Priced from $80,790 before on-road costs, there’s no doubt the 2020 Volkswagen Touareg is a compelling offering in the large-SUV segment, but it’s not quite that simple. The Premium – as tested here – starts from $86,790 before on-road costs and really does entice the buyer with its blend of luxury and refinement, so you might be tempted to look at the more expensive variant.
However, you do need to add some options to that equation, as our tester has been lavished with, and that means the asking price edges closer to – or above – the 100-grand mark. Which then brings the more affordable variant back into the frame. Still, the value proposition of the Premium tested here remains strong, and the Touareg positions itself as a real alternative to the segment-favourite Toyota Prado.
One of the questions we are starting to get asked more and more is how the Touareg stacks up as a tow vehicle specifically. So, with that in mind, and a towbar fitted to our test vehicle, we hitched up the CarAdvice trailer and loaded up a slightly less refined VW product for a road trip – my 1968 Volkswagen Country Buggy.
There are obviously people out there towing larger, heavier trailers, but most of the time people want to know about towing prowess between the 1500–2500kg mark. We know that the Prado doesn’t love weights up around that 2500kg mark either, having tested it before, despite the fact that it will, in theory, tow that weight.
As we say often, just because a given vehicle ‘can’ tow the weight, doesn’t mean it can tow the weight easily. Reference the dual-cab segment, which doesn’t have a standout tow vehicle among it, not with a four-cylinder engine anyway. That’s despite the official tow ratings indicating otherwise.
Our trailer weighs in around 700kg with our gear stowed in the box up front, and the Country Buggy – with some spares and extras strapped into it – weighs in around the 900kg mark. Yes, it’s probably lost 100kg worth of rust, but that’s another story…
So, we’ve got approximately 1600kg behind the Touareg, two people in the cabin, and probably another 50kg of gear in the luggage area – jacks, cordless tools, axle stands etc – and we’ve got a good few hundred kilometres of driving to work out just how easily the Touareg stands up as a tow vehicle.
First, let’s take a quick look at the options list. Our test vehicle is enhanced with metallic paint ($2000), Sound and Comfort package ($8000), R-Line package ($8000), Innovision package ($8000), and a panoramic glass sunroof ($3000).
You can read our pricing and specification guide for the full breakdown, but delving into what we ‘need’ and what we ‘want’ when it comes to options is an interesting exercise. The Sound and Comfort package makes a fair dent in the budget, for example, but it does bring quality to the cabin, especially in terms of electrics with seat adjustment and audio. It also adds to safety – Park Assist Plus and Manoeuvre Braking – but convenience as well with Area View surround cameras and a larger 90L fuel tank. Do you need it? No, but it does add to the feeling of quality.
The most obvious R-Line addition is the 20-inch wheel design, but if I were on a tight budget, I could easily look past this option package. The same goes for the panoramic glass sunroof. Not so the Innovision package, though. In fact, I reckon if you test-drove a Touareg with this package, you would struggle not to tick the options box, such is the change it makes to the driving experience.
The active instrument display is superb, and you also get premium audio and satellite navigation, a whopping 15.0-inch colour touchscreen display with numerous configuration options and proximity sensors, a head-up display, multi-coloured ambient lighting and 3D bird’s-eye map views, just to name some of the features. It really is a must-have if the budget can cover it – just for the screens alone.
Under the Touareg’s bonnet, you’ll find the venerable 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine, behind which sits an eight-speed automatic and a permanent AWD system. The V6 is, in fact, a classic case for why Toyota needs one in between the four-cylinder and eight-cylinder oilers it offers in its 4x4 models, and pumps out a pretty effortless 190kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm at 2250rpm. Wouldn’t a V6 Prado be a compelling option? On paper, then, the Touareg has got the mumbo to haul the 3500kg it is rated to tow, let alone our 1600kg load.
