SUVs are taking a hammering in the trade, as you no doubt know – when was the last time you had an ounce of interest in some of your more affluent stock? The situation has changed so quickly, it really is alarming and that’s why we felt a little uneasy, taking delivery of the mighty Volkswagen Touareg R50.
This is the ultimate VW off-roader – £61,985 of pure pulling power. R50 points to the capacity of the engine where you’ll find VW’s awe-inspiring V10 TDI diesel, which now produces 345bhp and a massive 850Nm of torque. That’s amazing – it is literally enough to pull a jumbo jet, as VW proved a few months back.
It’s also enough to fire this hulk of heavy metal to 62mph in 6.7 seconds and on to 146mph. On the move, it’s pretty amazing. Pure force. Sledgehammers and nuts come to mind – though surprisingly, despite its mammoth capacity, the engine is also smooth and sweet plus, dare we say it, even quite tuneful.
This is in direct contrast to how it looks. There, it’s out and out attitude, and no mistake. 21-inch wheels bulge from beneath wheelarch extensions, a matt chrome grille adds intent and there’s also darkened rear glass, a body-colour rear spoiler, new back bumper and menacing oval tailpipes.
Inside, you’ll struggle to count all the ‘R’ logos. Suffice to say, the R-branded, Nappa leather seats are quite something, and we love the Bentley-style milled aluminium-look dash trim. With a really special set of dials, it makes the R50’s cabin quite a place to be.
However, despite computer-controlled suspension, it’s not quite the livewire through corners. There is no getting over this vehicle’s huge kerbweight, and through the bends it feels the heavy machine it is. Judged in isolation, it’s still a pretty decent performance; it’s just that next to, say, a BMW X6, there’s no denying which is the sportier machine.
The VW also dulls your sensations, in particular through over-assisted steering that’s low on any sort of feedback. It needs lots of twirling in town, too, where the ride from those gigantic wheels also proves irritable. Such is the torque, it’s even possible to get the wheels scrabbling, despite four-wheel-drive. Mind you, you’ll probably rip up the tarmac if you really do get this hooked in.
What about economy though, the bane of all SUVs? Well, the combined average is 22.4mpg, and CO2 emissions a predictably high 333g/km. But packing such an understressed engine saw us, on a steady motorway cruise, achieve more than 30mpg.
Not bad at all. But would it sway us? Mega though the Touareg is, we’d probably look elsewhere. Towards, say BMW’s aforementioned X6. Well over £60k is just a bit too startling for us. All torque? Maybe…