Volkswagen Touareg 2023 first drive: premium hybrid options for on and off road

The latest VW Touareg SUV provides high spec hybrid cars at both ends of its range and true off-road performance

VW Touareg 2023
(Image credit: Future)

The fourth generation Volkswagen Touareg was first announced back in May 2023 but earlier this month I got to try the car out for myself around the roads of Wiltshire to see how it really performs. 

The Touareg is VW’s flagship SUV model and first launched in 2002. The original concept for this car was actually a pickup truck, but the production car has always been an SUV and sits on the same platform as the Porsche Cayenne. 

As a flagship model, the Touareg has often been the first in the range to demonstrate new technology, and this new model is no exception to that. Not only does this car come with new styling features, it features advances in the lighting technology, cockpit design, parking and towing capabilities. 

Price and availability

The VW Touareg starts from £68,950 for the Elegance model, going up to £80,510 for the Touareg R. Both the base Elegance and Touareg R models are Plug-in Hybrids, while the Black Edition (from £67,780) comes in either diesel or petrol versions. 

VW Touareg 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Design and features

While this might not be a fully electric vehicle, the Touareg does have a few external features that have that similar modern styling. Across the grill and rear are illuminated strips, while the rear VW badge lights up to really make it stand out at night. 

There are new HD LED Matrix headlights too, with over 38,000 micro LEDs that bathe the road in light, as well as the optional IQ.Light HD LED system that allows a continuous full beam on country roads that’s glare free thanks to intelligent area blocking. 

The interior has been redesigned, too. The new Innovision Cockpit features a 15-inch centre screen in addition to the digital instrument screen behind the wheel, with a new operating system and HD maps. The drive mode control allows you to select from Hybrid, electric only and battery hold modes, to allow the regenerative braking to recharge the 17.9kWh battery. 

The nice thing about the Touareg is that it’s not just got the SUV looks, this is a fully off-road capable vehicle too. The four-wheel-drive system can be adjusted to suit any terrain via the dial control in the car, with low-range, descent control and ride height adjustment.

VW Touareg 2023

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

The tech

There are two really clever pieces of tech in the Touareg, aside from the standard driver assistance package and lane specific HD mapping. The first is the Park Assist Pro, which features both memory functions and remote control operation. 

For those daily parking manoeuvres, like getting in and out of your driveway, the Park Assist is able to memorise up to 50 metres or parking and 25 metres of manoeuvres that you perform to get in or out of your spot. It is then able to repeat this semi-automatically with you in the car. 

For those tricky parallel or tight parking spots along the road or in a car park, not only is the Park Assist able to take full control of getting in and out of the space, but you can exit the car and control the movements via the app. 

VW Touareg 2023

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Once your parking spot is selected and the vehicle is in place to make the manoeuvre, you can jump out and do the rest from the curb. Holding the button on the app will see the car slowly move back and forward, turning itself into the parking space. Once it’s done you can then release the button and lock the doors – or jump in and drive off, if exiting. Controlling this from outside the vehicle gives you better vision of what the car is doing, and saves having to squeeze out of the doors, if it’s a tight space.

The second piece of tech is designed to make towing a trailer easier. With the Trailer Assist mode, you can reverse the car and trailer using the wing mirror adjustment button to steer. Reversing a trailer often means turning the car in the opposite direction to what you would naturally think, and this method allows you to just focus on where you want it to go – the car will then convert those directions into the right ones to move the trailer.

VW Touareg 2023

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Performance and drive

Both the Hybrid models use a 3.0-litre petrol engine in combination with that 17.9kWh battery to produce 381ps (mechanical horsepower) or 462ps in the R model. The Touareg Elegance hybrid feels spritely running in its hybrid mode and is able to give a reasonable performance in electric only too. 

The Touareg R is noticeably quicker using its hybrid or petrol-only modes. It does make this car even more fun along country lanes, and you know it has more than enough grunt to get it out of any situation. 

On larger roads, both cars are incredibly smooth to drive and give serious road presence. Driving in any of these models feels like you’re in a flagship car, and in comfort mode you simply waft along the road. Switch to sport though and things tighten up, giving you tougher air suspension and more responsive steering. 

What surprised me most though was how well the Touareg handled off-road. I got to take the car through a dedicated off-road course that looked like it had been designed for Land Rovers. Despite the city styling of the Toureg, once into off-road mode it handed the mud, rocks and serious inclines and declines with ease. Even providing controlled decline that allows you to set the speed and take your foot off the brake for steep drops. 

VW Touareg 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the VW Touareg?

As SUVs go, the Touareg has always stood out as a superb option, and one that comes at a reasonable price. With the new model, that holds true, keeping an affordable starting price along with some seriously impressive features. 

Both the interior and exterior upgrades here are a positive step for the car, making it look more modern and classy. The level of tech onboard is impressive too, and I can’t wait for features like the Park Assist Pro to work their way down the range. 

Perhaps the biggest positive though is seeing a hybrid model at both ends of the range. It’s rare that you don’t have to pay extra to have the advantages of a Plug-in Hybrid, and also that you don’t need to sacrifice that hybrid tech when it comes to the fastest model. Ultimately, I’d love to see a full electric Touareg in the future, but I fear that might be a few years away yet. In the meantime though, this is a very tempting option. 

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat Gallagher has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.