NEW VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG R

Major updates to styling and cabin imbue handsome SUV with serious appeal … and a premium price.

With a pronounced step up the premium SUV ladder, the new Touareg has blurred the gap to its German rivals. Drive the flagship e-hybrid Touareg R blindfolded and the sense of luxury, effortless performance and Teutonic character will probably shout high-ranking Audi as soon as you turn a wheel. It only takes a short test drive to confirm the gap between brands has narrowed considerably without diminishing the VW’s impressive practicality.

Hit the Unlock icon on the keyfob and you get a light show from new front and rear light bars and dazzling LED headlamps. The interior ambient lighting is also something to behold at night. An overall tech boost sees the adoption of the 15in Innovision Cockpit system presented in a curved, wraparound dash. A multitude of settings can be altered via the central screen, by acting on touch-sensitive steering wheel controls or through voice control. Elsewhere in the cabin, the impression is of classy presentation and outstanding comfort with acres of space, cosseting seats and enough quality detailing to keep all passengers interested.

This is the first plug-in hybrid Touareg to reach our shores and its performance will delight those yet to experience an electric helping hand. The full powertrain package comprises a turbocharged 3.0 V6 and a 100kW electric motor running through an eight-speed box to all four wheels. Expect 40-odd kilometres in e-mode alone. Activate the ICE and you can call on 700Nm of total torque, enough to propel you to 100km/h in just over five seconds or overtake on the open road much faster (and more safely) than you typically would when piloting two and a half tons. Towing capacity is 3500kg.

The only thing that struck us as being slightly OTT in the sporty R package were the 22-inch wheels. The fact that they didn’t destroy the ride quality (as feared) shows how clever the Touareg’s active suspension is in regular road settings and how well this SUV isolates occupants from road noise.

Considering the ease of use we enjoyed from the outset, the bang-up-to-date cabin tech and the appealing, slightly understated looks, we returned the Touareg knowing that big SUV drivers need look no further to satisfy their real-world driving needs. And if the plug-in R variant offers more than required, a regular V6 now kickstarts the range at a much more palatable $112k.

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VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG R

ENGINE 2995cc V6 turbo + electric

POWER 340kW (combined)

TORQUE 700Nm (combined)

TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN all-wheel drive

WEIGHT 2435kg

LENGTH 4.90m

WHEELS 22-inch alloy

TYRES 285/35 R22 (f, r)

0-100km/h 5.2 secs

FUEL CLAIM 1.9L/100km

PRICE From $159,990

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