VW Touareg TDI V8 R-Line: sheep's clothing
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You’d expect something that boasts the sort of tidal-wave acceleration of this particular Volkswagen Touareg to feature a few more sports-themed decals.
Maybe some oversized air intakes in a judderbar-worrying front valance. Show-off quad exhaust pipes perhaps. Or at least aggressive 20-inch performance rims.
But no. This Volkswagen Touareg looks like almost every other Volkswagen Touareg. Which is both its strongest asset and its Achilles heel.
Under that conservatively designed bonnet, it harbours a brilliant mad-scientist sort of secret; a turbo-diesel V8 with real shock-and-awe performance figures attached.
This top-of-the-range engine option delivers 250kW peak power and a colossal 800Nm of torque.
Combined with permanent 4Motion four-wheel drive, it’s hard to replicate the unruffled, but distinctly unsubtle way in which this SUV gathers pace.
As if to underline the Touareg’s plain-clothed looks, there are no histrionics, no shouty snarl, not even much of an invisible hand on your chest, pushing you back in the driver’s seat; the speedo needle winds around and the trees and stuff outside the side windows get a bit blurrier.
That’s about it. But circumstances and speed limits willing, you’ll certainly arrive at your destination before you expect to.
This may read as ridiculous, but the nearest behind-the-wheel acceleration sensation I can think of is the one I experienced in a V12-engined Rolls-Royce. Yes, I know.
Comparing a Volkswagen SUV to an $800,000 Roller is indeed a leap of Olympian proportions. But there it is.
Okay; feet back on ground now. Because no one ever bought an SUV — even one with quad exhausts and a roof spoiler — based purely on how it accelerates, what else does this Touareg offer?
Lots of everything really, including bi-xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights, keyless entry, shift paddles to manually swap through the automatic gearbox’s eight ratios, Adaptive Cruise Control with semi-autonomous emergency braking functionality, parking sensors front and back, cameras everywhere and an electrically opening tailgate.
It also features standard adjustable air suspension and, as you’d expect, a deep and usable luggage area.
The R-Line signature stuff is more prominent inside, with an aluminium centre console surface, stainless performance pedals and scuff plates the most obvious additions, and R-Line logos peppered throughout.
It’s plain to see Volkswagen hasn’t for a moment lost sight of the attributes that sell SUVs.
In fact, despite this vehicle’s fantastic engine and R-Line embellishments, the manufacturer almost seems determined for it not to stand out from the crowd.
Which is — and yes, this will seem utterly shallow of me to say — its biggest issue. Those performance stats count for naught when it still looks like any other Touareg.
Wheels aside, you could walk past the TDI V8 and assume it was “just” a V6 one.
And that’s a problem in the increasingly competitive world of premium SUVs. For your $130,000-ish outlay, there are plenty of options. Granted, few will match the Touareg in terms of firepower for that money, but many offer more exterior excitement and that all-important point-of-difference, which still counts for a lot.
I’ll highlight a couple; the Jaguar F-Pace Sd and the Volvo XC90 D5 R-Design.
Both are in the same conversation-with-your-bank-manager ballpark ($125,000 and $106,900 respectively), both a similar size to the Volkswagen, with similar combined fuel economy and all-wheel drive too.
Both do have less power and torque on tap than the Touareg — the Jag features a turbo diesel V6, the Volvo a four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel. But, acceleration notwithstanding, neither will leave you feeling like you’ve backed a nag out on the open road.
They’re capable of moving at pace, carting plenty of stuff, and towing almost any trailered toy you desire (although the Volkswagen’s 3500kg braked tow rating is indeed impressive).
Also, despite some deft improvements to the cabin of the Touareg of late, especially around the lovely big eight-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, both the Volvo and the Jaguar provide more inviting places to sit.
The XC90 in particular boasts a beautiful cabin, less-is-more Scandinavian surfacing and a large iPad-style central touchscreen that’s a joy to use.
Like the Touareg in R-Line dress, the XC90 R-Design adds lots of R-related stuff too, including gloss black inserts, sports pedals and R-Design embossed leather seats.
Let me address it another way; both the Jaguar and the Volvo are, well, just more interesting.
After time spent with the Touareg TDI V8, I can’t deny it is a fantastic drive; a solid, well-specified SUV with exciting sledgehammer acceleration.
I just don’t think it justifies spending $20,000 more than a Volvo XC90 to not get something that looks like it goes.
VW Touareg TDI V8 R-Line
Engines: 4134cc turbo diesel V8 (250kW/800Nm)
Pros: Endless power, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing looks, R-Line specification adds to image
Cons: Both have less power, but Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC90 make for convincing competition