Volkswagen Touareg 2002-2010 used car review

The Volkswagen Touareg is a capable luxury SUV both on and off-road.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Volkswagen Touareg is a capable luxury SUV both on and off-road. It is expensive to fuel and service.

Exterior , 4 out of 5 Drive , 4 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 2.5 out of 5 Interior , 3.5 out of 5

Overall score , 3.8 out of 5

The good
  • A luxury workhorse with good off-road and high towing abilities
  • A comprehensive safety package on all models
  • Excellent to drive on the road
The not-so-good
  • Very expensive to run - both in fuel and service costs
  • Optional transmission paddles poorly placed

Volkswagen launched the Touareg in 2002. It is comparable to premium cars like the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML. It was developed as a joint venture with Porsche. It shares a chassis, all-wheel drive system and some engines with the Cayenne.

Inside and out

Volkswagen launched the Touareg in 2002. It is comparable to premium cars like the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML. It was developed as a joint venture with Porsche. It shares a chassis, all-wheel drive system and some engines with the Cayenne.

Inside, the materials feel thick, chunky and of high quality. The front seats have soft, comfortable bases and are quite supportive. The leather feels of excellent quality. The rear seat has good legroom and enough space for three adults. Each gets a headrest.

The steering wheel features a large number of buttons to control the stereo, cruise control and information screen which sits between the four chrome-ringed instruments on the dash.

Paddle shifters for the transmission sit behind the steering wheel - these are not well placed and can get in the way of the indicator and wiper stalks. The keyhole is on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel, rather than being on the side of the steering column.

The centre of the dash features a touchscreen infotainment system. In this used import car, the system has Japanese navigation maps which can't be used in New Zealand and it will require a band expander to receive all local stations. The dash also has controls for the heated seats and climate control. A dial for the all-wheel drive system sits behind the chunky transmission shifter.

Boot space is plentiful at 555 litres, enough for five or six large suitcases. The rear bench splits 60/40 and folds forward for extra storage space. To create a flat floor, the spare tyre underneath is stored without air in it - you pump it up with a compressor if you need it. A full-size spare tyre mounted on a frame outside the rear door is a rare optional extra.

On the road

A range of petrol and diesel engines can be found in the Touareg. The entry-level version uses a 2.5-litre five-cylinder diesel, and a three-litre six-cylinder diesel was added in 2007. The top model used a five-litre, ten-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. Three kinds of petrol engines were available: 3.2 and 3.6-litre six-cylinder units and a 4.2-litre eight-cylinder. Our review vehicle uses the 3.6-litre engine, which produces 206kW and 310Nm.

The only transmission option with this engine is a six-speed automatic which can be shifted manually. The engine is very smooth and performance is good, although the Touareg takes more than nine seconds to get to 100kmh, which is not particularly fast. It has a sporty sound to it as well. The transmission in our review vehicle wasn’t very smooth, which could be a sign of wear.

The Touareg handles very well and it goes around corners without much body roll. The steering is responsive and the brakes are very effective – they’re able to stop this large SUV like a sports car. Ride quality is excellent; you won't feel many jolts or bumps from the road at all. Unlike many luxury SUVs, the Touareg has a reasonable level of off-road ability.

An optional air-suspension system allows you to raise it for additional ground clearance. The locking centre differential, optional locking rear differential and intelligent traction electronics enable it to tackle most slippery surfaces. 

Almost all Touaregs are fitted with road-orientated tyres, which will be one of the main limits off-road.

Parking sensors are standard on the Touareg. They are needed as it can be difficult to see what is behind the vehicle. Many models have a standard reversing camera, and our used import model is fitted with an aftermarket system. If the car you buy does not have a camera, we recommend having one added. You can do this yourself from $50 or have it professionally fitted from $200.

The tow rating is the best of any luxury SUV. The Touareg will pull up to 750kg unbraked (a medium-large garden trailer) and up to 3,500kg braked (a large trailer boat). The all-wheel drive system will be beneficial on slippery boat ramps.


