Volkswagen Touareg 2021 170tdi

2021 Volkswagen Touareg 170TDI review

Rating: 8.1
$81,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
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VW’s large SUV has a new base model. Can it still pull off the pseudo-luxury vibe?
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Volkswagen Touareg buyers are now spoilt for choice, with the range expanding in 2021 from just one engine offering to three. That will become four with the expected arrival sometime of the flagship R variant, while March 2021 will also see the release of 300 Wolfsburg editions.

Keeping exclusive faith with diesel power, no petrol options are available.

The large SUV’s starting point is the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg 170TDI, a variant that replaces the 190TDI. Priced from $81,490, it costs $2000 more than the initial launch price of the 190TDI, despite using a less powerful version of the VW Group’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel.

The diesel, however, now complies with Europe’s next-level emissions standard, Euro 6 – adopting AdBlue technology that sprays a solution of urea and distilled water into the exhaust system to reduce nitrogen oxide.

This applies to the 210TDI V6 and V8 TDI variants, too (priced from $99,490 and $136,490, respectively).

A low $80,000 price tag isn’t bad, either, considering the Touareg’s platform is related to those beneath the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne – models that cost between $100,000 and $432,000.

Although the Touareg’s cabin won’t have owners of those luxury SUVs casting envious glances necessarily, its interior presentation didn’t seem obviously outclassed in our 2019 comparison with a BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE (a group test the VW won).

It’s also a clear step up in cabin sophistication over any other current VW model.

As with the 190TDI Launch Edition of that comparison, our 170TDI features VW’s $8000 Innovision Package that brings significant upgrades including a larger infotainment touchscreen, digital instrument cluster and head-up display. (The features are standard on other variants.)

2021 Volkswagen Touareg 170TDI
Engine3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Power and torque170kW at 4000rpm, 500Nm at 1750-3000rpm
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Kerb weight2067kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR)6.8L/100km
Fuel use on test6.8L/100km
Boot volume810L/1800L
Turning circle12.2m
ANCAP safety rating5 stars
Warranty5 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsAudi Q7, BMW X5, Genesis GV80, Mercedes-Benz GLE
Price as tested (drive-away)From $81,490

Unticked, the 170TDI comes with a 9.2-inch infotainment display and a 7.0-inch multifunction panel sandwiched by traditional dials.

Innovision’s 15.0-inch central display is especially impressive, though – huge in size yet integrated naturally into the central dash, along with the digital driver display, so it doesn’t dominate to the extent of unbalancing the overall design. Visually, it arguably looks more impressive than the Q7's digital-screen arrangement.

There’s a choice of home page designs, there’s nothing confusing about the system’s layout or menu navigation (helped by permanent home and shortcut buttons), and contemporary graphics.

Just two criticisms, though. The touchscreen-only approach averts the driver’s eyes from the road longer than a system employing a centre console controller. Also, the display is skewed towards the driver in a vehicle where someone would be regularly occupying the front passenger seat (the wife wasn’t impressed).

The digital cluster offers excellent customisation, with arguably its best feature the ability to have a navigation map dominate the full width of the display – or smaller between large virtual dials – so the centre screen can be used for other functions.

Or alternatively, use the head-up display for navigation instructions in addition to other key driving info. Choices are good.

Although interior materials aren’t as extensively premium as you’ll find in a Q7 or Volvo XC60 (and fake metal trim isn’t a great look), the high-tech displays aren’t alone in lifting the Touareg’s interior above the mainstream.

The standard black ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery looks smart, squishy plastics are used for the upper dash and upper doors, and ‘brushed’ aluminium inserts and the leather/aluminium gear lever add to the sense of expense.

The Innovision Package adds a gloss-black centre console with a volume scroll wheel, plus extra LED ambient lighting that adds another sophisticated touch.

Large door cubbies front and rear are also flocked – a little detail that goes a long way to making stowed items rattle less.

Plentiful front storage includes a wireless smartphone tray with USB/12V sockets, console cubby (with another USB port), and a centre console mini-tub that we found most useful as somewhere to place the keyfob (but where another dial sits in other models).

Double visors are another welcome addition.

Unlike the seven-seater Q7, the Touareg is a five-seater SUV, as it has been for all three generations now. The Tiguan Allspace is the option for buyers seeking a multi-seater Volkswagen SUV.

The lack of a third row certainly reduces the Touareg’s versatility for families, though at least it limits arguments about who sits where.

Such is the amount of head room and knee space in the second row, you would have to be extraordinarily tall to find any complaint. Three adults can squeeze across the bench, too, despite the wide transmission hump. The outer seats are a fine place to sit and feature recline adjustment. Alternatively, an adult can squeeze between two child seats.

Rear passengers further benefit from vents (in both the B-pillars and behind the centre console) with their own temperature control, as well as ample storage (including their own USB ports), LED reading lights, pull-up window shades, and a wide armrest with cupholders.

