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VW Touareg 2020 review: tow test

EXPERT RATING
8.3
The new Volkswagen Touareg is bound to do its fair share of towing, so we put it to work over 5000km of Australian outback.

When a mate texts you asking if you want to go for a drive to Alice Springs, the answer should always be 'yes!'.

That's exactly what happened a few weeks before we conducted this test. My buddy Deon asked me if we could find a way to deliver his 1963 VW Kombi split-screen single-cab ute to its new owner in the middle of the country.

I figured we could do it by putting a much newer Volkswagen model to the test.

The new Volkswagen Touareg is bound to do its fair share of towing, so we put it to work. (image: Deon Rowe) The new Volkswagen Touareg is bound to do its fair share of towing, so we put it to work. (image: Deon Rowe)

Enter the 2019 VW Touareg, which we had in Launch Edition guise. It had a tow-bar fitted, and we sourced a tri-axle car trailer to load the Kombi onto... all that was left to do was to get the Kombi on the trailer and hit the road.

The curiosity level was high - the Touareg is rated to tow big weight, so how would it cope on our long-distance, quick turnaround trip to The Outback?

Volkswagen Touareg 2020: Launch Edition
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$89,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

It's not your average tow rig, this. I mean, you could go for a bulky dual-cab Amarok ute, and that'd certainly look more at home with a car trailer behind it. But the Touareg Launch Edition is a plush and attractively designed luxury SUV, one that's also big on being inoffensive. You can hardly level design criticism at this car, because it's so well styled and proportioned, so easy to look at but also easy to look away from, that we hardly stood out in the outback.

You can hardly level design criticism at this car, because it's so well styled and proportioned. (image: Deon Rowe) You can hardly level design criticism at this car, because it's so well styled and proportioned. (image: Deon Rowe)

I mean, it's easy to see why people's glances were drawn more to what was on the trailer, after all.

Forget the outside - the interior design was perhaps the more important element of this test, given we spent six full days straight in the cabin.

The Touareg Launch Edition is a plush and attractively designed luxury SUV, one that's also big on being inoffensive. (image: Deon Rowe) The Touareg Launch Edition is a plush and attractively designed luxury SUV, one that's also big on being inoffensive. (image: Deon Rowe)

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Launch Edition model we had was fitted with VW's Innovision Package, an $8000 option box that, if ticked, includes the fitment of a 15.0-inch media screen, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display and more. It looks great, and we spent several hours playing with the menus and settings over the days in the Touareg.

The interior design was perhaps the more important element of this test, given we spent six full days straight in the cabin. (image: Deon Rowe) The interior design was perhaps the more important element of this test, given we spent six full days straight in the cabin. (image: Deon Rowe)

The Touareg is a five-seater, but it was just me and my mate Deon and some emergency camping gear in case we needed it. We didn't plan to camp, because driving 12 hours a day then not being able to sleep well wasn't part of the plan.

But I digress. The cabin was easily cavernous enough for us and our stuff, with the bottle holders in the doors and cup holders between the seats getting a workout over the drive. The 810-litre boot space was big enough for our loading ramps, luggage and more.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The VW Touareg range has been filled out, with the Launch Edition making way for the 2020 variants - the 190TDI (priced at $79,490 plus on-road costs), and 190TDI Premium ($85,490 plus on-road costs).

There are still Launch Edition models available, and they listed at $89,990 before on-road costs.

Standard gear on Launch Edition models is extensive, with Matrix LED headlights, Savona leather trim with heated and ventilated front seats also equipped with massage function and electric bolster adjustment, there are also memory settings for the front seats plus the side mirrors and steering column, as well as four-zone climate control, privacy glass, an electric tailgate with proximity sensor and adaptive air suspension with multiple drive modes that can change the ride height.

Over so many kilometres we came to appreciate the lane keeping assist system, which helped lessen fatigue over long days of driving. (image: Deon Rowe) Over so many kilometres we came to appreciate the lane keeping assist system, which helped lessen fatigue over long days of driving. (image: Deon Rowe)

While the Launch Edition comes on 20-inch black alloy wheels, the spare wheel is a space saver, which could be a bit of a concern for those venturing into the outback.

The standard media system is a 9.2-inch Discover Pro multimedia screen with gesture controls, App-Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB ports and a wireless charge pad.

The safety story is a strong one, too - see the section below for more on that.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

Under the bonnets of each of the members of the Touareg range you'll find a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine, which is teamed to an eight-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive.

The engine outputs are 190kW (at 4000rpm) and 600Nm (at 2250rpm), so this beast has the grunt numbers to help it haul a big load.

The V6 diesel engine was easily strong enough with this much mass in tow. (image: Deon Rowe) The V6 diesel engine was easily strong enough with this much mass in tow. (image: Deon Rowe)

The towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer, and up to 3500kg for a braked trailer. Our towing trailer had electric brakes but the car didn't have a brake controller fitted - but not to worry, we borrowed an Elecbrakes portable controller from our good buddy and sometimes-CarsGuide-photographer Brendan Batty.

This setup means you don't need to tear apart your dashboard and add third-party wiring, though it requires you to run the car using manual headlight control, rather than auto headlights (that's how it registers the controller and pairs it to the car via Bluetooth). That meant we had to remember to switch off auto lights every time we started the car, lest the electronic trailer brakes wouldn't work.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The claimed fuel use figure for the Touareg is 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres. That's not what we got with two tonnes behind it.

We did the maths over the 2845 kilometres we towed the trailer and Kombi, and averaged fuel consumption (at the pump) of 14.8 litres per 100 kilometres.

