+ Comfy to drive
+ Decent performance
+ Roomy interior
- Doesn't drive like an R model
- Average electric range
- Big price tag
Verdict: The Volkswagen Touareg R is a good large SUV, but not a good R VW. It's spacious, quiet and comfotable, but if you want mamximum fun, there are better large SUVs for the job.
The Volkswagen Touareg R is a big-numbers SUV. Take its 2533kg weight for instance, its £72,000 price tag, or maybe its 462hp engine. These make the Touareg R the heaviest, priciest and most powerful Volkswagen car on sale today.
But Volkswagen's R badge is usually reserved for its best driver's cars – cars like the Golf R. The question is: can a 2.5-tonne SUV really be that? Espeically when it's also a plug-in hybrid trying to save the planet.
Being a large, luxurious, sporty and plug-in-hybrid SUV means the Touareg R may be on your list alongside the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5, both of which are fun to drive for their size and come with a plug if desired.
The Touareg really shouts about its R status. You get a uniquely-aggressive body kit, massive 22-inch alloys, a gloss black grille, door mirrors, rear difusser and rear spoiler, plus plenty of R badges. Inside there's quilted leather sports seats and door cards, a sports steering wheel with its own R badge, shiny sports pedals and blue carpet highlights.
All-in-all VW's cabin is a good effort, feeling solid and high quality, if not quite as plush those in the Porsche or BMW. The same goes for its infotainment, which consists of two large screens side-by-side, the right handling the driver's instruments, the left everything else. Both are razor sharp and easy to follow, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but BMW's iDrive is ultimately easier to use while driving with its rotary dial between the X5's front seats.
Still, the Touareg is very spacious inside. It doesn't come with the option of seven seats, but neither do its PHEV alternatives and the space in the front and back is very good indeed. And, even if the R's batteries mean its boot is smaller than the standard Touareg's, its boot will still easily cater for a family's needs.
For now, if you want a PHEV Touareg, it has to be the R. That gets you a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol, a 14kWh battery pack and an electric motor which together produce 462hp and propels the big VW to 62mph in just 5.1seconds and on to a limited 155mph. The R will also do 87mph in its electric driving mode, although you won't manage its 28-mile official electric range at that speed.
In fact, we struggled to do 20 miles in EV mode on a mixed route when being sensible, and once the battery was gone, we were some way from the claimed 94mpg fuel economy – think 28mpg. Of course, if you largely cover short distances and have good access to charging, you'll do much better, and company car drivers will love the range-best company car tax rates it brings.
But surely this R model is about having fun? Well, unfortunately, even with its air suspension in its sportiest setting, the Touareg R never feels like it wants to change direction like a Cayenne or X5, plus it steering is quite light and it never makes a sporty noise. It's easy to drive in town, yes, massively comfortable at all speeds and beautifully quiet with it, but so are much cheaper Touaregs in the range.
The Touareg R isn't just an expensive Touareg, it's an expensive car full stop, but it does just about enough to feel it inside.
All-in-all VW's cabin is a good effort, feeling very solid and high quality, if not quite as plush those in a Posche or BMW. Helping set it apart from the rest of the range are quilted leather sports seats and door cards, a sports steering wheel with its own R badge, shiny sports pedals and blue carpet highlights.
The same goes for its infotainment, which consists of two large screen side-by-side. The 12-inch one on the right handles the driver's instruments, while the 15-inch one on the left doeseverythign else. Both are razor shapr and easy to follow, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. However, we still think BMW's iDrive is ultimately easier to use while driving with its rotary dial betweebn the X5's front seats.
You have the option of upgrading the R's stereo system to a Dynaudio one with 730 watts, although the standard system still sounds great so only go for it if you'll really appareciate the difference.
Plenty of large SUVs offer seven seats, but when you add plug-in hybrid gubbins to the mix most have to give up their rearmost pews.
That the case with the BMW X5, but the Touareg isn't available as a seven seater no matter which you buy. Nevertheless, space in the front is cavernous and the driver gets a massive range of electric movement at the driver's seat too.
In the end a couple of tall adults will stretch out and you'll even manage to seat three across the back without too much fuss. Fitting a child seat is easy thanks to wide-opening rear doors, although the removable Isofix covers on the outside rear sets will be lost in no time.
There are loads of generous storage options inside too, like deep door bins, a decent glovebox, a big space beneath the central armres in the front and two cupholders just ahead of that.
The R's boot is smaller than a standard Touareg's because of its battery pack, and you'll also have to store the charging cable in a bag in there too. However, it's ony around 70 litres smaller, is a square shape with no lip and still offers more than enough space for a family.
The Volkswagen Touareg R might be pricey, but you are essentially buying a Bentley. Well, a Bentley's engine. Well, OK, Bentley sort of borrows it from VW, but you get the idea.
Yes, the engine in the R is the same as the one in the Hybrid Bentley Bentayga, but also the hybrid Porsche Cayenne and hybrid Audi Q7.
That engine is a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol, but also a battery pack and electric motor which all together produce 462hp. It propels the big VW to 62mph in just 5.1seconds and on to a limited 155mph, but the R will also do 87mph in its electric driving mode – although you won't manage its 28-mile official electric range at that speed.
Charging the battery from empty to full takes 2.5 hours with a wallbox or 8.5 hours using a three-pin socket.
The R get's an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which works well at a cruise, but also feels sharp when you take control with the car's paddles.
The Touareg R is a baffling car to drive. Baffling, because it's good, but not in the way you expect or want an R to be.
In town its steering is light and you get a good view out in all directions, made even easier by a plethora of standard sensors and cameras. It's comfy at low speeds, too, the standard air suspension soaking up all manner of lumps and bumps very well.
You can also lock the R into an electric-only mode, where it'll officially travel up to 28 miles without its engine chiming in. In reality, we struggled to do 20 miles in EV mode on a mixed route when being sensible, and once the battery was gone, we were some way from the claimed 94mpg fuel economy – think 28mpg.
Of course, if you largely cover short distances and have good access to charging, you'll do much better, and company car drivers will love the range-best company car tax rates it brings.
And motorway journeys are made much less stressful by the way the R lopes along. It has bags of power in reserve for when you need to overtake, is just as comfy at speed and lets very little wind or tyre noise into the cabin at 70mph. VW's optional adaptive cruise control with lane keep is one of the better systems about too.
But it starts to fall apart when you hit a country road. Grip levels are very high, helping the R hang on for dear life, but even in its sportiest driving mode its light steering and the way its body still leans doesn't give you the confidence you want when pushing on. It never feels playful either, despite its clever all-wheel-drive being able to shuffle the majority of power to the front or back axles. An X5, and especially a Cayenne, corner more confidently.
But maybe strangest of all is that the Touareg R never makes a sporty sound – real, fake or otherwise. Everything happens quietly and smoothly. Which leaves you wondering if this is really just a well-specced R-Line rather than a full-fat R.