What stands out?

The Volkswagen Touareg offers sophisticated engineering and technology in an all-wheel drive family wagon at a price considerably lower than a similar BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. It is excellent to drive on sealed roads, and is one of the better road-oriented SUVs if the going gets rough.

What might bug me?

Even though it is surprisingly able off-road for a car of its type, the Touareg comes with a space-saver spare wheel rather than full-size spare. That won’t be very helpful if you get a flat tyre miles from anywhere, because of its low recommended speed and range, and poor flotation and grip on loose surfaces.

What body styles are there?

A five-door, five-seat 4WD wagon is the only Touareg body style.

All models drive all four wheels all the time. The Touareg is classified as large SUV, higher priced.

What features do all Touaregs have?

Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice, touchscreen and steering-wheel-button controls.

Cruise control operated by steering-wheel buttons.

A DVD audio system with USB and Aux inputs and two SD card slots.

Dual-zone climate control, which lets the driver and front passenger each set their desired cabin temperatures.

Heated front seats with power adjustment, including lumbar and side-bolster adjustment. Leather trim for all seats.

Satellite navigation, operated from an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen (from which you also operate the audio system and climate control).

Windscreen wipers that automatically respond to rain. Headlights that self-clean, self-level, switch on automatically when it gets dark, and follow curves in the road.

LED daytime running lamps that make the car more visible in low-light situations, and fog lights front and back.

Parking sensors at the front and rear of the car, which help you judge the distance to obstacles. A reversing camera.

Nine airbags: front airbags for the driver and passenger; four side airbags to protect the upper bodies of outer occupants; two full-length curtain airbags to protect the heads of all outer occupants; and an airbag to protect the driver’s knee and legs.

Electronic Traction Control, which limits wheelspin on slippery roads and helps you go further off-road.

Electronic Stability Control, which helps the driver control the vehicle in a skid. All new cars must have this feature.

An off-road switch, which optimises the traction and stability controls for off-road situations. This allows the car to go further in difficult and slippery terrain. The off-road switch also turns on the Hill Descent Control, which automatically stops the vehicle from running away down steep slopes when off road.

A three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, including roadside assist, is standard with all Touareg models.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The engine in the least expensive Touareg, the 150TDI, uses just 7.2 litres/100km in the official test (city and country combined). The more powerful Touareg V6 TDI uses marginally more.

In the real world, both these cars use about 9.5 litres/100km. (Their engines are near identical 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesels with different tuning.)

The most expensive Touareg, the V8 TDI R-Line, has significantly more power than either V6 model but it uses more fuel. It is driven by a twin-turbo, 4.2-litre diesel V8.

All three engines come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the only gearbox option.

(Power outputs and all other Volkswagen Touareg specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The 150TDI, which is the least costly Touareg, has 18-inch alloy wheels and conventional coil-sprung suspension.

The 150TDI Element has around $2000 worth of extra features including electric tailgate, heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, extra dark tinted privacy windows and cargo cover. A smart key lets you unlock and start the car with the key still in your pocket or bag.

In November 2017 Volkswagen introduced another 150TDI model, called the Monochrome, with additional extras over the Element including 19-inch alloy wheels and ventilated seats. It also introduced active safety, such as automatic cruise control will match the speed of a slower vehicle in front; automatic emergency braking, which works at city and highway speeds, and proactive occupant protection, which detects a pending collision and tightens the front seatbelts and closes windows.

Spending more for the Touareg V6 TDI gets you fancier looking 20-inch alloy wheels, and suspension with height-adjustable air springs (these let you raise the car when driving off road, for more ground clearance). The front seats, mirrors and steering wheel remember your adjustments, so that you can return to them quickly after a companion has driven the car. You also get a better class of leather trim, and a power-opening tailgate. And the fuel tank is bigger.

A slightly cheaper version of the V6 TDI, the V6 TDI Adventure retains most of the features, with the price shaved by using lower-grade leather upholstery, and replacing the 20-inch alloy wheels with 19s that are more suitable for country driving. The Adventure is also styled with the bush in mind, and comes with roof racks and a large 100-litre fuel tank.

The most expensive Touareg, the V8 TDI R-Line, has even fancier 21-inch wheels, two-tone leather, heated rear seats, and separately adjustable climate-control for the rear-seat passengers. The sound system is better. It also has additional safety systems that warn you if a vehicle is in your blind spot when changing lanes, and if you drift out of your lane.

An option pack for the V6 TDI adds the automatic cruise control and emergency braking, plus the V8's blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 20-inch and - especially - 21-inch tyres on the more expensive Touaregs don’t work as well off road and are more susceptible to punctures. These cars also ride more harshly on rough roads than the Touareg 150 TDI versions and V6 TDI Adventure.

