Every brand needs a flagship. Volkswagen dabbled in the rarefied air occupied by the S-Class with the Phaeton, and it flirted with supercars through concepts like the Nardo, but it’s settled on the Touareg as its halo car.
Sitting at the top of the Touareg tree in Australia (at least until the R PHEV arrives) is the 210TDI Wolfsburg Edition.
There’s no doubting its presence, with a muscular stance and blacked-out details giving it plenty of swagger, even if your school run is dominated by Range Rovers.
There’s also no question about the sheer amount of technology on offer. Beyond the screens there’s active anti-roll bars borrowed from a Lamborghini Urus, rear-wheel steering, clever air suspension… even a night vision camera.
It also has a price tag north of $120,000 on the road, which is a lot of money for a car with the VW badge on its nose.
If you can look past the badge, it’s worth every penny.
The 2021 Volkswagen Touareg 210TDI Wolfsburg Edition sneaks in just below the $120,000 marker, with a sticker price of $119,990 before on-road costs.
That’s $10,500 more than the regular 210TDI R-Line, but undercuts the now sold-out V8 TDI R-Line by $16,590.
It also drops the Wolfsburg Edition into competitive territory.
The $120,000 bracket is home to the BMW X5 xDrive30d ($121,900), the Audi Q7 50 TDI S line quattro ($121,300), and the Mercedes-Benz GLE400d ($124,035).
The highlights on the Wolfsburg Edition are borrowed (or should that be cherry-picked?) from the European-market Touareg Black Edition.
It gets the Black Style R-Line Package, 21-inch black Suzuka wheels, soft-close doors, tyre pressure monitoring, and night vision as a start, along with rear privacy glass.
The nose is home to Volkswagen’s tricky IQ. Light Matrix LED headlights, and the Wolfsburg packs rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, the latter of which have been nicked from the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus.
Inside, there are R-Line seats trimmed in black and grey Savona leather, heated and cooled front seats with eight massage programs, brushed aluminium pedals, an R-Line steering wheel with heating, black headlining, a powered tailgate, and keyless entry/start.
The Innovision Cockpit is standard, which means you get a 15-inch central screen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
The former gets factory navigation backed by wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but only has AM/FM radio. That’s right, no DAB here.
There’s wireless phone charging and four USB charge ports, a Dynaudio sound system, and heated rear seats.
That’s atop standard kit elsewhere in the Touareg range either as standard equipment or an option, which includes adaptive cruise control, four-zone climate control, LED tail lights with scrolling indicators, air suspension, and a powered steering column.
You are able to get your hands on the clever active anti-roll system in the Wolfsburg by opting for the Touareg 210TDI R-Line, but the rear-wheel steer feature is unique.
The Touareg has a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2018 datestamp, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP.
It scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 72 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety and assistance equipment includes lane-keep assist with adaptive lane guidance, blind-spot monitoring with front and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as front, side and curtain airbags.
The standard autonomous emergency braking features pedestrian and cyclist detection. Should it detect one of these road users, it’ll apply the brakes at speeds between 5 and 85km/h.
Vehicle detection and braking works at speeds from 10 to 250km/h.
As the flagship model in the Touareg range, the Wolfsburg Edition adds a surround-view camera, parking assist plus, and AEB at parking speeds.
Hope you like screens. For all its luxurious features, the cabin of the Touareg is dominated by the Innovision Cockpit that combines a 15-inch touchscreen with a 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle.
The amount of screen on offer is a bit daunting initially, but Volkswagen has smartly allowed plenty of customisation. With a bit of fiddling you can make the central screen look however you want, with all the important bits of information within easy reach.
Having such a large display has allowed Volkswagen to put full-time climate controls at the base of the screen. It’d still be better if there were physical buttons, but not having to go menu-diving to adjust the temperature or heated seats is a win.
We’d wager a lot rides on how well the dealer sets the display up for customers, and talks them through how to use it. With a bit of coaching it’s easy to see even luddites getting along with the display, but there is a learning curve to be aware of.
While we’re whining, it’s annoying that bottom-end Volkswagens are getting wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but the flagship misses out, and the lack of digital radio is hard to understand in 2021.
There’s nothing wrong with the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, though. It’s crystal clear, and blends a range of thoroughly modern options with the option for classic-looking gauges.
It’s not quite as flashy as the setup in the latest Audi Q7, but it’s not far off.
Beyond the tech, the cabin of the Touareg feels properly premium. The patterned ambient lights running across the dashboard and doors, combined with the acres of screens and quality materials, make this big SUV feel unique in a way few Volkswagen-branded products do.
There’s a hint of Golf about almost every other Volkswagen cabin, but it’s harder to find in the Touareg – as it should be, at $120,000 before on-road costs.
Everything you touch feels high quality, from the supple leather on the seats to the well-damped buttons and satisfyingly clunky gear selector on the central tunnel. Even the doors shut with a reassuring thud.
