Volkswagen Touareg plug-in hybrid review: price, specifications, drive impressions

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V8-like performance with EV efficiency: that’s the selling point for Volkswagen’s Touareg R, the brand’s first plug-in hybrid in Australia.

The new flagship combines a V6 turbo engine with an electric motor to deliver the kind of thrust that was once reserved for high-performance cars. The hybrid system has an impressive lineage: it is identical to the one once used in the Porsche Cayenne.

A combined power of 340 kW and a torque of 700 Nm are available, enough to accelerate the R to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. That’s not bad for a large SUV that comfortably seats five adults and is generously equipped.

If you can look past the badge, you’ll find pure luxury inside, with soft leather seats, high-quality finishes, adjustable ambient lighting and a huge glass roof. A mass of pixels on the dashboard reinforces the high-tech feel. The price is pretty high at around $140,000 (ex-factory), but the Touareg R is full of bells and whistles.

Like other Touaregs, it features a power tailgate, power front seats, a 12-inch Digital Drive display and a vibrant 15-inch central touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Other extras include 22-inch alloy wheels, four-zone ventilation, a heated steering wheel with electrical adjustment, night vision, heated rear seats and higher-quality leather upholstery.

The 14-speaker Dynaudio sound system is a big improvement over the lower-priced Touaregs.

The R also stands out visually, with unique bumpers, black design elements and blue accents inside and out, from the brake calipers to the seat stitching. The metal pedals and illuminated “R” sill plates on the doors are a nice touch. Thanks to the air suspension, the Touareg R handles bumps effortlessly, at least in its most comfortable driving modes.

The cabin dampens outside noise and provides a quiet environment that does justice to the luxurious features.

In EV mode it runs quietly and smoothly, but does not offer the thrust of the hybrid setup.

There’s a more modest 100kW and 400Nm to play with, which is fine for driving around the suburbs but doesn’t leave much in reserve at highway speeds.

If you’re concerned about fuel efficiency, you’ll want to gently press the right pedal so as not to wake up the petrol engine, but this is easier said than done when there’s a decent hill to climb.

The electric vehicle’s claimed range is 51 km, but 40-45 km seems more realistic. This will be enough for most people for everyday use if they can do without the hybrid power.

As soon as the battery is empty, the miraculous fuel consumption figures (only 3.3 liters per 100 km) disappear from the rear-view mirror.

If you regularly use the full 340 kW, the Touareg’s fuel consumption can easily reach double figures.

It is a fast machine and rarely lacks additional pull.

Activate Sport mode and the suspension firms up for sharper responses and better body control when cornering, while low-profile tires provide excellent grip.

The brakes are also powerful and are supported by the recuperation function of the electric motor.

It’s deceptively powerful, although you’ll be constantly reminded of its size and weight when making hasty changes of direction.

It achieves this impressive balance without the rear-wheel steering and active stabilizers of the smaller R-Line Touareg (these were omitted because the hybrid system took up too much space).

Charging the 17.9 kWh battery takes just 2.5 hours on a wallbox. It takes about eight hours on a normal socket.

Like all PHEVs, the Touareg R does not offer the best selling point.

In addition, it is not really in the R performance range of the fast Golfs and Tiguans.

But it is an impressive luxury SUV that also offers a level of speed and comfort that its luxury-class competitors charge significantly more for.

Volkswagen Touareg

PRICE: From about 140,000 US dollars

WARRANTY/MAINTENANCE: Five years/unlimited mileage, $3,400 for five years/75,000 km

SECURITY: Eight airbags, automatic emergency braking, blind spot and lane departure warning, rear cross traffic warning with braking function, fatigue detection, speed sign recognition

ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 turbo hybrid, 340 kW/700 Nm

THIRST: 3.3 l/100km

SPARE PART: Repair kit

BAGGAGE: 810 liters

VERDICT

Three and a half stars

It doesn’t quite offer the best of both worlds, but this generously equipped SUV flagship has pace and grace.

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