Only white paint is standard. Other colours cost more.

How comfortable is the Touareg?

The Touareg has a beautifully finished, cleverly detailed and spacious cabin that feels efficient and high-tech, yet understated.

The multi-adjustable seats are particularly comfortable and will suit a wide range of drivers, abetted by a steering wheel adjustable for height and reach. All the minor controls fall readily to hand. As is common on European cars, the turn indicator stalk is on the left.

All engines are smooth and barely recognisable as diesels, and offer effortless performance. All work well with the automatic gearbox, which always seems to pick the right gear and is near seamless in doing so.

The Touareg has light steering with good feel and feedback, and a generally comfortable and quiet ride even on rough roads. Only light brake pressure is needed to stop the Touareg, even though it is a relatively heavy car.

What about safety in a Touareg?

With a comprehensive suite of safety features, all Touaregs all rate as Excellent for safety.

Automatic emergency braking is optional on the V6 TDI and standard on the V8. At highway speeds, the Touareg’s auto braking can initiate a full emergency stop if the car detects a crash is imminent. At city speeds the automatic brakes will be applied very hard, but will deactivate if the driver attempts to avoid the crash by turning the steering wheel or accelerating.

The current Touareg has not undergone Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) safety testing.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes. The Touareg has responsive steering and handling, and thanks to all-wheel-drive grip it is stable on slippery roads.

Models with air suspension have driver-selectable damping control. Selecting Sport also lowers the car for less body roll when cornering, which improves handling.

The basic 150TDI engine performs strongly but keen drivers will appreciate the 20 per cent extra power of the V6 TDI. It’s a second faster to 100km/h than the 150TDI and feels more responsive everywhere.

Those after high performance have the option of the V8 TDI, which is much more powerful than either V6. The extra power, especially at lower engine speeds, makes the V8 ideal for towing very heavy loads and safer for overtaking.

Touaregs do not have dual-range gearing but they will go further on difficult off road tracks than most single-range SUVs. An effective all-wheel drive system (with a centre differential that locks automatically) helps here, as does the the low first gear on the 8-speed gearbox. On the more expensive models, the extra ground clearance from the height-adjustable suspension is also beneficial, and an advantage over most similar vehicles. However, there is only the space saver spare if you flatten a tyre, and that won’t give you much grip.

How is life in the rear seats?

The Touareg’s rear seat is spacious and comfortable but still a squeeze for three large adults. It’s fine for two large adults and a child, or three small adults.

The V8 TDI, with its heated rear seats and four-zone climate control, brings a touch of limousine luxury to the rear-seat passengers.

There are three child-seat anchor points but only outer two are ISOFIX. The seat is a good height for loading small children in and out.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Touareg has a good-sized luggage space, thanks in part to the space-saver spare wheel. There is a vertical cargo safety net, which can attach to the rear seat or (if that is folded) the front seats. There’s also a luggage tie-down net to stop things moving around.

The rear-seat’s 60/40 split backrests can be folded remotely from switches in the rear of the cargo space, which helps when loading long items.

Touaregs with air suspension have a switch in the luggage space that lets you lower the rear of the car, to make it easier to load heavy items.

All Touaregs come with a 3500kg tow rating. That’s as good as it gets for big family 4WDs, including dual-cab utes such as the Ford Ranger. It is sufficient for a very big caravan or boat, and well over what you need for a two-horse float.

Where does Volkswagen make the Touareg?

All Australian-delivered Touaregs are made in Slovakia.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

No Touareg comes with a petrol engine.

No Touareg has a third row of seats, which would allow you to seat six or more people.

The Touareg also does not have dual-range gearing, which makes cars such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Land Rover Discovery are more suitable for off-road use. (The option of dual-range gearing was discontinued with the 2015 Touaregs.)

You might also consider an Audi Q5 or Q7, Volvo XC90, Lexus RX, BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. The higher spec Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger may also appeal.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The V6 TDI is the pick of the range. It has the useful height-adjustable suspension and plenty of power.

Are there plans to update the Touareg soon?

This second-generation Touareg, which arrived in 2011, received a mid-life facelift for the 2015 model year. The V6 TDI gained smart-key entry, a memory for front-seat adjustments, and the bigger, 100-litre, fuel tank from about September 2016, for the 2017 model year.

Volkswagen introduced a couple of additional models during 2017 in an effort to keep the current generation range fresh in its final year. These included the limited edition V6 TDI Adventure in March, and the 150 TDI Monochrome in November.

The third-generation Touareg has been seen in prototype form undergoing road testing. It is expected in 2018.