2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI Review: More is More
Price & Specs9
Interior & Practicality8
Performance & Economy10
Ride & Handling9
Running Costs & Warranty7
What we like:
  • Stonking V8 is both powerful and efficient
  • Fully loaded with equipment
  • Technology everywhere, including night vision
What we don't like:
  • Big price increase over the already potent V6 TDI
  • It really should have seven seats
  • It's already gone out of production
8.6DiscoverAuto Rating

Ever since the demise of the Phaeton luxury sedan (never sold in Australia), the Volkswagen Touareg has been the brand’s flagship product. Sitting atop a huge global range, the Touareg is the only Volkswagen to utilise the same MLB platform as cars such as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7, and it’s also the only VW passenger car sold in Australia to offer more than four cylinders. It’s an excellent flagship and yet thanks to premium cousins Bentley and Audi and their ability to share parts, Volkswagen has seen fit to further increase the Touareg range and added another variant right at the top of the range: the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI

Utilising the same twin-turbo V8 diesel engine as the Bentley Bentayga, Audi SQ7 and SQ8, the Touareg V8 TDI is the most powerful production Volkswagen ever, surpassing even the V10-powered Touareg R50 and W12 (which also wasn’t sold locally). Producing 310kW of power and a massive 900Nm of torque, the Touareg V8 is also one of the quickest Volkswagens ever, capable of a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.9 seconds. Yet despite the torque and speed, it’s also a Touareg so it’s quiet, very comfortable, luxurious and pretty practical as well. The problem is that the Touareg V8 plays with some other expensive SUV metal, so is it worth your hard-earned cash? Let’s find out. 

Price and Equipment: 9/10

Priced from $136,490 plus on-road costs – so around $150,000 drive away depending on your state – the Touareg V8 TDI tested here is a full $27,500 more than the next-step-down V6 TDI R-Line, which is a big price gap – especially when the 210kW V6 TDI is more than potent enough for most people. The V8 does include the R-Line’s optional $6,500 Sound and Comfort Pack as standard, but a $21,000 gap for basically just a larger engine and larger wheels is a lot.

Still, the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI is loaded with standard equipment. We’re talking 21-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, LED lighting everywhere, a huge 15.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, satellite navigation, wireless phone charging, ‘Savona’ leather upholstery, air suspension with adaptive dampers, four-wheel steering, four-zone climate control, four USB ports, 18-way electric front seats with memory, massaging, heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel with an electric steering column, rear privacy glass, rear sunscreens, heated rear seats, an electric tailgate, keyless entry with push button start, heated/auto-folding/auto-dimming mirrors with puddle lamps, configurable LED ambient lighting, a 730W 14-speaker Dynaudio sound system, a colour heads-up display and a 12.2-inch digital driver’s display.

Safety kit is well taken care of as well with eight airbags, Matrix adaptive high beam lighting, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, lane assist with adaptive lane guidance, automatic parking, travel assist, emergency assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, rear auto braking, driver attention monitoring, a 360-degree parking camera, tyre pressure monitoring and even a night vision display in front of the driver. Interestingly, knee airbags for both the driver and front passenger are available in Germany, but not here.

The only no-cost colour option is ‘Pure White’ that our test car was painted in – ‘Antimonial Silver’, ‘Deep Black’, ‘Malbac Red’, ‘Silicone Grey’ and our personal favourite ‘Aquamarine Blue’ are all $2,100 extra. The only other option is a $3,000 panoramic sunroof, which – like metallic paint – really should be standard at this price point and for such a limited edition car.

That’s an extremely long standard equipment list, so is there anything missing? Strangely, digital radio is not available and neither is live traffic for the integrated satellite navigation. In fact, there are a number of online services offered in Europe that Australia is yet to receive. We’d like to see features such as remote start offered in Australia as well.

