Ambivalence is likely to be in short supply if you were to ask people for their view on the Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI R-Line. There’s equal chance it will be either derided as a massively overpriced VW, or lauded as a bargain luxury SUV with power to spare.
With a price tag of just under $113,000 (before on road costs) the V8 TDI takes the top spot as the ultimate Touareg variant in the all-diesel line up, commanding a substantial $28,000 premium over the next-model-down V6 TDI 4Motion.
It’s easy to see why opinions are polarised on this hifalutin Volkswagen SUV, given that for a few grand less you can have the entry-level Porsche Cayenne Diesel, or for a tad more ($113,800) you can take home a BMW X5 40d with 255kW and an entirely useful 600Nm of torque.
In fact, if you prefer the Benz badge, then the ML 350 BlueTEC with 190kW/620Nm is yours for the ‘bargain’ price of $101,400.
But it’s sheer firepower that sets the top Touareg so far ahead of the competition when comparing apples with apples. While the more prestigious Germans badges are all strong pullers and rate highly on luxury, none comes close to the Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI’s sheer unadulterated grunt.
Under the bonnet lurks a 4.1-litre (Volkswagen lists it as 4.2 litres), which delivers a colossal 800Nm and a sprint time to 100km/h in a scorching 5.8 seconds.
That’s quicker than the old autobahn-storming Volkswagen Touareg R50 with its 5.0-litre V10 diesel, 257kW and a Boeing 747-pulling 850Nm (a Touareg V10 TDI holds the world record for the heaviest load towed by a passenger car for towing just that… a 747), could only manage 6.7 seconds.
In fact, you’ll struggle to find many supercars with that much twist, let alone a family-friendly sports utility vehicle with school pick-ups and weekly grocery excursions as its top agenda.
Rival SUVs with similar specifications and performance are considerably pricier, and in some cases not nearly as quick.
Audi’s Q7 (sister car to the Touareg and Cayenne) V8TD punches out the same 250kW/800Nm and is priced from $128,000, but only manages a sprint time of 6.4 seconds, though the V8-powered Cayenne Diesel S packs even more 281kW/850Nm and only shaves one tenth of a second off the time, but costs $142,300.
The Touareg V8 TDI adheres to Volkswagen’s current corporate styling treatment – meaning there isn’t a lot of visual drama going on apart from the deeper front spoiler, body-coloured side sills and oval tailpipes.
There’s the telltale R-Line badges on the front wings, but by far the most revealing sign that this isn’t your cooking variety Touareg are the imposing 21-inch twin-spoke ‘Mallory’ alloy wheels and low-profile Bridgestones.
Inside the Volkswagen Touareg V8, there’s no R-Line brashness, either, just a subtle logo on the steering wheel and stainless steel doorsill plates, but nothing that shouts ‘high performance’.
As the range-topper, the V8 TDI is extremely well specced with a host of luxury kit including items such as Nappa leather upholstery, Area View, optical parking system, front and rear parking sensors, satellite navigation with 8-inch touchscreen, Dynaudio 620-watt sound system with 12 speakers and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
In addition, the top line Touareg also comes with Driver Assistance and Comfort packages, which add four-zone climate control, automatic kerb view when reversing, electrically adjustable front seats with memory and front passenger and heated steering wheel with memory.
The Driver Assistance Package includes safety systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist Function and City Emergency brake function and Side Assist.
The Napper leather seats are superbly comfortable and cabin quality is well above the average grade, but somehow it lacks the sumptuous first-class quality that you find in its Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne cousins.
There’s no shortage of space, though, fore and aft – and plenty of width to boot. You also won’t find larger door pockets than those in the Touareg along with a raft of other cubbyholes spread throughout the cabin.
The rear cargo area (with auto open and close tailgate) is good for 580 litres of gear with the rear seats upright, expanding to a thoroughly useful 1642 litres with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats laid (almost) flat.
Fire up the potent V8 diesel, and there’s none of the usual oil-burning clatter that so often spoils the premium experience.
There’s a touch of turbo lag from the get-go with any right pedal stomping, but between 1750-2750rpm, when you’ve got the full 800Nm at your beck and call, mid-range acceleration is where the Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI really shines.
Throttle response isn’t as sharp as the Cayenne’s – more of a groundswell-style surge, but the combination of the creamy V8 diesel and excellent eight-speed auto make forward progress a silky-smooth experience. And there’s always plenty in reserve.
That’s not to say that the V8 TDI is in any way slow off the line – 5.8 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint is mighty quick for a two-tonne-plus SUV, while top speed is 242km/h – where permissible.
And as with all Touaregs, the V8 TDI R-Line comes with Volkswagen’s fuel-saving BlueMotion technologies, including brake energy recuperation. Real world diesel consumption over our test period averaged out at 9.8/100km, or not far above the official figure of 9.2L/100km combined.
The standard-fit air suspension delivers a generally cushioned ride on most road surfaces in the ‘Comfort’ setting, but firms up in ‘Sport’ mode while still managing to iron out the majority of bumps.
In corners, though, the big VW isn’t the sort of vehicle that can be thrown around – too much weight for that – but it’s more capable than you might imagine, particularly in the firmer setting, which significantly reduces body roll on turn-in.
There’s not a lot of feel to the steering, but it’s quick enough, and the overall ride-handling balance is very good. Not as precise as the Cayenne, mind, but certainly more comfortable and more in common with BMW’s X5 on this front.
The Touareg’s brakes, too, are exceptional – with serious fade-free stopping power and great pedal feel to boot.
Apart from those safety systems included in the Driver Assistance Package, the Touareg is equipped with a raft of active and passive safety features including a total of nine airbags, anti-locking brakes, electronic stability program with traction control and active rollover protection, engine braking control and hill-descent assist.
VW Australia offers a standard three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty period on the Touareg with service intervals set at 12 months or every 15,000kms. There’s also capped-price servicing over six years commencing at $507 at 12 months; $507 at 24 months; $689 at 36 months; $616 at 48 months; $507 at 60 months and $975 at 72 months.
While it might be the most expensive Volkswagen Touareg by some margin, the V8 TDI R-Line represents a significant bargain when compared with its pricier and more prestigious Audi and Porsche cousins. This is a true heavyweight contender with luxury to spare.