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VIDEO: There is much to like about Volkswagen's Touareg

Compared to many rivals the Volkswagen Touareg is positively discreet, so appropriately the latest version is a subtle refresh. Apart from some minor design tweaks front and rear and a reworked four-bar grille, it looks pretty much the same as the previous version outside but inside it's even more up-market, with lots of soft-touch materials and electronic wizardry.

The high seating position gives great visibility though this elevated view of the world is just as likely to be obscured by another SUV or crossover in the adjacent lane.

The boot is well shaped and a decent size at 580 litres - extending to 1,642 litres with the rear seats folded.

While space is good throughout and there is plenty of legroom front and rear, the Touareg is a five-seater only without a seven seat option.

Powering the Touareg is a 3.0 litre diesel engine that ranges in output from 204bhp to 262bhp. Our test car was the lower powered version, it is punchy but smooth and it comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts gears seamlessly.

Behind the wheel, the Touareg feels much more like a beefy Golf than a full-size SUV. At slow speeds, it is absorbent and plush and barely swayed through corners. The changes to the steel-sprung suspension are evident and the car is more agile than before. The steering response is quick, it grips the road very nicely and on motorways it swept silently along.


Geraldine Herbert and the VW Toureg

Geraldine Herbert and the VW Toureg

The 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system sets the car up for on or off road conditions with the simple turn of a knob. A trip around Mondello's off-road course proved that it is more than capable of surmounting any likely challenges.

For more serious off roading there is the option of a Terrain Technology pack that adds off-road suspension (raised 10mm front, 15mm rear), front underbody guard and additional engine guard, additional stone guard body covers and an increased fuel tank capacity (100 litres). This option is €2,630. The Touareg starts at €69,675 which is €6,430 less than the previous model and according to Volkswagen, additional equipment worth up to €10,000 has been added. Standard specification includes 20" alloy wheels, leather upholstery with heated front seats, a Memory Pack that allows for 14-way adjustment for the front seats, premium Bluetooth, and Media-In for iPod/iPhone and all round parking sensors.

A range of fuel saving measures have significantly increased efficiency; these include a new coasting function which disengages the standard 8-speed automatic transmission during periods where no acceleration is required so our test car's economy has improved from 7.0 l/100km to 6.6 l/100km - dropping the CO2 emissions from 184g/km to 173g/km.

The same is true of the higher powered diesel, now with 262bhp up from 245. This engine now has fuel consumption of 6.6 l/100km, down from 7.2 l/100km, despite the extra grunt.

There is much to like about VW's flagship SUV but this is a cut-throat market and the Touareg faces stiff competition from the likes of the Mercedes Benz M Class, the Range Rover Sport and BMW's X5. In addition, Volvo have just launched their all-new XC90 and from within the VW group the second generation Audi Q7 is about to arrive. At €69,675, this five-seater SUV is not a viable option for many families but if you are looking for an off-roader that is car-like on the road, capable off it and economical to run, the VW Touareg should be on your list to test drive.

Sunday Independent