Launched: 2003

Engine sizes: 2.5TDI, 3.0 V6, 3.2 V6, 4.2 V8, 5.0 V10

Performance: 2.5 TDi top speed 114mph, 0-60mph 13.3 seconds

Economy: 28.8mpg

Safety: NCAP: 5 stars

When's it going?

The Touareg has been replaced by a new version, though you could be forgiven for failing to spot the changes. At the front it does look a bit different, but it is under the skin that the majority of uprates have taken place. According to Volkswagen, it has changed 2,300 individual parts in the new Touareg, including brakes, suspension, anti-rollover safety, and a front and side sensor system that tells you how much room you have (or haven't) got in tricky off-road situations, or in the superstore car park.

What's good about it?

It's the working bloke's version of the Porsche Cayenne, and is big, plush and comfy, both on the road and off it. Developed alongside the Porsche, it is a fine effort as the company's first ever off-roader. Whereas the Cayenne was tuned for performance, the Touareg is all about comfort, and is a good compromise between decent on-road performance and ability off it. It drives sharply, which means that it is really just like a very large car.

It is massive, so inside there is masses of room, plus a suitably huge and well- shaped boot – five people and their luggage can easily be accommodated. There is a wide range of engines, and the V6 petrols are well rated for being strong and smooth. Diesels offer more miles per gallon but noticeably less refinement. Equipment levels are fine, with climate control and cruise control. There are plenty of safety devices, with twin front, side and full-length curtain airbags.

For the driver, there's an adjustable seat and steering column, and all-round visibility is fine. For those who reckon that a Range Rover is too vulgar, here's a good alternative.

What's bad about it?

It's a 4x4, and a large one at that, which these days equates to pure evil. Even if you love cars, it is possible still to feel less than positive about a vehicle that is so large, yet only seats five. At least the V12 version has not been imported here, or there might be rioting in the streets: it can tow a Boeing 747, according to one recent press stunt, which is always useful. The running costs, whichever model is bought, are certainly jumbo-sized. Fuel consumption on, say, the 4.2 V8 petrol is 19mpg, but then again, the V6 only just cracks 20mpg, whilst the diesel manages just 28.8mpg. For some people, £50,000 is a lot of money to pay for a VW, especially as the depreciation curve is quite sharp.

How much?

It has been possible to save £2,000- £3,000 via a broker on a new model, but it is also possible to find private owners with good-value examples. I found one such – a 2006 Volkswagen Touareg 2.5 TDI SE that had covered just over 9,000 miles and was loaded with every possible extra, including leather and sat nav – for £27,950, when the retail price would have been at least £33,000. Volkswagen dealers can save money on the biggest diesel, the magnificently over-the-top 5.0 V8 TDI. An 8,700 mile example from 2006, which would have cost around £54,000 new, was on offer at Sidlow in Horsham (0845 0203561) for £42,950.

Any snags?

There have been two recalls that affected the Touaregs built in the first year, to do with faulty wiring and rear seat belts. Overall, though, owners report that all problems, usually electrical, have been addressed under warranty. So it seems to have a good solid reputation so far.

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