RightCar lists the Touareg with a five-star ANCAP rating (from 2005 onwards). Used import models are not officially rated though they carry the same standard safety features. 

Standard safety equipment levels are very high and include front, side and curtain airbags that cover the front and rear seats, traction control, electronic stability control and electronic brake-force distribution. Blindspot warning became an option from 2007.

ISOFIX child seat mounts and top tethers are found in the window positions at the back. All three rear seats feature full shoulder-type belts which offer more protection than the lap-only type.


The Touareg has a reasonable reputation for reliability and is well built. The six-cylinder engine in our review vehicle uses a timing chain which will not need regular replacement.

There have been reports of differential failures. Initially, the problem was restricted to the ten-cylinder diesel version but over the years this has affected other models. Differentials cost thousands to replace so, when you test drive a vehicle, listen for any humming or grinding noises from under the car – they’re an early indication of trouble.

Transmissions can also show signs of wear. Make sure the unit shifts reasonably smoothly and quietly, and that there’s no faint smell of burning automatic transmission fluid. A rebuild will cost more than $3,000.

Cost of ownership

Volkswagen recommends the Touareg be serviced every 12 months. A local Volkswagen dealer says service costs start at $600 and grow based on what needs to be done - an air filter is $100 and a pollen filter another $100. Brake pads and fluid need to be changed every second year and can cost up to $2,000.

The six-cylinder model uses a timing chain, but the 4.2-litre eight-cylinder engines built up to 2006 use a timing belt which will need to be replaced every 110,000km at the cost of $1,600.

The 3.6-litre version is one of the most expensive SUVs to run in the New Zealand market. RightCar estimates that over 14,000km of driving a year, it will cost $4,200 to fuel - $900 more than a BMW X5. The 100-litre fuel tank will cost $200 to fill and should take you 630km before the fuel light comes on.

A vehicle licence for the Touareg costs $76.92 a year, with the car in the cheapest ACC levy group.

Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for a Touareg valued at $25,370 will cost $57.66* per month, $4 a month less than a BMW X5.

Buyers’ guide

This generation of Touareg is available on Trade Me from $5,000 and can reach as high as $34,000. Used import petrol models are the cheapest to buy while New Zealand-new cars and diesel models fetch higher prices.


  • R5 - Available with a five-cylinder diesel engine with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Features alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning, fabric seats (leather optional), parking sensors, CD player stereo with steering wheel controls, cruise control, front, side and curtain airbags and electronic stability control.
  • 3.2 V6 - As the R5 but with a petrol engine and standard automatic transmission.
  • V6 TDI - As the R5 but with a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine and standard automatic transmission.
  • 3.6 V6 - Adds leather upholstery, satellite navigation, heated front seats, transmission paddle shifters, electric front seats and remote central locking.
  • 4.2 V8 - Powered by an eight-cylinder petrol engine with standard automatic. Adds standard air suspension, rear sun blinds, automatic headlights and wipers, and sunroof.
  • V10 TDI - Powered by a ten-cylinder diesel engine. Adds combination roof rack and rear spoiler.
  • R50 - Adds performance tuning for its diesel engine, sports suspension and body kit.


  • 2002 Launched globally
  • 2004 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine added to the range
  • 2007 Facelifted inside and out, with intelligent safety technology made available, with R50 sports model and new six-cylinder diesel engine added.
  • 2010 Replaced by new model


Review vehicle

2008 Volkswagen Touareg 3.6V6


$11,000 to $29,000 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km


3.6-litre six-cylinder, 206kW/310Nm (claimed)


Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Safety rating

Five-star ANCAP (NZ new model)


12 months

Spare wheel

Space saver wheel with compressor

Fuel economy

15-litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel type








Towing capacity

750kg (unbraked), 3500kg (braked)

Turning circle


This review covers the Volkswagen Touareg for model years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.

*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.

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