What does the Touareg V8 TDI compare with? There are a few competitors, namely the Audi Q7 – in both $121,300 50 TDI S-Line and $161,500 SQ7 forms, the latter with the same engine as the Touareg – as well as the $157,900 BMW X5 M50i. We’d also count the $137,636 Lexus LX450d as a rival to the Touareg as it also features a big V8 diesel engine and a five-seat layout. But while the Touareg V8 TDI sits in the middle of those cars in terms of pricing, one must add a lot of options to the Germans to match the Volkswagen’s standard equipment – an extra $23,000 worth on the BMW (bringing its price to a cool $180,000 +ORC), for example. So while the Touareg V8 TDI is not cheap, that’s where its true value equation lies.

Engine and Performance: 10/10

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI’s engine our favourite so far in testing? Absolutely! Largely shared with the Audi SQ7, it’s a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 diesel making a strong 310kW of power and a massive 900Nm of torque. VW claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.9 seconds and that feels entirely believable, such is the rush of torque when you put your foot down. But it’s also unlike a lot of diesel V8s, in that it’s actually really quiet, it’s very smooth and just so effortless as well.

As with other Touareg models, the V8 TDI includes an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. Like the engine, it’s excellent – it’s always in the correct gear, it’s quick to shift and unlike other Volkswagen Group products, the transmissions tendency to pick the highest gear possible at all times isn’t annoying as there’s so much torque that you’re never caught out. It’s a much preferable transmission to any dual-clutch unit, that’s for sure.

Yet despite being offering earth-moving torque, it can also be efficient in every day driving. Volkswagen claims 7.5L/100km on the combined cycle and in mostly urban driving, we got 10.1L/100km – though a gentle highway cruise north of Sydney produced numbers in the high 6s, which is pretty excellent for the performance on offer, and combined with its 90-litre fuel tank, a range of over 1,200km. Keep in mind though, the lower-spec Touareg V6 TDI with its still-strong 600Nm of torque will do under 6L/100km in highway driving.

Volkswagen claims that the Touareg V8 TDI can tow 3,500kg, though this is lessened by the low 240kg towball downforce capacity. Those wanting to tow need to check their figures before committing.

The V8 TDI is an absolute masterpiece of an engine, and yet sadly, it’s already gone out of production for the Touareg thanks to Europe’s tightening emissions standards. It is compliant with the latest Euro 6 rules -of which Australia lacks at least 10 years behind – but thanks to its high but still-remarkably-low-for-a-V8 185g/km of Co2 rating, VW’s average Co2 rating is pushed up and therefore the price of the car is increased in Europe rendering it no longer viable to sell.

Ride and Handling: 9/10

Volkswagen Australia has loaded the Touareg V8 TDI with features designed to make the car drive as serenely as possible. There’s active air suspension, four-wheel steering, active roll bars, an active centre differential to shuffle power even between the front and rear wheels, selectable driving modes and so on, and it has to be said: mission accomplished. Here is a 2.3-tonne car that feels much more nimble than its huge weight would suggest, and it even fits in around the tighter streets of inner urban Sydney. One example of this is its tight turning circle: just 11.19m, which is impressive given its huge size.

Around town, the Touareg’s ride quality can be a touch busy thanks to its huge 21-inch wheels, but leave the city and it’s just wonderful – soft yet taught, though firmer in sport mode if you need it. The steering is also relatively light, though with plenty of feel thanks to the large wheels. The air suspension can be raised by up to 75mm depending on the terrain covered, and like Land Rover products, the Touareg has a number of off-road modes that tune the car’s electrics to match the surface being driven on.

All things considered, the driving experience of the Touareg V8 TDI is excellent. Unlike the heavy and cumbersome Lexus LX or sporty BMW X5, the Touareg is relaxing, comfortable and dare we say, luxurious to drive. It would be an excellent companion on something like a Sydney-to-Brisbane cruise – just sit there in massaged and air-conditioned luxury while the car does the job of crushing continents with its massive torque and relative efficiency.

Interior and Practicality: 8/10

If there’s an area where the Touareg V8 TDI doesn’t feel any different from the regular Touareg, it’s the interior. That’s not a bad thing as the regular Touareg’s cabin is a pretty nice place to spend time – though would it have killed VW to put a V8 badge somewhere on the inside? But regardless, the Touareg’s cabin is mostly excellent quality with soft touch materials almost everywhere, Nappa leather with the rather naff carbon fibre effect, as well as tasteful dotted ambient lighting with many available colour options.

