Volkswagen Touareg

Although it’s positioned towards the more affordable end of the full-size PHEV SUV niche on price, this Touareg does offer a multi-cylinder engine where plenty of direct rivals (Lexus RX 450h+, Mercedes-Benz GLE 400e, Land Rover Defender P300e) can come back with only four-cylinder alternatives. So a decent, assertive turn of pace wouldn’t go amiss.

The Touareg has one matching that description. It’s perhaps only a very marginally quicker car than some of those four-pot rivals in practice: it needed 6.2sec, on a clear dry day, to hit 60mph from rest and probably should have been a little quicker still against a 5.9sec 0-62mph manufacturer claim.

But then it doesn’t have a driveline particularly given to explosive starts (torque-converter ’box, Torsen centre diff) and the 5.7sec it took to cover 30-70mph through the gears (Lexus RX 500h 5.5sec, Range Rover Sport D300 6.6sec) is perhaps a truer indication of a powertrain that does feel like it has some potency to dish out when called to.

There’s certainly a sense of ‘torque fill’ here – of an electric motor effectively filling in the gaps the car’s power delivery. The electric motor can actually feel slightly brusque as you tip into the throttle pedal from either rest or crawling speed, as the torque fights its way through the friction imposed by gearbox and differential, but there’s an eerie consistency about the way it seems to make the Touareg accelerate after that.

You can even see it in our in-gear acceleration numbers: in third gear, there’s only 0.8sec of difference between how long the car takes to get from 60mph to 80mph, for example, than from 30mph to 50mph.

Robustness of performance is also impressive. We retested standing-start performance when the drive battery was fully depleted and noted no significant deterioration in acceleration – something that suggests this hybrid system could possibly work a lot harder if it was calibrated to.

The eight-speed gearbox shifts very smoothly, and quickly enough when you flick a paddle. Brake pedal feel is progressive enough, and not overly soft or artificial in the upper reaches of travel too.

What about the diesel version?

During other tests, the Black Edition’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel, in midfield 282bhp spec, felt very much in tune with the Touareg’s size and weight and suited the car exceptionally well. Also boasting 442lb ft torque there is more than enough punch and more.

Only at lower speeds do you detect a bit of gruffness from the engine, but that soon fades into the background once up to speed. Even around town it’s smooth, melding nicely with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

Sure, in some instances the powertrain can feel a bit unresponsive: the gearbox takes a moment to find a gear when more forceful pedal inputs are applied.

There are a few modes to choose from too. Sport helps to dial up performance, removing some of the lag experienced in Normal mode; although the latter feels smoother in all environments.

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