The driver and passenger sit in well-stuffed armchairs with heating, massaging, and ventilation, and the driving position is nigh on perfect. You could spend all day behind the wheel and not feel tired.
There’s plenty of adjustment in the powered steering column (good), but the haptic buttons on the new R-Line steering wheel are a step backwards.
Making anything you frequently touch gloss black is a mistake, and the haptic buzz you get after inputs isn’t enough to make it more usable than a unit with proper buttons. Please, give us proper buttons.
With a storage bin under the dashboard (home to the wireless phone charger), cupholders on the centre console, a decent bin under the armrest, and spacious door pockets, there’s plenty of nooks and crannies for snacks, devices, and keys on long road trips.
As you’d expect of a hulking family SUV, the Touareg has acres of space in the rear. There’s enough legroom for lanky adults to sit behind lanky adults, and the front seats are set high to free up enough toe room for chunky winter boots.
Headroom is good, but the dark headlining and angled C-pillar do make it feel a bit tighter back there than maybe it needs to.
Boot space is a claimed 810L with the rear seats in place, and 1800L with them folded.
It’s a broad space, complete with remote releases for the rear seats and a luggage cover that slides automatically up when you pop the boot to make loading big items easier.
You also get the option to lower the rear air suspension with buttons back there, to make it easier for little people to load big, heavy things.
Power in then 210TDI Wolfsburg Edition comes from a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine.
It makes 210kW of power and 600Nm of torque, put to the road through a permanent all-wheel drive system using a Torsen centre differential and an eight-speed ZF torque converter automatic.
The 100km/h sprint takes 6.5 seconds, just 0.1 seconds behind the latest Golf GTI off the mark, and fuel economy is a claimed 6.8L/100km on the combined cycle.
Over the course of 500km, around 30 per cent of which was highway driving, we saw 7.9L/100km in the real world.
Standard across the Touareg range for 2021 is a 90L fuel tank for a theoretical range of well beyond 1000km, and a 24L tank for the AdBlue.
There’s not much better than a smooth, torquey turbo-diesel engine.
It isn’t quite as muscular as the range-topping V8, but the 210TDI V6 isn’t short on punch. It’s whisper quiet and there’s torque at essentially any engine speed, which makes it feel effortless most of the time.
The claimed 100km/h sprint time feels accurate – bury the throttle and it gives you a hot-hatch-like shove in the back, despite its chunky dimensions. You do occasionally need to be a bit firm with the accelerator on the move, though.
As is often the case with Volkswagen Group products, the transmission is keen to get into the tallest gear possible and stay there in anything but its sportiest mode to cut fuel economy.
It’ll kick down if you really lean on it (and there’s torque there when you do) but sometimes it feels like the transmission’s electronic brain is holding it back.
Still, there are few better cars for highway cruising. The Touareg chugs along silently at 100km/h, ticking over barely above idle and sipping from its massive fuel tank like a much smaller car.
Under the skin is a clever air suspension system capable of raising or lowering the body at the press of a button, and making the ride firmer or more relaxed based on the drive mode.
Some cars have drive modes that don’t really do much, but flicking through the modes in the Touareg meaningfully changes its character. Comfort gives it a languid feeling, floating over the worst the city can throw at it, while the ride firms up in Sport.
Flicking into Sport also makes the active anti-roll bars, well, a bit more active. Nicked from the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, they’re able to push up one side of the body when you turn into a corner to stop the car rolling.
Turn left and the right-hand side stiffens up, turn left and the right-hand side is actively propped up. Drive in a straight line or flick into a more relaxed drive mode and the anti-roll bars relax for a looser, more comfortable ride.
There’s no hiding the bulk of the Touareg, but the combination of active anti-roll and air suspension makes for a big bus that can be thrown around a bit.
Arguably more useful than the active anti-roll is the rear-wheel steering system, which makes the Touareg unbelievably easy to park. The rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, virtually shortening the wheelbase and making this giant SUV feel more like a Tiguan in small parking spaces.
There’s no excuse for scraping those big, black alloy wheels thanks to an armada of sensors and cameras, a tight turning circle, and good all-round visibility.
A five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty is standard, as with the wider Volkswagen range.
Maintenance for the Touareg is required every 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
A three-year service package is priced from $1350, while a five-year package will set you back $2500.
It’s expensive, but the Touareg Wolfsburg Edition makes a lot of sense when you really get down to it.
For starters, it’s only $2000 more expensive than the fully-loaded 210TDI R-Line we drove in 2020, and packs equipment that can’t be optioned anywhere else in the range.
Some of it is window dressing, stuff that’s nice to talk about or show off to friends but you’ll rarely use (ahem, night vision camera), but the rear-wheel steering brings tangible real-world benefits.
Throw in the fact it looks mean and you’ve got a seriously impressive family SUV on your hands.
$120,000 for a Volkswagen? It’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of car…