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2024 Volkswagen Touareg R review | Image: Volkswagen

VW Touareg R Review: Redefining the Hybrid Experience


In the ever-evolving landscape of powertrain technology, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles have often been perceived as an automotive compromise. On one hand, die-hard EV enthusiasts snigger at the thought of a compromised battery size and subsequent range; on the other, petrol heads see the extra weight as an unnecessary burden to carry. While both perspectives touch on some practical concerns, these often reductionist arguments pigeonhole PHEVs as bland vehicles that don’t particularly excel in anything specific and are destined for a fleet at your local council.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

Of course, in some cases, these assumptions aren’t far from the truth. But what if a plug-in hybrid presented itself not as a mere concession but as a superior choice in its own right? In the case of the new Touareg R, Volkswagen may have made a very solid case. Not only is it the most powerful production car VW has ever made, but it also happens to be one of its most practical. The German marque sees its new darling as an emissions-free electric car during the work week and a performance brute for the weekend road trip.

While the concept of a car being simultaneously efficient, performance-focused, and practical might sound like a motoring fantasy, the Touareg R promises to deliver just that. Its impressive numbers suggest it can handle the daily commute with zero emissions and then transform into a powerhouse when you want to let loose. While the thought of a car being simultaneously efficient, performance-focused and practical sounded like a perfect motoring ménage à trois, to truly assess these claims, I decided to put the starlet through its paces over two days in Victoria.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen Touareg R Design

From a distance, you’d be excused for thinking that the R is just a Touareg with some black details, but have a poke around and you’ll see there’s much more going on.

The theme of the exterior feels like “subtle muscle,” with its balanced blend of refined elegance and potent performance features. The R-specific styling cues include 22-inch Estoril alloys in glossy black, illuminated scuff plates in front with the R logo, and blacked-out exterior elements such as mirror shells, front grille, and exhaust tips. While the massive 19-inch front disc brakes and 18-inch rears (both featuring blue callipers with the R logo) hint at the vehicle’s performance capabilities. High-gloss black roof rails and window surrounds add a touch of sophistication, while the exclusive Lapiz Blue premium metallic paint and darkened rear LED tail lights enhance its sporty aesthetic.

Adding some refinement to this burly landscape comes courtesy of some advanced lighting technology. The new exterior light signature features a horizontal bar under the new IQ HD headlights, which manage to squeeze in over 19,216 precision pixels per headlight, and tastefully caps off a handsome front end. Around back, the Touareg R is the first Volkswagen with an illuminated rear badge, while the puddle lights add a little bling to the brawn.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen Touareg R Interior

Stepping inside the cabin, you’re immediately enveloped in a blend of elevated luxury and technology. The cabin is crafted with high-quality materials, including leather upholstery, brushed dark aluminium inserts, and soft-touch plastics, creating an ambience of sophistication reminiscent of more expensive brands under the VW group umbrella.

The centrepiece of the interior is what Volkswagen calls the ‘Innovision Cockpit’, a digital duo that integrates a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with a massive 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This type of setup not only gives VW some interior edge but also finally gives us some big screen Apple CarPlay.

The spacious cabin offers ample legroom and headroom for all occupants, including the ability to comfortably accommodate my 190cm frame in all seats. The front seats include ventilated cooling, heating, and massage functions, while the rear seats also get some heated love. The panoramic sunroof floods the interior with natural light, capping off the most impressive Volkswagen interiors I’ve experienced.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

VW Touareg R Driving

Navigating the busy streets of Melbourne, the VW Touareg R reveals its prowess as an emissions-free commuter. Switching to ‘E-MODE’, the Touareg R offers a serene and smooth driving experience, gliding through traffic with minimal noise. The claimed EV range of 51 km was true to its word with my actual estimated range looking closer to 55km on the day, and while some pause at the AC-only charging, at-home charging is basically what this powertrain is designed for.

Selfishly, the part I enjoyed most about driving in EV mode was just how much it highlighted the cabin experience. Inside the car, the noise insulation is impressive, so you could really focus on the supple ride courtesy of the air suspension, and the Dynaudio 14-speaker sound system. The supportive seats, equipped with ventilation and massage functions, sealed off the kind of daily commute I could get used to.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

For those moments on the motorway that require a bit more grunt, the transition between electric and petrol powertrains is seamless, to the point where you rely on gauges to know what you’re using. The immediate torque provided by the electric motor makes city driving a breeze, with quick and responsive acceleration from traffic lights and smooth maneuverability in tight spaces.

Leaving the city behind and heading towards the picturesque Yarra Valley, the Touareg R transforms from an efficient commuter to a performance brute. On the open roads and winding routes of Yarra, the Touareg R’s true capabilities come to the forefront.

With a combined output of 340 kW and 700 Nm of torque, the Touareg R rockets from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds. The three-litre turbocharged six-cylinder has a pleasant rasp to it, and while the Touareg R always feels fast, there’s almost a sense of effortlessness in how it gets its power down.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

The chassis of the Touareg R is well-tuned to handle the performance demands of a two-and-a-half-tonne colossus. In sweeping bends, the performance SUV squats and hides its weight very well. It’s not until the tighter hairpins and heavy downhill braking that you start to notice a bit more understeer and body roll, but for a car that does so many things so well, it’s a reasonable trade-off.

Driving through the Yarra Valley, the Touareg R’s combination of performance and practicality shines. With its comfort-focused slant and big performance numbers, it makes quite a solid GT car, happily driving at seven-tenths without breaking a sweat. Throw in some off-road capabilities, 3500kg of braked towing capacity, and 1800 litres of luggage, and you have one of the most elevated all-rounders on the market.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen

Verdict

In a market where hybrid vehicles are often viewed through the lens of compromise, the VW Touareg R stands out as a game-changer. It proves that choosing a hybrid does not mean settling for a wet blanket of compromise but rather opting for a smarter, more versatile driving solution. This Touareg R redefines the hybrid category by offering impressive performance, superior efficiency, and unmatched practicality.

At a price tag of AUD$129,000, some might initially balk at the idea of spending that much on a Volkswagen. However, when you consider the powertrain, interior upgrades, and extensive kit throughout, it quickly becomes evident that the Touareg R offers significant value in that space.

Not only is it one of the most impressive ‘ jack of all trades ‘ I’ve driven, but it’s also the most upscale Volkswagen I’ve experienced.

With 340 kW and 700 Nm of torque, a combined fuel consumption of 3.3 litres per 100 km in hybrid mode and an EV range of 51 km, the Touareg R showcases that luxury, performance, and efficiency are a fusion worth tasting.

2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen
2024 Volkswagen Touareg R interior | Image: Volkswagen