This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Touareg (10-18) review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

It's no surprise that the petrol models are much less popular than the more frugal diesels. Originally the range included two petrols - a 3.2-litre V6 producing 240bhp or a 4.2-litre V8 developing 310bhp. The V6 is adequate for an entry-level model and competitive with other six-cylinder 4x4s, while the V8 is rather more muscular, but very thirsty. The V6 is available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic, while the V8 is auto only.

Both these engines were phased out in 2006 and replaced with a new 280bhp 3.6-litre V6, which offers more power than the 3.2-litre, but better fuel consumption than the 4.2-litre. Originally available with a five-cylinder 2.5 TDI diesel or a 5.0-litre V10, the range was boosted in 2004 when a 3.0-litre V6 TDI was added. It meant customers could have a smoother, quieter engine than the 2.5 TDI, with a little more power, without having to choose the muscular (and thirsty) 5.0-litre V10.

The 2.5 TDI is fine as an entry point to the range, available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, with 174bhp and a useful plenty of torque at 2000rpm. The auto-only 3.0 V6 offers 225bhp and extra grunt at even lower revs. This engine was revised in early 2008 and replaced with a common rail unit which is more refined and quieter too.

It has more power with 240bhp and is almost a second quicker from 0-62mph, taking 8.3 seconds instead of 9.2 seconds. In June 2009 a Bluemotion Touareg was introduced which uses a 225bhp version of the same 3.0 TDI engine. Helped by revised aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tyres it emits 219g/km of CO2 and returns 34mpg (compared to 244g/km and 30mpg in the standard version).

It's only marginally slower from 0-62mph, taking an impressive 8.5 seconds. The range-topping 5.0 V10 TDI produces 313bhp allowing it to sprint from 0-62mph in under 7.5 seconds. Overtaking is effortless with this engine, and the Touareg is given a surprising turn of speed for a 2.7-tonne vehicle.

The Touareg provides a good compromise of comfort, grip and off-road ability. All models come with permanent four-wheel drive and offer exceptional traction in all conditions. There is a low-range mode for tricky off-road conditions and some models have air suspension offering the ability to raise the suspension for increased ground clearance if necessary.

The Touareg drives very well on the road, with good body control in corners and excellent ride comfort. It's a shame the steering doesn't offer more feel, but the Touareg is very much designed with ease of use in mind rather than a 'sporty' 4x4 like the BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. New technology for 2007 includes a trailer stabilisation system linked to the electronic stability control which is included in the system's software when selecting a factory-fitted tow bar.

The brakes have excellent stopping power and on the V10 TDI are manufactured by Brembo.