The Touareg is finally promoted to R spec, but it’s a hybrid!

The 2020 Volkswagen Touareg R is a high-performance version of the familiar midsize SUV. Unveiled in February 2020, ahead of the Geneva Motor Show, the 2020 Touareg R is the first of its kind to boast an "R" badge. It’s also the first R model with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and the first range-topping variant of any Volkswagen nameplate to feature electrification.

The 2020 Touareg R also makes the Touareg the third VW nameplate to offer a hybrid model after the Golf and the Passat. Because Volkswagen no longer offers the Touareg in the United States, where it has been replaced by the Atlas, the Touareg R won’t cross the pond to North America. Let’s find out more about this SUV in the review below.

Exterior

  • Black front grille
  • Black bumper trim
  • Black mirror caps
  • 20-inch wheels
  • Exclusive blue color
  • Rear end identical to regular model
  • R badges
  • Needs sportier features
2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
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The big front grille is finished in black and includes an "R" badge.

The Touareg R is a sportier take on the design language that Volkswagen introduced with the third-generation SUV in 2018. It boasts a more angular design overall and a front fascia with a larger, more imposing grille. This new grille features horizontal slats that blend in with the headlamps, stretching over their lower sections where the daytime running lights are located. The LED strips at the top also appear to form an extension of the upper frame of the grille. The Touareg features the exact same grille, but all chrome elements are now finished in black. The grille also includes an "R" badge.

Interestingly enough, the bumper vents are virtually identical to the regular Touareg. This is surprising because higher performance models usually have larger intakes. But it seems that Volkswagen retained the standard layout and only opted to refinish the surrounds and the horizontal slats in black. The same goes for the thin center vent, which now features black trim instead of chrome. No splitter, no winglets, no other elements that could make the Touareg looks sportier. On the flip side, I must admit that the SUV looks menacing enough with that big black grille.

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The Touareg R’s profile is once again a regular Touareg with minor changes. It features black mirror caps and black window trim (instead of chrome), as well as small "R" badges on the front doors. The wheels are larger on this model at 20 inches standard and they also feature a cool two-tone finish in black with burnished edges. You can also have them in matter grey with the same edges, but you can also opt for larger rims of either 21 or 22 inches.

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The rear end is also identical to the standard Touareg. Actually, you wouldn’t even be able to tell that this is a different model if it weren’t for the "R" badge in place of the "Touareg" lettering below the Volkswagen emblem. Other than that, everything is the same save for the standard LED taillights with their unique pattern and the "Hybrid" badge on the bottom right side of the tailgate. There’s no sporty diffuser or a bespoke spoiler to talk about, which is a bit disappointing to be honest.

But if you want to stand out, you can have the SUV painted in Lapiz Blue Metallic. This hue, which you can see on the presentation model, is exclusive to the Touareg R.

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Interior

  • New-design layout
  • Looks premium
  • R-Line features
  • Vienna leather
  • Sportier seats
  • Crystal Grey stitching
  • Aluminum trim
  • Stainless-steel door sills
  • Brushed pedals
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Optional Puglia leather
2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Interior
- image 888398
The seats are wrapped in Vienna leather with Crystal Grey stitching.

The Touareg R benefits from the redesigned cabin that Volkswagen introduced in 2018. Inspired by the interiors of recent Audi models, it looks simpler and cleaner, but it’s also a bit more upscale than before. The dashboard is divided into three sections: the large infotainment display in the center, the digital instrument cluster to the left, and the thin fascia on the passenger side. The latter features a horizontal A/C vent at the top and black trim to the bottom. The black trim extends into the upper door panels, a feature seen mostly on more upscale vehicles.

But the trim isn’t all that special either, as it’s mostly the R-Line package you can order on other Touareg models. But the good news is that the seats are wrapped in Vienna leather with Crystal Grey stitching. The seats also feature "R" logos on the head restraints. The Silver Wave aluminum trim on the bottom dashboard and door panels is also unique to this model and a really nice touch when combined with the glossy black upper trim. The center console combines both elements, with black around the gear selector and cup holders and silver where the rotary knobs are.

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Interior
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You can order a black Puglia leather upholstery that's tanned sustainably using olive oil.

