A history lesson...
All the big manufacturers have taken a share in the SUV trend, with varied levels of success. Volkswagen's effort, the Touareg, is one of the more interesting of the bunch. Developed along with Porsche's Cayenne, the Touareg shares that car's chassis and a number of other components, which should give you a good idea of the level of quality and market segment VW were aiming at.
First available in the UK in May 2003, the Touareg for sale came with a range of four engines: 3.2 and 4.2-litre petrol units and a couple of diesel Tdis at 2.5 and 5.0-litres, expanded in late 2004 by the addition of a 3.0-litre V6 TDI. With the upcoming release of Audi's Q7 likely to queer their pitch a little in an already crowded market sector, VW decided to refresh the Touareg in 2006. A significant price cut was a good starting point, followed by revisions to trim levels leaving standard and SE variants, plus a rugged Altitude edition. The engine line up was revised too, with the 4.2 litre V8 being replaced by a more modern 3.6-litre V6 FSI.
The following year cosmetic improvements were made, with a new front grille bringing the Touareg more into line with VW's brand-wide design language, plus updated wing mirrors and light pods. More significant were the additions to the standard and optional equipment range, including the most up to the minute technological innovations such as ABSPlus, cutting braking distance by up to a quarter on unstable surfaces.
Early 2008 brought the mighty Touareg R50, with 345bhp from the V10 TDi and awesome equipment levels. Further upgrades included a power boost taking the 3.0 litre V6 to 237bhp, plus the introduction of VW's market leading efficiency system, BlueMotion, offering a 222bhp engine returning 34mpg.
A second generation approved used VW Touareg for sale hit the market in 2010, containing almost an embarrassment of riches in modern automotive technology.
Bang for your buck
The Touareg stands out in a well-saturated market sector. Aiming to compete with the BMW X5, Mercedes M-class and the Range Rover, it had some seriously big shoes to fill but, by and large, VW have achieved their aim.
The used VW Touareg is big, handsome and opulently furnished. The cabin is appointed to luxury car levels, with standard equipment including electronic climate control, a multifunction trip computer, ten-speaker stereo system, walnut trim, heated and folding wing mirrors and masses of airbags. Step up to the V8 and you will find leather trim, automatic dusk-sensing headlights, heated seats, engine compartment lights and chrome coated door handles and grille.
The V10 boasts enough extras to satisfy the most spoiled customer, with Continuous Damping Control Air Suspension, bi-Xenon headlights, remote engine start, memory facilities for the height of your seat belts, steering column, mirrors and seats, plus an almost excessively equipped eleven-speaker stereo. If that's not enough, you also get 18-inch alloys, a chromed air intake and front fog lights. Altitude customers receive 20-inch alloys and a beefy bodykit.
You may also find elements from a long list of options.
What you'll pay
VW were aiming for the higher end of the market with the Touareg and quality doesn't come cheap. You should now be able to find 2003 models between £6,000-£7,000, depending on which model you're after. 2008 models are still more than double that.
What to check
A couple of minor recalls aside, the mechanicals are well-proven. You will want to check for cracks under the driver's seat, caused by clumsy attempts to access the battery and be wary of locking yourself out when using the rear glass hatch...
Again, you're paying for quality here. A clutch assembly kit goes for around £335, a pair of front brake pads for £75 and rear £45, with a starter motor around £100 and a replacement headlight £192.
How it drives
The used Volkswagen Touareg is as capable as it looks. On the road it is pleasant rather than excellent to drive, but proudly fulfils both the 'S' and 'U' components of its SUV class requirements. The meatier engines are awesomely quick, with the V10 getting you from standstill to 60mph in 7.6 seconds, while off-road the Touareg dispatches the competition with little ado. Air suspension, permanent four wheel drive and a serious low range gearbox are complemented by selectable front and rear diff locks, an assist feature for hill starts and descents and very little front and rear overhang. Proper mud-plugging credentials are allied to an elegant and comfortable blacktop presence to make the Touareg a rewarding all-rounder at an attractive price point when compared to rivals.