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Volkswagen Touareg 2021 review: Wolfsburg Edition

Volkswagen's Touareg SUV gets the Wolfsburg treatment.

The new Touareg - as we're still calling it because even though it's been here a while, it isn't the old one - is a proper piece of gear. Big, comfortable, technocratic and filled to the gills with stuff (in the upper end of the range, anyway), it pushes the boundaries of what Volkswagen can get away with charging. And somehow, it does get away with it.

I say that because for a week I had the Touareg Wolfsburg. The second half of the name, which refers to the city from which VW sprung, is added for special editions and has been applied in the past to other cars in the expansive VW range. For 2021, the Touareg Wolfsburg will slap you for $119,900, before on-road costs, for the turbo-diesel V6 or $139,990 for the willfully monstrous V8. There are 200 of the former and 100 of the latter available.

It's loaded, though. Starting with an already well-stacked spec sheet, the Wolfsburg adds black 21-inch 'Suzuka' alloys (that's a race circuit in Japan), an R-Line styling pack, soft-close doors, a massive 15-inch screen in the centre console to go with the 12.3-inch digital dashboard beside it, a head-up display, configurable ambient lighting, dual zone climate control, LED headlights, 'Vienna' leather seats which are also heated and cooled, heated R-Line steering wheel and so on and so forth. It's a long list to justify its Audi Q8-adjacent pricing.

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What does it look like?

Volkswagen's current styling is an object lesson in how to do a family design. It doesn't stand out too much but you know one when you see it. The front has a lot of horizontal lines to broaden its stance but being such a big car it also lowers it, visually at least.

The test example is very black. It reminds me of the description of Hotblack Desiato's ship in The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and has some real stealth bomber vibes. Sadly matt black isn't an available option to get that idea over the line. It's clean and crisp and very, very elegant.

Volkswagen's current styling is an object lesson in how to do a family design. Volkswagen's current styling is an object lesson in how to do a family design.

The Touareg Wolfsburg is limited to 'Pure White', 'Deep Black Pearl Effect', 'Antimonial Silver Metallic' and the Wolfsburg-only 'Midnight Blue Metallic.' All but white cost $2100.

The cabin is awash with premium materials and with that giant touchscreen, has a proper from-the-future aesthetic. Again, there's no avant-garde in here, it's just clean and straightforward and everything looks right. I'm wracking my brains for a criticism, but I can't even find a trivial one. 

How does it drive?

The one I drove was the 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 210kW and an impressive 600Nm of torque. The V8 brings 310kW and a massive 900Nm to lop a second or two off the 0-100km/h time, cracking the figure in 4.9 seconds.

You may have already read the long specification list, but I didn't even mention the eight-speed automatic or the clever air suspension. The Touareg shares the Audi S8's freakish ability to roll over even quite hefty speed bumps without you even noticing them. It's almost like the wheels aren't part of the chassis and just run independently like a moon buggy's. My rear seat passengers didn't even look up from their phones.

The one I drove was the 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 210kW and an impressive 600Nm of torque. The one I drove was the 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 210kW and an impressive 600Nm of torque.

Dial things into 'Sport', though, and the suspension suddenly decides the car is an oversized hot hatch, with the grunt to back it up. The suspension has another trick up it's sleeve - active anti-roll. When you throw it into a corner, the system reduces body roll to keep the car flat.

The super-smooth V6 diesel pairs well with the transmission and in just about any situation, both behave impeccably. As you load up with the kids and things, the V6 seems unruffled, which is why that torque figure is impressive.

Around the city it's composed but is of course quite a big unit. Thankfully, there are plenty of cameras and sensors to help and you'll need all of them.

The Touareg shares the Audi S8's freakish ability to roll over even quite hefty speed bumps without you even noticing them. The Touareg shares the Audi S8's freakish ability to roll over even quite hefty speed bumps without you even noticing them.

How spacious is it?

The Touareg is a big boy, but surprisingly, only seats five. I say surprisingly because I confidently told my mother that I would pick up her, my father, my sister, her husband and their two kids from the airport. Something made me go and check and I quickly retracted the offer to move my sister's family. 

The five seats it does have are very comfortable and the wide back seat is a boon for the middle passenger because one can actually fit. If their feet are small enough, the flat-topped transmission tunnel means the footwells don't have to accommodate extra extremities. The back seats also get their own vents and various controls.