The cabin experience is largely dominated by a huge 15.0-inch touchscreen, as well as the 12.3-inch digital driver display that can be configured to a driver’s liking. The centre screen can take some time to get used to as it has just such a huge array of functions including wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, inbuilt satellite navigation, the heating and AC information, off-road settings, drive mode selection, seat settings and so on. The home screen is configurable to put important functions first and the screen quality is excellent, as is the 730W 14-speaker Dynaudio sound system.

Practicality inside the Touareg’s cabin is plentiful with a large centre console bin with a wireless phone charger and a USB-C input, huge door bins, a big covered centre console armrest bin and large cupholders as well. The space inside the Touareg’s cabin is also plentiful with more than enough room for six-footers sitting behind themselves in the rear seat – and thanks to the Touareg’s width, ample space for three people in the rear as well. Rear occupants also enjoy their own dual-zone climate control, heated seats that slide and recline, a centre armrest with cupholders, sunshades in the doors and large door bins.

Unlike the Q7 and X5, though like the LX, the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI is only a five-seater – ironically, the smaller Tiguan Allspace is the sole seven-seat SUV in the VW lineup for most global markets. For some, that’s fine, but we really do think that the Touareg should offer seven seats at least as an option. The Touareg’s boot is more than useable with 810-litres on offer, which opens up to 1,800L with the rear seats folded almost flat. There are also a number of nets, hooks, a double-sided boot mat, a 12V socket, tabs to pull to lower the seats and even buttons to raise or lower the rear of the car to help with loading items into the boot. Cousin brand Skoda, would be very proud.

Really, our only complaint about the Touareg V8 TDI’s cabin is that it doesn’t feel more expensive than lower-end Touareg models despite costing a lot more – leather on the dashboard and centre console, more colour choice and perhaps a suede roof liner would go a long way to help perceived quality. Indeed, anything to add a little flair to ighten the sense of occasion would be welcome.

Service and Warranty: 8/10

Like other Volkswagen products in Australia, the Touareg V8 TDI comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with a singular year of roadside assistance. Capped price servicing for the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI over five years is $4,380, which is not cheap. A better option is to include a service pack at the time of purchase: the five-year/75,000km pack is $3,100 ($620 per service), which saves buyers $1,280. Like other Volkswagen products, the Touareg V8 TDI’s service intervals are once yearly or every 15,000km, whichever comes first.

Volkswagen’s warranty shades both Audi and BMW’s poor three year equivalents, as well as Lexus’ four-year term. Interestingly, while Volkswagen’s service packs look good value against Audi ($3,380 for a five-year pack on a Q7 50 TDI or $4,120 on an SQ7), BMW’s $2,250 five-year/80,000km pack for X5 servicing is even better. Lexus charges $2,970 for three years or 60,000km of capped price servicing – and the LX must be serviced every 10,000km or every six months, which is very inconvenient. 

The 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.6/10

It can be a challenge when a mainstream brand – no matter where it comes from – launches a more premium product that competes with much more expensive machinery but in this case, we think the 2021 Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI competes extremely well against more expensive German cars such as the Audi Q7 – of which it shares a platform with – and the BMW X5. It also pummels the dated Lexus LX450d thanks to a much lighter feeling behind the wheel, a thoroughly more modern cabin and service intervals that are twice as long.

We think the Touareg largely matches something like a BMW X5 for overall dynamics, a luxurious feel and excellent quality – but the VW’s warranty is two years longer and it’s significantly less expensive to buy, even before optioning the BMW to match the Touareg’s equipment list. And while the BMW’s petrol V8 is nice, the Volkswagen’s 310kW/900Nm diesel V8 is just outstanding in every way – it sounds great, it’s bloody fast and yet, it can also be efficient if you’re driving normally. We’re used to Volkswagens being talented all-rounders, but the Touareg V8 TDI takes that to a new level. It’s just such a shame that it’s no longer in production!

Thank you to Mitchell Elbourne for being the driver and model for this shoot.

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