The Volkswagen Group is the world’s biggest producer of vehicles. It sold 10.74 million last year. It is also number one in Britain. Volkswagen, per se, sold 4.1 million cars in the first eight months this year, a record, in the teeth of people grumbling about diesel futures and diesel pasts.
Porsche last month confirmed that it was abandoning diesel fuel in favour of petrol hybrids and pure electric power. Its first electric car, the Taycan, is scheduled sometime next year.
At a recent display of the latest Volkswagens we were told that we were witnessing the “largest offensive in VW history”. I’m not sure that offensive is the word I’d use but this is the braying soccer-pitch lingo. The VW history started in the late 1930s, by the way, with a volkswagen, the people’s car.
Anyway, to Aynho for our part in this offensive activity. Also known as the apricot village for the perfect climate to grow this Armenian plum (a poor crop this year), Aynho is near Banbury and good driving country with light traffic and picturesque villages.
Its posher sibling, Audi, had commandeered the village’s big house to “launch” its latest A6 and hadn’t known Volkswagen was in town. Mingling from Volkswagen to Audi was not encouraged: not enough cars, or something.
There were plenty in the Volkswagen camp, one of those tastefully converted barns with adjoining farmyard which make handsome conference centres. They included the sporty up! GTI, the T-Roc, the Arteon lift-back, the plain-clothes Golf R (for rocket) and its more eco-sensitive counterpart, the electric Golf, good for a realistic 130 to 150 miles between charges. Electric cars give quiet, refined, immediate power. I had a brief shot in Jaguar’s £64,000 electric I-Pace a few days earlier. It is wonderful, the nicest car I’ve tried in ages. Audi’s e-Tron and the Mercedes EQC will no doubt be lovely.
The issue, the snag, with electric is the mileage range before the battery needs charging and where to get the charge. A domestic three-pin socket will take all night to give around 70 miles of driving and you shouldn’t trail cables across pavements. A dedicated power point, either at home or office is faster, so you can set off with a full battery. If you need a charge before you get back you must find a charging point. Half an hour, say, will get you going again but if there’s a queue you have a longer delay. A full charge for the e-Golf using a normal dedicated domestic wall box still takes eight hours. A quicker commercial 40kW unit can restore 80 per cent of its range in half an hour. The number of charging points is increasing. The battery range improves with each generation of car.
At some stage they may match the range of a petrol car but they’ll never be as quick to refuel. Diesel fuel remains the long-distance champion.
Which brings us to what we were told is “the pinnacle of Volkswagen’s capabilities”. The car is the new Touareg, the third generation of the de luxe, large all-roader, of which two million have been bought in 15 years. It shared its initial development with the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7 and they are all built today in Bratislava. The Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus use the same modular platform. Volkswagen makes the Bentayga body in Germany and it is assembled in Crewe. Economies of scale and all that.
The Touareg in Britain comes with the group’s 3-litre V6 turbo diesel in 231hp and 286hp tune and three trims, from £48,995. Seen here is the most expensive V6 R-Line Tech 286hp 3.0 TDI with an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox and 4Motion all-wheel-drive. It costs £58,195. This price includes a first-year road tax of £1,240.
It has got longer and wider and slightly lower, looks imposing, and is chromed and glossed and hard to miss.
Technology new to the Touareg includes night vision and a switchable digital instrument display – both at extra cost, as is a head-up display, and you have to adjust the steering column manually, rather than with a power button, unless you pay extra. It should be standard.
The car is packed with entertainment and communications systems. The car runs in 4x4 all the time, with off-road and snow settings.
Volkswagen quotes 42.8mpg and 173g of CO2 on the combined test cycle. Our amble around Banbury-shire showed 27mpg. The active anti-roll bars contributed to a notably calm ride on the country roads.
Verdict: Diesel dinosaur? It is a classy act in a tough class. As well as the Cayenne, there is Volvo’s cool XC90 and the Velar and Sport from Range Rover, the hybrid RX from Lexus. BMW unveiled its latest X5 last week at the Paris Show, where Mercedes-Benz had its new GLE. Volkswagen gave the show a miss.