VOLKSWAGEN'S third generation Touareg model has evolved into a top quality full-sized SUV that's perfectly capable of taking on the big guns from the premium marques and then walk away unscathed.
Originally launched back in 2003, the beefy Touareg has got better with age and the latest five-seat model oozes quality throughout. It's longer, wider and lower than its predecessor so really looks the part too.
The sportier R-Line model is imposing without being too garish and boasts a muscular, high-sided design with lots of R-line body styling kit such as unique front and rear bumpers, side skirts and side sills, plus ‘R-Line' badging.
It has full LED headlights, daytime running lights, LED rear tail lights, ‘C' signature gloss black air intakes, heat insulating tinted windows, gloss black B pillars, lots of chrome trim, twin tail pipes, roof rails, body coloured wheel arch protection and 20-inch alloy wheels. Optional extras on our car added Matrix headlights, a panoramic sunroof and plenty more besides.
The interior is equally impressive with a wealth of on-board technology to explore in VW's new Innovision Cockpit. This features a 12-inch instrument panel that flows effortlessly into a 15-inch touchscreen behind a glass screen that is angled towards the driver.
These screens can be personalised according to taste and display the likes of maps, favourite apps, photos, phone contacts, night vision images and lots, lots more.
It's one of the classiest interiors around today with sumptuous Vienna leather seats with 14-way adjustment and the finest materials throughout.
All this luxury clearly comes at a price and our test car started life costing £52,635 - this rose to £66,595 with all the options included.
Powered by a 3.0-litre 231ps V6 diesel engine mated to an eight-speed automatic tiptronic gearbox with paddles, it could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 7.5 seconds and maxed out at 137mph which is impressive for a vehicle weighing in at just over two tonnes.
According to official figures, it can deliver a combined 34.7mpg (WLTP) with carbon emissions of 173g/km.
Despite its larger than life dimensions, the Touareg is actually quite agile, although you will need an ultra-large parking space to park the 4.8-metres-long car. It's worth noting though that the Touareg has almost the same turning lock as a VW Golf which, along with the park assist system, makes manoeuvring into tight parking spaces a complete doddle.
The acceleration through the automatic gearbox is beautifully smooth with a constant stream of power on tap at all times to make light work of overtaking slower vehicles. The dynamic design of the latest model also means it is more balanced through corners with excellent road-holding.
Various drive modes called Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual, Off-road and Snow alter the way the car reacts and there is the added reassurance that the 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system will keep you moving during more adverse weather and driving conditions.
Comfort levels within the Touareg are very high and back seat passengers will never complain about space even when the front seats are pushed well back.
Storage options also impress with a boot capacity of 810 litres - a limit that increases to 1,800 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
In addition, there are numerous practical storage options scattered throughout the car, including a decent-sized lockable glovebox, deep door pockets, front and rear cup holders, a cubby beneath the central armrest and a deep tray.
Safety specifications on the latest Touareg are comprehensive with a long list of driver assist systems to help prevent accidents happening in the first place. These, along with the vast number of safety functions, helped the car achieve the maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP rating.
Safety kit includes adaptive cruise control, including front assist, radar sensor controlled distance monitoring system, city emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, lane assist, hill descent assist, plus a Driver's Assistance Pack Plus (Â£990 option) that introduces emergency assist, front cross traffic assist, predictive pedestrian protection, proactive occupant protection, side scan and traffic jam assist.
There is also a thermal imaging system offering night vision. It uses infrared beams to scan the road searching for thermal radiation and projects an image onto the screen so the driver is warned of any dangers ahead.