Volkswagen’s Touareg R performance SUV gets plug-in hybrid tech, compromising some of its dynamic ability for a smoother and more efficient drive.
Big performance SUVs don’t exactly send out a message of efficiency. However, despite the R badge adorning the tailgate of this new top-spec Volkswagen Touareg, the German brand is going about its large performance SUV in a different way.
Set to arrive in Australia in late 2022, the incoming Volkswagen Touareg R uses an electrified high-performance drivetrain for the first time. The plug-in hybrid electric setup sees a 250kW 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine combined with a 14.3kWh battery supplying a 100kW electric motor for a total of 340kW and 700Nm of torque. It means a 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds, impressive given the R’s size and weight.
However, this top-of-the-line Touareg doesn’t feel all that sporty – and the weight the hybrid system adds is at the root of this. It dulls its responses. The chassis sometimes struggles to keep up with your demands; it never feels that dynamic, despite cornering without much roll.
The 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system can send up to 80 per cent of its drive to the rear axle, but in reality it never seems that rear-biased on the road, while you don’t feel much benefit when it comes to the subtle adjustability that you’d hope the variability this sort of system brings. But then, given the size and weight, subtleties like this aren’t all that abundant in the Touareg R.
It’s best driven at mid-speed, using the electric motor’s torque to support the smooth V6. It means the R feels less hurried and more relaxed, cruising with the inaudible electric assistance helping to boost refinement.
The powertrain’s intelligence means it switches between electric and combined propulsion seamlessly, with claimed efficiency of 3L/100km and CO2 emissions of 67g/km.
Rivals such as the BMW X5 xDrive45e offer a bigger battery with more usable electric range, as well as subdued running from the powertrain – which means that the R’s mixed ride quality is just a touch disappointing.
Large 22-inch alloys are standard, along with air suspension, but despite the latter you do notice the former, especially over potholes or bad transverse bumps. Weight also has an impact here, with the extra mass of the battery asking more of the suspension set-up. In the softest setting there is enough composure and fluidity, but bumps in corners when the car is loaded up do cause some inconsistent reactions.
Again, this particular Touareg is therefore better at a more leisurely pace, but that’s at odds with its R status. It feels compromised by trying to add some sporting pretensions into the mix, because it neither offers the luxury ride comfort of a refined SUV, nor the engagement or involvement of a sporty 4×4.
But the Touareg R isn’t without its merits. The huge 15-inch central touchscreen works well, as does the 12.3-inch digital dash. Quality is high, but the design a little short of the flourishes we expect at this price.
The tech is good, though, with nav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated and ventilated leather sports seats, keyless operation, a panoramic roof, a 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, four-zone climate control, plenty of safety tech and a powered tailgate – there’s lots of kit for the price.
VW’s flagship Touareg R feels like neither a sporty SUV nor a relaxed, refined plug-in. Rivals like the X5 offers more range and better efficiency, and the likes of the Cayenne E-Hybrid a more dynamic performance. The Touareg R is something of a compromise; the tech is good and it’ll be cheaper to run than an ICE SUV, but it’s pricey and you’ll have to work to see the benefits in comfort, refinement, performance or engagement.