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Volkswagen Touareg 2021 review: Adventure off-road test

If you’re a fan of the VW Touareg and you want a little more off-road action from your vehicle of choice, perhaps the new limited edition Adventure variant is right up your dirt track. Be warned though: there are only 150 available, so fight it out among yourselves.

The more notable features of the Adventure include extra off-road settings (gravel and sand), tyre-pressure-monitoring system, a 90-litre fuel tank (15 litres more than standard), heavier-duty underbody protection for the engine and more.

So, is it worth your consideration? Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Touareg Adventure is based on the 190TDI Premium and has a MSRP of $90,990 (excluding on-road costs). It has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Standard features include two-tone leather interior, wood trim, 19-inch Esperance alloy wheels, four-wheel steering, memory for mirrors, front seats and electric steering column, and manoeuvre braking, and roof rails that you can attach an awning to.

Standard features include 19-inch Esperance alloy wheels. Standard features include 19-inch Esperance alloy wheels.

Driver-assist tech includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view monitor, park assist plus and automatic reverse braking.

As mentioned, the Adventure off-road system has gravel and sand settings, a tyre-pressure-monitoring system, a 90-litre fuel tank (15 litres more than a standard Touareg), heavier-duty underbody protection and more.

This vehicle is also fitted with Adventure package one (fitted RRP is $2790) and includes a towbar, luggage compartment tray, and front and rear mud-flaps. (There’s even a little Adventure badge to remind you of what this vehicle is.) Adventure package two (which includes a towbar, luggage compartment tray, side steps and all-weather rubber floor mats) has a fitted RRP price of $4125.

Another option is the $8000 Innovision Package, which includes a 15-inch colour touch-screen display with smartphone style HMI, configurable home screen and proximity sensor, Gesture Control, windshield projected colour head-up display, and illuminated stainless-steel scuff plates.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Adventure looks pretty good from the outside, but the inside is a real crowd-pleaser: the two-tone ‘Savona’ leather interior is rather eye-catching, as is the open-pore ash wood trim on the dash and doors; and the whole dash and media screen set-up is angled towards the driver, which gives the cabin a snug feel.

The Adventure looks pretty good from the outside. The Adventure looks pretty good from the outside.

 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Touareg has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI engine – which produces 190kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm at 2250 – and that’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s an unfussed, smoothly powerful and slick-changing combination.

The Touareg has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI engine. The Touareg has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI engine.

The Touareg has VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, a reliably effective set-up in general, but this is a vehicle far better suited to light-duty off-roading or at-speed traction-challenged situations on bitumen or well-formed dirt tracks, than it is to low-speed rock-crawling – which you should not ever attempt in this.

How practical is the space inside?

It’s a distinctly premium space, that’s for sure, and a mostly practical one, as well – as long as you watch out for real-life messes, stains and spills – in other words, anything resulting from kids being kids.

But it is a very nice space in which to quickly get comfortable, with cushy seating and soft-touch surfaces everywhere and those make spending any time in here a welcome ask. 

All seats are very comfortable and the front seats are power-adjustable (with memory settings) and are heated and cooled – obviously not at the same time. 

The rear seats are a 40/20/40 split configuration and that row can slide and recline. It has a fold-down centre arm-rest with cupholders.

The rear seats are a 40/20/40 split configuration and that row can slide and recline.  The rear seats are a 40/20/40 split configuration and that row can slide and recline. 

There are plenty storage spaces including the usual suspects (glove box, cup-holders, door pockets etc) as well as the centre console. The wireless phone-charging spot in front of the auto shifter, which I didn’t use for its intended purpose but instead put my phone, wallet and other assorted bits and pieces in there.

If you’re looking to charge your devices, there’s a USB port (tucked away in front of the shifter) and a USB port and 12V socket in the centre console.

The 9.2-inch colour touch screen is clear and easy enough to use, but I experienced some issues trying to link my smartphone (Android Auto) to it – but I eventually sorted it out.

The 9.2-inch colour touch screen is clear and easy enough to use. The 9.2-inch colour touch screen is clear and easy enough to use.

Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use, and 1800L with those seats folded.  

  • Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use. Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use.
  • Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use. Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use.
  • Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use. Rear cargo area capacity is listed as 810 litres with the rear seat in use.

Overall, this is a very nice cabin: it feels premium and it’s supremely comfortable.

What's it like as a daily driver?

For a bloke who spends most of his time in rough-riding 4WDs, this Touareg is a revelation of sorts.

The marketing staff tasked with promoting any one of the many vehicles I’ve driven in recent years would love everyone to believe that their products are “car-like” in terms of ride and handling, but the reality is a fair bit different.

Not for this VW though, because this successfully inhabits the realm of city-friendly large SUVs far better than many others do.

It is a mostly quiet, smooth driving experience.

As noted earlier, the six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and eight-speed auto makes an easy-going but generally effective match-up. The little shifter takes a bit of getting used to, though.