The ADR fuel claim is just 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle which, with a 50km safety margin and the aforementioned optional 90L tank, gives the Touareg a theoretical range of 1166km. Not bad at all. Opt for the standard 75L tank, however, and that range is a still impressive 963km.
What happened in the real world, then? Just over 152km on the freeway (90 to 110km/h) first up with no trailer and we averaged 6.5L/100km. Then, with the empty trailer in tow, we covered 374km (mostly 100km/h) at an average of 8.4L/100km. Finally, we ran 352km (again mostly 100km/h) with the trailer loaded up at an average of 12.6L/100km.
There’s nothing especially aerodynamic, either, about a little brick-like object facing backward on a trailer, and we didn’t try to be efficient. Rather, we just tried to stick to the speed limit whether it was uphill or down.
On that note, the V6 is utterly effortless, with or without a weight behind the Touareg. It’s smooth, quiet, refined and punchy. Just like the very best diesel engines we respect for their work ethic. Whereas a four-cylinder engine – even the best of them – feels the weight of the trailer behind it, the V6 is utterly unfussed either getting up to speed or staying there.
The Touareg might not stand out as the most obvious tow vehicle to some of you, but its price puts it square into premium Prado range, and its versatility as a family SUV only adds to the appeal. Yes, it’s more luxury limo than workhorse, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The cabin is incredibly comfortable and well executed, which is a feature worth noting when you’re spending long days touring behind the wheel. If you’re covering a fair bit of ground each day, you want to be comfortable. You also don’t want to get out of the driver’s seat needing a chiro each day either.
Thankfully, the Touareg is as good as it gets in that regard. There’s no fatigue at each stop when you get out to stretch your legs, grab a coffee or top the tank up. It’s got plenty of room across all five seats, the cup and bottle holders are useful, and it offers up 810L of storage in the luggage area with the second row in use.
When you pair a monocoque chassis with adjustable air suspension and the engineering smarts that VW has directed at the Touareg, you get a properly comfortable large SUV. While we already know how well it deals with inner-city humdrum, the way it dispatches coarse-chip bitumen, even with the trailer in tow, is impressive.
The CarAdvice trailer is a good one – it’s beautifully balanced and doesn’t do anything funky – but even so, the Touareg doesn’t lose any of its ride quality, bump absorption or all-round composure once you connect the trailer. The 20-inch wheels and sporty tyres don’t even rate a mention in terms of detracting from the ride.
We liked adaptive cruise – and it worked well – but lane-keep assist can get a little grating on longer drives. Further, you don’t really want the tow vehicle to be straightening out or changing course when you’re not expecting it to, ideally anyway, when you have a trailer following you. Keep the Touareg in Comfort mode, turn lane-keep assist off, and keep your wits about you as you would on any long drive.
Manoeuvring the Touareg with the trailer attached couldn’t be any easier, really. The steering is nicely weighted and meaty at higher speeds, light at a crawl, and you can position the Touareg easily thanks to effective exterior rear-view mirrors. Even tricky reversing manoeuvres into tight confines are no issue. The rear-view camera makes a big difference here, too. It really is a competent tow vehicle. If you had a super-wide caravan on the tow ball, you might want to investigate clip-on broader towing mirrors, though.
As we’ve reported before, the Touareg has quality electronic safety kit standard, and is a five-star ANCAP vehicle as well. You get eight airbags, two ISOFIX child seat anchors, and three top-tether points.
It’s covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, and a choice of three- or five-year service plans. Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and if you opt for the three-year plan costs average $466 per year. The five-year plan averages out at $500 per year. There’s also a 12-month roadside-assistance plan included.
We thought the Touareg would shape up to be an impressive tow vehicle, and we weren’t disappointed. It’s competent and effortless, safe and comfortable, and as I stated above, really makes the case for a V6 diesel in the large-SUV segment. If you’re looking for a tow vehicle that you don’t want to have to work hard, take a look at the Touareg. It’s as good as the segment and asking price can offer.