Therefore, if you’re looking for a kind of default choice of large SUV for all the usual reasons, some good, some bad, then the Touareg is still here for you, just as it has been since the first, more blobby version was launched way back in, goodness, 2002. That also tells you how long the SUV has been going…
So the same basic Touareg proposition remains, but there is still plenty to say. There’s still ample room for five full-sized humans and their clutter (but no seven seat options). You can have a petrol, a petrol-electric hybrid, or (whistle it) a diesel, all based on V6 format units; it’s got permanent four-wheel drive whether you need it or not (you don’t); it’s built for comfort and it all works rather well.
The Touareg is the epitome of old-school luxury car trim – soft touch, leather clad, generously padded, quilted and upholstered to within an inch of its life.
The improvements are, in fact, entirely cosmetic, just keeping the VW a bit more up to date at a time when the competition is growing ever more intense. The basic proportions are identical, and they’ve left the sculpted flanks alone, but there’s new bumpers and grille.
Inside the new iteration features a superior “innovision cockpit” with enhanced dials and a touchscreen (very welcome), and more precise lane-level navigation and high-resolution HD map data, so you’re less likely to miss your turning.
As you’d expect on a circa £70,000 purchase, the voice control system has been updated and your smartphone apps (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) can be accessed wirelessly. It’s a series of incremental improvements on what was always a cosseting offer – the kind of car you could take across a continent in and get out without a bad back.
It’s an easy-going sort of thing, with more than adequate performance. There is a sporty variant, the R, but that doesn’t suit its demeanour so well. You shouldn’t be surprised that on many models you can have air suspension and the mechanical underpinnings of the vehicle are shared with other VW group products.
Thus, the Touareg is the more understated sibling of the sybaritic Bentley Bentayga, the more outrageous Lamborghini Urus, the family-oriented Audi Q7, with the seven seats, and the racier Porsche Cayenne. Any flavour you like, then (well, except Skoda, Seat or Cupra).
By far the most exciting innovation is the light show. When you put the headlights on they do a sort of little dance, and there are no less than 38,000 individual little LEDs all doing their bit in the Busby Berkeley-style extravaganza. They are complimented by a choice of soft ambient shades for the interior, and for me the highlight – I suppose literally – is the illuminated VW badge on the tailgate, its Bauhaus-style simplicity now picked out in neon red.
It also does that modern thing with the VW logo projected onto the road when you open the doors. That, however, is as showy as it gets for the Touareg tribe, who I suspect aren’t ostentatious types. It doesn’t give much away to its premium-badged BMW and Mercedes rivals in quality or ability, but it’s much less in-your-face. If it wasn’t for the trick lighting it’d be verging on the anonymous.
The V6 petrol and diesel models speak for themselves. The survival of a diesel option on a large VW SUV is something of a minor miracle, if you recall the controversies of recent years.
But leaving corporate and green issues aside, it was always the case that these kind of big heavy SUV models relied on a fuel-efficient turbo-diesel motor to make them a practical proposition for most motorists. Only with a sophisticated diesel motor could the average buyer enjoy acceptable running costs and performance (and because diesels burned less fuel they had lower CO2 emissions, though more harmful particulates).
Now that electric car sales have overtaken diesel, we have rather easily forgotten just how popular they used to be, and how well they worked – able to withstand astronomical mileages too.
Instead we can now opt for the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), which tries to pull off the same trick as diesel did – blending economy and power in a big car so you can have your cake and eat it.
The problem for the Touareg PHEV (like all PHEVs) is that that it is only true if your driving takes a certain particular pattern – dominated by medium distance (a range of around 30 miles) commuting on economical battery-electric power only, supplemented by relatively few longer runs, where the extra weight of the hybrid paraphernalia will hammer the fuel consumption (though you can still get more than 30mpg if you’re careful and stick to the car’s economy settings).
Anyway, like I say, the Touareg is one of the more reassuring constants in motoring life, an option you can safely take if the newer, more wacky-looking designs from the Koreans and the Chinese do not appeal, and if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for the full-on electric car lifestyle. In which case – enjoy your Touareg while you still can.