The Touareg is 4878mm long (with a 2899mm wheelbase) and it’s 1984mm wide and 1686mm high. It feels well-settled at all times – except on sharper corrugated dirt tracks, but more about that later.

The Touareg is 4878mm long (with a 2899mm wheelbase) and it’s 1984mm wide and 1686mm high. The Touareg is 4878mm long (with a 2899mm wheelbase) and it’s 1984mm wide and 1686mm high.

The steering wheel has paddle shifters if you get the urge to work through the transmission that way.

VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system – with up to 70 percent of the drive torque being sent to the front axle, or up to 80 percent to the rear axle, depending on circumstances and conditions – is generally quietly effective in day-to-day driving and on different surfaces that offer up various levels of traction.

Cycling through the drive mode options – eco, comfort, normal, sport, individual, off-road, snow – is easy enough to do via a dial to the rear of the shifter, and your selection tweaks engine performance, throttle response, and damping and steering, among other characteristics, to suit your selection. 

The Touareg is a mostly quiet, smooth driving experience. The Touareg is a mostly quiet, smooth driving experience.

Adjustable air suspension comes in handy, but more so when you head off-road, but the rotary dial is to the left of the drive mode dial if you get the urge to use it. 

But it’s not all good news. 

There’s disconcerting turbo lag when accelerating, especially under heavy throttle from a standing start. It takes some time to get moving and that can leave you hanging in a busy intersection.

And the road tyres – Pirelli P Zero (255/55 R19) – are fit for on-road driving but leave you scant wriggle room when it comes time to head off-road – but more about that in the next section.

Otherwise, the Adventure is a very comfortable daily driver.

What's it like for touring?

It handles light off-roading well – I’m talking about driving on well-maintained gravel tracks or dirt roads in dry weather – and it’s probably very effective on wet bitumen, although I didn’t get the chance to try it out in those conditions.

There’s nothing wrong with its all-wheel drive system, it’s a low-key set-up that just goes about its job quietly, but it’s just not purpose-built for low-speed, low-range 4WDing-style off-roading.

The Adventure’s adaptive damping system helps it to ride through deep ruts and surprise potholes no worries, but smaller, sharper corrugations tend to unsettle its multi-link front and rear suspension.

The air suspension can be adjusted via a dial in the cabin and is quite useful when the going does become a little more severe and you need to do everything you can to try to ensure that your Adventure clears any natural obstacles in its way. This Touareg has a maximum listed ground clearance of 213mm.

The Touareg has a listed maximum towing capacity of 750kg (unbraked), and 3500kg (braked). The Touareg has a listed maximum towing capacity of 750kg (unbraked), and 3500kg (braked).

Though the air suspension affords you some off-roading versatility, the road-suited Pirelli P Zero rubber is no help on the rough stuff, no matter how tame the natural terrain is. These tyres are built for safe and comfortable driving on tarmac/bitumen/black top (whatever you want to call it), not for traction-grabbing action on rocks, gravel, dirt or mud. You can't drop pressures on these tyres to aid off-road grip because there isn't much tyre there to start with.

On tougher sections – through deeper ruts and small rock steps – we managed to avoid any belly-scraping on the Adventure’s underbody protection.

It has a listed maximum towing capacity of 750kg (unbraked), and 3500kg (braked).

How much fuel does it consume?

This Touareg has a claimed fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km (combined). 

We recorded 8.6L/100km after almost 400km of driving, including a lot of lightly corrugated dirt roads and some low-speed off-roading.

Our Adventure had a 90-litre fuel tank; 75 litres is the norm in a standard Touareg.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

It has a transferable five-year / unlimited kilometre warranty with complimentary one-year membership to VW Roadside Assist.

Servicing intervals are set at 15,000km / 12 months and, under the Assured Service Plan, cost $354, $737, $420, $1232 (at 60,000km / 48 months), and $420.

The 2021 Touareg has a transferable five-year / unlimited kilometre warranty with complimentary one-year membership to VW Roadside Assist. The 2021 Touareg has a transferable five-year / unlimited kilometre warranty with complimentary one-year membership to VW Roadside Assist.

If you opt for the Care Plan, service costs are $1350 (at the three-year mark) and $2500 (at the five-year mark). Those totals amount to savings of $161 and $663, respectively, over the Assured Service Plan.

The Touareg Adventure is an impressive large SUV wagon with a real all-round premium feel to it – no surprise there as it’s based on the 190TDI Premium. 

It’s plush and comfortable inside, nice to drive on-road and packed with features, including lots of driver-assist tech. It also looks pretty good.

But it’s a light-duty off-roader at best and is much better suited to life in the city or suburbs, with occasional forays onto mildly wild terrain. Don’t try to tackle any rock steps in it – or even deep wheel ruts, for that matter – and you’ll be fine.

If daily driver duties and weekend trips away are its remit then the Adventure fulfils its purpose very comfortably.

Daily driver score

4/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'