Other extra features that you don’t get as standard in the regular Touareg include stainless-steel door sills, brushed stainless-steel pedals, and a leather steering wheel with shift paddles, plus the "R" logo. The steering wheel is also heated.

Moving over to the options list, you can order a black Puglia leather upholstery that’s tanned sustainably using olive oil, diamond stitching on the seats and door panels, as well as Sepang Blue piping and blue seam on the dashboard. You can also add a 780-watt audio system from Dynaudio and a Night Vision feature that detects people and animals in the dark.

The Touareg R also comes standard with the Innovision Cockpit. This feature pairs together the digital instrument cluster with a 12-inch display and the TFT infotainment system that measures 15 inches. Both give you access to loads of vehicle-related information, including data about the hybrid drivetrain. For that you can look into the energy flow display that shows the battery’s energy reserve, the energy supply to the drive system, and battery charging. You can also monitor the motor’s range and the potential to increase the range by deactivating electrical consumers.

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Interior
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The SUV takes up to 1,800 liters (63.6 cubic feet) of luggage behind the front-row seats.

The instrument cluster includes a power meter that shows the current status of the hybrid system and displays info about the consumption of electrical energy when running in hybrid mode. It also shows the remaining electric range and the fuel range so you’ll know how many miles you can drive before refueling or recharging.

When it comes to trunk space, the Touareg R should be as spacious as the regular model since the batteries are located in the trunk. The SUV takes up to 810 liters (28.6 cubic feet) of luggage behind the rear seats and up to 1,800 liters (63.6 cubic feet) behind the front-row seats.

That’s an extra 160 liters (5.6 cubic feet) behind the second row compared to the Audi Q7, rated at 650 liters (22.9 cubic feet). However, the Q7 offers up to 2,050 liters (72.4 cubic feet) with the second- and third-row seats folded flat. Total capacity is also slightly below what you get in the Volvo XC90 T8, which is good for 1,856 liters (65.5 cubic feet).

Drivetrain

  • Hybrid drivetrain
  • 3.0-liter V-6 gas engine
  • Electric motor
  • Up to 455 horsepower
  • Up to 516 pound-feet
  • Shared with the Audi Q7
  • 14.1-kWh battery
  • Top speed of 155 mph
  • EV max speed of 87 mph
  • 8-speed automatic
2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
- image 888397
This drivetrain marries the familiar 3.0-liter V-6 engine offered in the regular Touareg to an electric motor and a 14.1-kWh battery.

This is where things become surprising, as the Touareg R is powered by a hybrid drivetrain. The reason for this is that previous R vehicles, particularly the Golf R, were gasoline-only, featuring beefed-up conventional engines. The Touareg R is the first such vehicle to feature electrification.

Specifically, this drivetrain marries the familiar 3.0-liter V-6 engine offered in the regular Touareg to an electric motor and a 14.1-kWh battery. The engine cranks out 335 horsepower, while the electric motor generates 134 horses. Total output is rated at an impressive 455 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, more than any other Touareg to date.

That’s more than the Touareg TDI V8, which features a 4.0-liter V-8 mill that cranks out 415 horsepower. On the other hand, the diesel pumps out notably more torque at 664 pound-feet.

This drivetrain combo isn’t exclusive to the Touareg. It’s shared with both the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid and the Audi Q7 60 TFSIe. Because the Bentayga is out of the Touareg’s league pricing-wise, we’re only going to consider the Q7 here. Audi offers two versions of the hybrid, with the most powerful being almost identical output-wise at 450 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. That’s a reduction of five horses and identical torque.

The Volvo XC90 is another hybrid SUV you should consider against the Touareg R. And just like the Volkswagen, the hybrid version of the Swedish SUV, called the T8 Twin-Engine, is the most powerful. Motivated by a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and an electric motor, the XC90 T8 comes with 402 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. That’s 53 horses and 44 pound-feet below the Touareg R, but not too far away.

This SUV can run on electricity alone for around 26 miles, which converts to about 40 km.

Like most recently launched vehicles under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, the Touareg R features an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s also fitted with 4Motion all-wheel drive as standard, as well as a central differential. The latter can send up to 70 percent of torque to the front wheels and up to 80 percent to the rear wheels.

