This might confuse some prospective buyers expecting something more in keeping with the earlier Touareg R50. But where sales are concerned, I’m sure the Touareg R will find greater appeal as it is than if it was positioned as a more hardened offering against models from Audi Sport, BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. Its balance between comfort, refinement and performance is just about spot on, making for relaxed progressed, hushed cruising qualities and a good turn of speed when you go looking for it in Hybrid mode.
Volkswagen claims 0-62mph in 5.1sec and a top speed limited to 155mph in hybrid mode. This compares with the 5.7sec and 149mph of the Audi Q7 60 TFSIe quattro, which has the same driveline and combined output of 456bhp and 516lb ft.
When the battery charge runs low, it is possible to charge it to a pre-set level by using the combustion engine as a generator in Eco mode. At the same time, the energy regeneration is also increased, providing an added braking effect when you step off the accelerator along with the usual coasting function, which idles the engine on periods of trailing throttle.
Despite the significant weight brought by its hybrid drivetrain, the Touareg R is suitably agile in Sport mode. However, its dynamic properties are far from the whip-crack standard the R in its name implies in other Volkswagen model ranges. The steering is nicely weighted and quite responsive off dead-centre, while the standard air suspension provides the new SUV with well-controlled body movement during all-out cornering along with a cosseting ride in Comfort mode.
To enable it to maintain a level of off-road prowess and 3.5-tonne towing capacity comparable to its to its petrol and diesel siblings, the new range-topping plug-in hybrid Touareg retains a Torsen four-wheel drive system and can be ordered with an optional Off-Road Package consisting of improved underbody protection and added traction control functions with gravel, mud and sand settings.
Inside, the Touareg’s pleasingly functional cabin is virtually unchanged by the adoption of the hybrid drivetrain. Its highlights include a 12.0in digital cockpit instrument display and 15.0in infotainment system, which together form part of what Volkswagen calls its Innovision Cockpit.
The only telltale changes are new graphics for the digital instruments indicating electric range and the battery’s state of charge as well as additional buttons within the centre console that allows you to switch between the various driving modes without resorting to the alternative commands within the infotainment system.
The packaging of the battery at the rear reduces the boot capacity by 70 litres over more conventionally propelled third-generation Touareg models, though the floor remains flat and at 610 litres it is reasonably commodious.