  • The Touareg is a big boy, but surprisingly, only seats five. The Touareg is a big boy, but surprisingly, only seats five.
  • The back seats also get their own vents and various controls. The back seats also get their own vents and various controls.
  • The boot is a massive 810 litres (VDA) with the back seat slid all the way forward. The boot is a massive 810 litres (VDA) with the back seat slid all the way forward.
  • Drop the seatbacks and you have 1800 litres. Drop the seatbacks and you have 1800 litres.

You get cupholders front and rear, bottle holders in the doors and a big console box.

The boot is a massive 810 litres (VDA) with the back seat slid all the way forward. Drop the seatbacks and you have 1800 litres. With the seats in 'normal' mode, you have somewhere between 500 and 600 litres, which is a lot.

How easy is it to use every day?

Yes, it's big, but there are lots of things to make life easier. For a start, the air suspension can lower the car at the touch of a boot-mounted button to make loading/unloading easier. The million cameras and sensors also make it easier to get it in and out of tight spaces (or any space, really) and all the doors open wide for easy entry and egress. 

Lots of glass means lots of easy sight lines, so despite its near five metre length, it doesn't feel that big to drive around.

How safe is it?

As my colleague Richard Berry sagely noted in his review of the V8 R-Line last year, the Touareg might be pricey, but it's stacked with more safety gear than the Bentley Bentayga with which it shares a lot of its underpinnings.

The Touareg scored a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment in 2018, and you get six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB, reverse AEB, reverse cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, around-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

The Touareg might be pricey, but it's stacked with more safety gear than the Bentley Bentayga. The Touareg might be pricey, but it's stacked with more safety gear than the Bentley Bentayga.

The forward AEB works at high and low speeds and also detects pedestrians.

There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for baby seats.

What’s the tech like?

There is a lot of tech crammed in to the Touareg. The big 15-inch touchscreen is well-integrated (that would have taken a lot of work to get right) and has lots of big easy targets to hit. The Apple CarPlay is a bit odd, marooned in the middle of the screen with its rounded corners highlighting the fact VW's software bods tried to put a faint border around it, but that's hardly something to worry too much about.

The big 15-inch touchscreen is well-integrated (that would have taken a lot of work to get right) and has lots of big easy targets to hit. The big 15-inch touchscreen is well-integrated (that would have taken a lot of work to get right) and has lots of big easy targets to hit.

The 'Night Vision Assist' feature, which comes up in the digital dashboard, is extremely clever and picks out humans in the murk, making them glow orange like a 1970s Doctor Who monster.

Everything else works as expected, apart from the steering wheel heater. Basically, if it's even a little bit chilly, it just turns itself on for you. I never knew I needed a heated steering wheel in my life until I drove the Touareg.

How much does it cost to own?

The V6 turbo-diesel's official combined cycle figure comes in at 7.5L/100km. In a week of mostly urban running we got 10.1L/100km, which isn't bad going and lands just outside my seat-of-the-pants 30 per cent rule. From its 90 litre tank, you'll still get over 850km between fills on those figures and if you drive it less enthusiastically than I did, you'll probably get closer.

The V8 will clear the tank (officially) at the rate of 8.7L/100km and Richard's similarly urban week with that car yielded 11.6L/100km.

The V6 turbo-diesel's official combined cycle figure comes in at 7.5L/100km. The V6 turbo-diesel's official combined cycle figure comes in at 7.5L/100km.

Volkswagen has a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and an assured price servicing regime. When you return the Touareg every 12 months/15,000km, you'll pay between $499 and, er, $1252 per service. Over the first five services you'll pay $3619 for an average of $723. Ouch.

If, however, you pay up front, you'll reduce the overall cost to $2600 for five services (averaging out at $520, saving $1018 over the period) or $1600 for three (saving $267). Still not cheap, but a solid improvement, especially over five years.


The Wrap

There's extraordinarily little to complain about in the Touareg Wolfsburg, apart from the price. Thing is, this car is packed with gear from the vastly more expensive Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, and does it all, apart from a mental 0-100km/h and top speed, with far less fuss and, subjectively speaking, rather more style.

As a special edition you can't fault it for having every single thing thrown at it and whether you go V6 or V8, you'll be in an exclusive club, and not just because there are so few of them.

Likes

Looks great
Stacked with stuff
Great to drive

Dislikes

Up front price
Expensive PAYG servicing
Still have to pay for colour choice

Scores

Peter:

4.3

The Kids:

4.3

$139,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

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