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Which of these contenders is the best luxury diesel SUV?

By Andy Enright, 06 Apr 2020 Comparisons

Volkswagen Touareg vs BMW X5 Car comparison

Volkswagen’s new Touareg takes aim at the venerable BMW X5

Volkswagen has taken the Touareg upmarket and it’s now playing with its fellow German rivals in the premium SUV stakes. So we wanted to test its mettle up against one of the best SUVs in the business, the BMW X5. Both are diesel and have a $100K-plus price tag. Let’s see what’s what.


The Touareg packs in all the things you need for its $85K ask, registering an imperious score on standard safety equipment. What it lacks is a bit of showroom glitz that only comes when ladling on expensive options. We’d find it hard to resist the Sound and Comfort pack, the R-Line pack, and the Innovision pack that brings the must-have 15-inch colour touchscreen. Problem is, that little lot adds $24K to the bill, taking the edge off the VW’s inherent price advantage.

Sit down, breathe in and get over the initial $117K sticker shock for the X5 xDrive 30d and you’ll realise there’s not a lot you need to option. It’s beautifully finished inside but you’d probably want the $900 wireless charger, and third-row seating is a hefty $3700. If you want to carry a big tribe in comfort, spring for the bigger X7. Do bear in mind that it’ll cost you an extra $1814 to lift the X5’s three-year warranty to match the Touareg’s five-year deal.


 VW Touareg Interior


The Touareg’s cabin feels spacious and airy, thanks to this generation being 77mm longer and 44mm wider than its predecessor. It doesn’t even attempt to seat seven, which means there’s stacks of rear-seat flexibility, with the rear bench sliding fore and aft by 160mm to prioritise either boot space or legroom. It’ll even recline by up to 21 degrees. Have trouble packing light? A full 810 litres of load space behind the seats should see you right.

The X5’s split tailgate is a neat touch, with both sections now electrically operated. The boot measures 645 litres. Rear-seat accommodation is boosted by a low, flat floor which makes the central seat not such a short straw. The bench also splits 40/20/40, so you can carry long items inside as well as a pair of rear passengers. Special mention must go to the X5’s exemplary head-up display which is clear, concise and keeps eyes on the road.


 2020 Volkswagen Touareg 190TDI Premium


It’s seriously refined in the Touareg. Despite a diesel engine up front, noise levels at freeway speeds are lower than many EVs. The inconveniently sited drive-mode controller allows you to access a Sport mode as well as a dedicated Off Road setting. There’s 1mm of ground clearance between these two rivals. Our test car featured optional Active Roll Stabilisation, which delivers spooky composure, but we’d like to try a Touareg minus this expensive option.

The X5 is mystifyingly nimble for a vehicle that weighs well over two tonnes. It has no right to feel this light on its feet on standard steel springs. Should you want to improve the ride still further, there’s the $2300 option of dual-axle air suspension. Unless you’re driving on genuinely horrible surfaces on huge optional alloys, the standard springs are well up to the job. The steering isn’t the most feelsome, but electronic driver aids are customisable for the keen steerer.


 2020 BMW X5 xDrive 30d


Okay, so we couldn’t quite match Volkswagen’s claimed 6.5sec sprint to 100km/h, coming up a second shy, but the 190kW/600Nm Touareg feels pretty punchy. Its turning circle is, at 11.0m, a full 1.7metres tighter than that of the X5 which helps when you’re ducking and diving in town. The optional Sound and Comfort package also delivers a 90L fuel tank which, with 7.4L/100km consumption, lifts the Volkswagen’s crusing range to over 1200km.

We were almost bang on the numbers against the clock for the X5, registering 6.6sec to 100km/h against a 6.5sec claim. It feels that bit more responsive than the Touareg, and its 195kW/620Nm edges the Volkswagen in both outright numbers, as well as power- and torque-to-weight. It’s also a little more economical at 6.8L/100km and emissions are pitched at 178 versus 194g/km for the VW. The Bavarians roar to a win here, then.


 BMW X5 Engine


This being Wheels, we tend to prioritise cars that drive well. We always have and don’t make any great apology for the fact. In this instance, however, its possible to make a solid case for both vehicles here. As a proposition for the family, the Touareg is probably a better bet. If you’re going to be the one doing all the driving and the rear seats aren’t perpetually occupied, we’d gravitate to the car from Spartanburg, North Carolina. BMW’s X5 xDrive 30d is just too polished not to get the nod from us this time round, despite the final scores being almost too close to call.

Twin Test


Model: VW Touareg 190TDI Premium

Engine: 2967cc V6, dohc, 24v, TD 

Max power: 190kW @ 4000rpm

Max torque: 600Nm @ 2250rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 2070kg

0-100km/h: 7.5sec (tested)

Consumption: 7.4L/100km

Price: $85,490

On sale: Now


Model: BMW X5 xDrive 30d

Engine: 2993cc inline 6cyl, dohc, 24v, TD

Max power: 195kW @ 4000rpm

Max torque: 620Nm @ 2000-2500rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 2110kg

0-100km/h: 6.6sec (tested)

Consumption: 6.8L/100km

Price: $117,900

On sale: Now