Now, note that we were aiming to maintain speed limit signposted pace at all times, and the aim wasn't to go for the best consumption possible. Instead, we pushed hard and got their in good time, and you may see better consumption towing something of a similar size in a Touareg. We also had some extreme headwinds.

The fuel filler neck is too narrow to deal with high-flow diesel, which can be more of an issue than you'd think in remote areas. (image: Deon Rowe) The fuel filler neck is too narrow to deal with high-flow diesel, which can be more of an issue than you'd think in remote areas. (image: Deon Rowe)

Even so, for context we saw an average of 10.1L/100km on the return leg when towing the empty trailer back.

Perhaps of more importance is the fact the fuel tank is only 75 litres in capacity, and when you're using about fifteen litres per hundred you need to pay attention to where the next fuelling stop will be. The previous Touareg V6 had a bigger 85L tank, while the old Touareg V8 came with a 100L tank. There is no long-range tank option.

Further, the fuel filler neck is too narrow to deal with high-flow diesel, which can be more of an issue than you'd think in remote areas.

Over the 2845 kilometres we towed the trailer and Kombi, and averaged fuel consumption (at the pump) of 14.8 litres per 100 kilometres. (image: Deon Rowe) Over the 2845 kilometres we towed the trailer and Kombi, and averaged fuel consumption (at the pump) of 14.8 litres per 100 kilometres. (image: Deon Rowe)

What's it like to drive?   9/10

There aren't many cars that you can step out of after 12 hours of driving and think: "We could just keep going..."

But that's what happened on this drive, because of how easy the Touareg made this trip for us. It's hard to find fault with it as a driver or passenger, especially when you're on decent roads for long distances.

Unlike plenty of the other SUVs out there with big towing capacity, the VW Touareg is built on a monocoque chassis, and in this spec it has air suspension as standard, which is one of its biggest advantages.

The fuel tank is only 75 litres in capacity, and when you're using about fifteen litres per hundred you need to pay attention to where the next fuelling stop will be. (image: Deon Rowe) The fuel tank is only 75 litres in capacity, and when you're using about fifteen litres per hundred you need to pay attention to where the next fuelling stop will be. (image: Deon Rowe)

That's because the suspension is simply excellent at dealing with bumps and lumps in the road surface, especially considering the Touareg Launch Edition has 20-inch wheels. There was a little bit of noticeable shunting and movement from the trailer, but that wasn't surprising.

Over so many kilometres we came to appreciate the lane keeping assist system, which helped lessen fatigue over long days of driving, and in combination with the adaptive cruise control it made for a lot of very easy long distance touring. As for drive modes, we kept the car in either Comfort or Eco mode most of the time, but there are Sport, Off-Road and other modes available.

The steering - when we didn't have the semi-autonomous steering system operating - was good; a little heavy at low speeds, and the turning circle isn't tremendously tight at 12.1m, but that was hardly a consideration given we had a lengthy tri-axle trailer on the rear.

The V6 diesel engine was easily strong enough with this much mass in tow, accelerating with effortlessness when overtaking road trains and easily keeping up with the flow of traffic in towns and cities along the way.

It's easy to see why people's glances were drawn more to what was on the trailer, after all. (image: Deon Rowe) It's easy to see why people's glances were drawn more to what was on the trailer, after all. (image: Deon Rowe)

The eight-speed auto was hard to fault, too. It shifted gears smoothly, taking off in second gear most of the time because the engine has enough grunt to do it. It reacted quickly when more was asked of it, too.

That said, the fuel tank size could be an issue for you. At 75 litres it's hardly small, but you've got to be mindful of how far you've got to travel between fuel stops. For instance, we drove through Port Augusta only to realise about 10 mins out of town that we wouldn't make it the 160km to the next stop. The onboard display was reading 240km to empty, but we weren't going to risk it.

And while we don't condone outback driving at night because of the abundance of dopey jumping furry morons, we powered on into darkness on one of our driving days only to be rewarded by the excellent Matrix LED headlights, which had a long throw on low and high beam, and crisp white light, too.

A final note: the doors are aluminium, so you need clip-on side mirrors or properly fitted ones, as magnetised towing mirrors won't work.

It's hard to find fault with the Touareg as a driver or passenger, especially when you're on decent roads for long distances. (image: Deon Rowe) It's hard to find fault with the Touareg as a driver or passenger, especially when you're on decent roads for long distances. (image: Deon Rowe)

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Safety tech and equipment is a highlight of the Touareg, which has auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at high and low speeds, and has pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The Touareg also comes standard with blind spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, land keep assist and lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, driver fatigue detection, and adaptive cruise control.

All 2019 models scored a five star ANCAP crash test rating based on a European test conducted in 2018. It has eight airbags, as well as dual ISOFIX child seat anchors and three top-tether restraints for baby seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

The VW Touareg comes with the brand's five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is better than you'll get from any of the luxury SUV manufacturers.

The brand also has a choice of three- or five-year service plans available. The three-year plan is $1400 (or an average of $466 per year) while the five-year plan is $2500 ($500 per year). The intervals are every 12 months/15,000km.

VW offers one year of complimentary roadside assist, too.

Click through if you're concerned about VW Touareg problems.

Verdict

The VW Touareg is a very competent and comfortable tow vehicle for those wanting to eat up highway kays like we did on this drive.

It certainly had pulling power in reserve, and I have no doubt it could cope with extra weight behind it, too. What price would be paid at the pump is the big question, though, and the size of the fuel tank could be a concern for some owners, too.

All told, though, this trip was easier than it could have been because the Touareg was so composed and enjoyable. If you can afford it, it's a very impressive vehicle.

EXPERT RATING
8.3
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving9
Safety9
Ownership9
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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