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Volkswagen Touareg R50 review (2008-2011)
What – Volkswagen Touareg R50
Where – Luton, Bedfordshire
Price – £61,990
Available – now
Key rivals – Range Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5
Volkswagen has given the Touareg 5.0-litre diesel the R treatment, with a power boost, a bling makeover and a promising name.
Likes: monstrous performance, luxurious cabin, exclusivity
Dislikes: ride and handling, high running costs
Read more Volkswagen car reviews
Image © VW
The original 5.0-litre V10 turbodiesel Touareg hardly needed much improvement in the performance department. With 309bhp and 553 lb/ft of torque, it was famously powerful enough to tow a 155-tonne Boeing 747 for a publicity stunt, as well as reach 60mph in a hot hatch-like sevenish seconds.Well I'm not sure what VW PR has planned for an encore (maybe they're going to uproot a building or tow a ship), but whatever it is they've just added 36bhp and 74 lb/ft of torque to make the R50.It might sound like a Le Mans race car, but this new R-badged VW is the hot hatch of the SUV world, with plenty of R-rated additions such as bulging wheel arches and splashings of chrome.
Image © VW
Needless to say, the changes produce even more impressive performance results over a standard 5.0 V10 Touareg, with 62mph coming up in 6.7 seconds and an autobahn-friendly top speed of 155mph. To contextualise that, the Golf R32 hot hatch does the same sprint in 6.5 seconds. As odd as it sounds, though, the R50 doesn't actually feel as quick as the figures suggest.The torque delivery is smooth and linear, so you don't get thumped back into your seat as it rockets off towards the horizon. Don't be fooled by the relative sedate pace, though, because big numbers appear on the speedo very quickly indeed. As a performance car it doesn't quite hit the spot, but if you want the ultimate tow car look no further.
Ride and handling
Image © VW
Despite the impressive inner workings, the Touareg is still a huge top-heavy slab of metal - enter a bend too quickly and the body will roll. Surprisingly, if you want an SUV that you can hustle down a B-road quickly you would be better off in a Range Rover Sport. Or better still, a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne, which both exhibit beatiful body control.The R50's steering doesn't help matters, proving well weighted but completely lacking in feedback. As for the ride quality, the R50 sits on 21-inch alloy wheels and its suspension has been lowered by 20mm, so it is firm and fidgety despite the impressive sounding 'continuous damping control', which basically alters the harshness of the suspension depending on the road surface.
Image © VW
You can't charge £62k for a Volkswagen without doing something pretty special inside. Thankfully, VW has taken care of things with full leather seats, touchscreen sat-nav, climate control and, for the R model, sports seats (which are heated front and rear) and bi-Xenon headlights. The Touareg has always been a plush motor and the R50 is no different, displaying - naturally enough since both companies are linked - a sense of Bentley-esque style. The R model also gains logos on the seats, wheels and radiator grille, a body-coloured roof spoiler and oval exhaust pipes. It does look menacing.
Economy and safety
Image © VW
Combined fuel economy of 22.4mpg isn't exactly diesel like, and neither are carbon dioxide emissions of 333g/km, putting you into the top bracket for company car and road tax. Then again, you don't buy the R50 because you want a frugal SUV. And compared to a supercharged Range Rover Sport - which will struggle to top 18mpg and smokes out 376g/km of CO2 - the R50 is decent compromise. As for safety kit, you have everything from anti-slip control, to ESP and brake assist, to a full gamut of airbags and a crash sensor which automatically unlocks all the doors in an accident.
The MSN Cars verdict: 3/5
The R50 is an imposing and extraordinary machine, albeit a flawed one. Fast, comfortable and well appointed, it is a great deal more desirable than a Range Rover and will prove to be a rarer sight on UK roads. However, the soggy handling doesn't live up to the promise created by the sporting body kit and blistering pace, while the ride, steering and astronomical running costs means there are many better cars for the money.
Ratings out of five: VW Touareg R50
Ride & handling***
MSN Cars verdict***
Need to know
Diesel engine 5.0 V10
Power (bhp) 345
Torque (lb/ft) 627
0-62 (secs) 6.7
Top speed (mph) 155
Combined mpg 22.4
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