other R models. What was surprising however was the lack of noise emitted by the exhaust on R model. Unlike some of its R siblings, like the magnificent Golf R, and T-Roc R, the Touareg R was remarkably quiet with its hybrid powertrain, and begs the question if the Black Editions is the better model, at over £13,000 less. Yes, the R which starts at £80,510 gets the fancy paintwork, the more appealing wheels and of course an extra boost in horsepower, so it’s all down to personal preference. For me, although the R model looked the best out of the three trim levels, the Touareg R didn’t feel special enough to warranty the difference in price, particular with the Black Edition’s new blacked out front fascia transforming the look of the SUV, and let’s face it, where could you really unleash the full, 456 bhp of the R?
The first generation Touareg shared it’s platform with the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7, but with further introductions across the Volkswagen group, the platform of the 2024 Touareg model is shared with the Audi Q8, Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga as well. Within the hybrid models, Volkswagen use a 14.3 kWh battery, resulting in 31 miles of electric only range. In some of the Touareg’s competition, the battery technology has improved, with batteries with larger capacities being used. This has resulted in some of the Touareg’s competition having almost 60 miles of EV only range, something I believe the 4th generation Touareg lacks a little with being a new SUV.
I wanted to touch upon two new technology features on the new model that will either be really useful for owners, or something to brag about in the pub to your friends. The first of which being remote park assist. Imagine parking your new Touareg in a parking bay and going off to do your shopping. You return to find two big cars parked either side of you, and it’s impossible to get in through the driver’s door. The Touareg’s park assist allows you to drive the SUV out of the parking space using your phone, allowing easy entry. In addition to this, for those of us who can never manage parallel parking, particularly in a 4.9 metre long Touareg, remote park assist can help there, too. Simply use this feature to find a suitable space, and step out of your SUV and park the Touareg with your mobile phone. A very clever feature!
There’s no doubt that the Touareg is a practical vehicle, the off roading capabilities have already proven this, but some owners will want to use their Touareg for towing too. Volkswagen have thought about this and introduced the trailer assist feature as part of the 4th generation SUV. When reversing with a trailer, and trailer assist is enabled, instead of navigating the reverse with the trailer, turning left to go right etc, the driver simply controls the throttle and brakes. The steering is controlled by using the door mirror stalk. Turn the stalk to the right, and the Touareg will automatically adjust it’s steering to ensure that the trailer that you are reversing with turns right. By doing this, it eases the complicated process of reversing with a trailer attached. A very cool feature that was demonstrated.
The SUV market has become very crowded as they have become more popular amongst buyers of new cars in the UK. This category has become crowded more so by competitors from Volkswagen Group’s own brands that share the platform with the Touareg. So is this a step too far from Volkswagen? Historically, the Touareg has always been the reliable SUV model from the Group. Not too ostentatious, and perhaps a little understated in terms of design and power. That is exactly what this 4th generation Touareg is all about. The Touareg might not have the appeal of a Cayenne, or the performance of a Urus, but it does have capabilities that none of its competitors can tick all the boxes for. The Touareg is capable of creeping in EV mode, as much as it’s capable of driving in off-road terrains. This is why this SUV is the flagship of Volkswagen and has been around for over 20 years. Long may that continue.