The rear bench is on sliding rails, though in a complimentary way the feature could be labelled redundant, such is the vast size of the boot that is quoted at 810L. Even with the rear seats in their rearmost position, the boot will take a family of four’s week-long summer holiday gear – and without the need for Tetris-like packing skills.

A 40-20-40 split-fold arrangement for the rear seats allows longer items to be stored with the outer rear seats occupied, or all flattened – via release levers – for serious cargo space (1800L, according to VW).

The Touareg’s boot – accessed by automatic tailgate operation – includes a floor net, netted cabin barrier, retractable cargo cover, 12-volt socket, two lights and pull-out bag hooks. There’s no full-size spare wheel under the floor, though, only a space-saver.

The 170TDI is the only Touareg to feature steel springs rather than air suspension. Ideally, it would at least be offered as an option on the base model, as the ride quality isn’t on the same relaxing level as experienced in the 210TDI.

Although the 170TDI Touareg deals well with smaller surface blemishes and cushions pothole impacts, the suspension feels overly firm at times, and uneven roads and changing cambers upset the SUV’s composure.

Volkswagen’s Passat wagon is more impressive at balancing suppleness and control.

The 170TDI’s seats are immensely comfortable for hours of driving, though – helped by plenty of electric adjustment, which includes the cushion extenders (operated via the centre display) and pneumatic side bolsters and lumbar support.

Front occupants also get heating, even if ventilation would be more useful for Australia.

Tall side glass, well-shaped side mirrors and a large rear window contribute to excellent vision, helping ensure the Touareg is a large SUV that is far from intimidating to drive.

The steering is also excellent, offering consistent smoothness and nicely weighted.

The Touareg feels composed when navigating windier roads, with the firmness of the damping working in its favour here by limiting lateral and vertical body movement. Just don’t expect it to feel sporty like a Cayenne.

This Touareg features the turbo diesel V6 with the least power and torque in the range – 170kW and 500Nm, the same as the base Q7 – yet the 170TDI provides ample shove even with a family of four on board.

Although a 7.5-second claim for 0–100km/h is a second down on the former 190TDI, acceleration remains satisfying and allows for decisive overtaking manoeuvres. The available Dynamic mode isn’t required for good throttle response, either.

The V6 is refined, too, contributing to an impressively hushed cabin on the move, with wind noise and tyre noise also well contained.

There is some noticeable low-rev lag, however, if the driver demands more urgent acceleration from standstill or very low speeds – such as trying to enter a busy roundabout where traffic gaps are at a premium.

The smooth eight-speed auto is a great match for the diesel, and it feels like a transmission that would better suit the Tiguan than the mid-sized SUV’s dual-clutch auto.

Some buyers might wish for a turbo petrol drivetrain, though there’s undeniable appeal about the Touareg’s combination of inherently efficient diesel V6 and a big 90L fuel tank.

Even after a long drive down NSW’s South Coast, a week’s worth of holiday driving around and the return trip, the 170TDI still had more than a quarter of a tank remaining. Its theoretical single-tank range is a whopping 1323km.

We registered indicated consumption of 6.8 litres per 100km for the longest stretch of our testing, which included about 40 per cent freeway driving. Coincidentally, that exactly matched the 170TDI’s official figure – which improves upon the 190TDI’s 7.4L/100km. Just expect to flirt with double figures in suburban driving.

For those looking to tow a boat or caravan, there’s a 3500kg braked towing capacity that matches the best dual-cab utes (including the V6 auto versions of VW’s own Amarok).

And if venturing off-road (without being too adventurous), the Touareg features permanent all-wheel drive and low-grip-surface driving modes (snow, mud, rock).

The Touareg’s servicing costs are more akin to those of an SUV from a luxury brand – $3619 over five years at an average of $724 annually (or 15,000km) visit. For buyers willing to pay servicing fees up-front, this reduces to $2500 for five years or $1350 for three years.

Servicing is free for five years with Hyundai’s new Genesis GV80 luxury SUV.

Volkswagen’s five-year warranty matches Genesis, though, to be longer than the factory peace of mind offered by most luxury brands.

There’s no doubt the Volkswagen Touareg is a large SUV that steps uncomfortably on the toes of established luxury models, managing to elevate itself above the mainstream with its cabin presentation, refinement, and, with the optional Innovision Package, cabin sophistication.

From $81,490, the 170TDI is also relatively good value, if not as strong in this respect as the former 190 Premium that was $4000 more, but featured air suspension, Matrix LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, ventilated/massaging front seats and more expensive leather upholstery.

And if you’re in a financial position to afford the $8000 Innovision Package, another $10,000 isn’t that big a step to the 210TDI. It features that standard along with all those other 190 Premium features, plus an even stronger diesel engine with the same claimed efficiency.

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