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
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Driving the Touareg R in all-electric mode is possible through the E-Mode. Activate this feature while driving in Hybrid mode and the drivetrain will switch to all-electric drive and maintains this setting at speeds of up to 140 km/h (87 mph). But only if the battery is charged sufficiently. Volkswagen has yet to release info about range and performance when running on battery only, but it should be similar to its Audi-badged sibling, the Q7 60 TFSI e. This SUV can run on electricity alone for around 26 miles, which converts to about 40 km.

That’s way less than a fully fledged electric vehicle, but it’s enough for daily commutes or short trips. Of course, the big advantage here is that the efficiency of the V-6 engine is enhanced by the electric motor, but we’re still waiting for info on that as well. And it’s on par with the Volvo XC90 T8, which returns around 28 miles or 45 km of range.

While top speed in all-electric mode is limited to 140 km/h (87 mph), the gasoline V-6 engine will get you up to 250 km/h (155 mph).

Driving assist features

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
- image 888427

The Touareg R is the first version of the nameplate to become available with Travel Assist. This feature relies on various systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assist Keeping to turn the Touareg into a semi-autonomous vehicle. Using both longitudinal and lateral guidance, it can accelerate and slow down by itself, come to a complete stop in slow traffic or at crossroads, as well as change lanes when possible. Travel Assist now works at speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph), an upgrade from the previous 210-km/h (130-mph) limit.

You can also order the Touareg R with Trailer Assist, a system that drives the SUV and the trailer attached to it into parking spaces or gateways almost automatically. Trailer Assist works in E-mode too, so it can be silent and save fuel at the same time.

To use this feature you have to stop behind the parking bay for the trailer and shift into reverse gear. Then you activate it by pressing the Park Assist button, which also activates the mirror display. You will be instructed how to set the desired steering angle using the mirror switch, which acts as a joystick. and then the desired direction of travel. This is when Trailer Assist will take over and align the SUV and the trailer and park them both in the desired position.

Prices

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
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Pricing for the Touareg R is not yet available, but expect it to become the most expensive Touareg on the market. The standard SUV comes in at £45,445 in the U.K., but the R-Line, which isn’t as powerful, starts from £53,145. As of February 2020, the Touareg V6 Black Edition is the most expensive you can buy, but the R will probably take over with a sticker in excess of £60,000. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Volkswagen ask close to £70,000 for the Touareg R.

Competition

Audi Q7

2020 Audi Q7 Exterior
- image 886816

Yes, the Q7 is pretty much a more upscale version of the Touareg, but in the absence of a proper competitor for the R, Volkswagen will probably steal some customers from its premium, more expensive brand. The Q7 is virtually identical to the Touareg under the skin, but it stands out through a unique exterior design. However, I can’t say that the Q7 is the more appealing choice. The Touareg’s redesign is quite cool and I would be very tempted to go with the Volkswagen. Not to mention that the Q7 looks like a wagon on stilts. The Q7 is also supposed to be the more luxurious choice. But even though it comes with extra technology and fancier features, the current Touareg is nothing to sneeze at it either. Features aside, it looks just as fresh and modern and fit-and-finish is no longer an issue. The Q7 is also available with two hybrid drivetrains, with the combo in the 60 TFSI e model being identical to the Touareg R’s. Specifically, it pairs the same twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 and the same electric motor for a total output of 450 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. That’s only five horses below the Volkswagen. This version isn’t available in the U.S., but it starts from £67,000, which means that it might not be notably more expensive than the Touareg R.

Read our full review of the 2020 Audi Q7

Volvo XC90

2020 Volvo XC90 Exterior
- image 831841

The XC90 was redesigned from the ground up in 2015, when Volvo also ditched large-displacement engines for the nameplate. Now powered by 2.0-liter four-cylinder mills only, the XC90 is available with a high-output hybrid drivetrain that almost matches the performance of the Touareg. Styling-wise, the XC90 looks a bit old-school as the overall shape is reminiscent of old Volvo wagons. Volvo also aims for a premium interior, but it’s not far off from the Touareg’s fresh cabin to be honest. However, it does feature a tablet-style display, a crystal gear lever made by famous Swedish glass maker Orrefors, and plenty of leather. The hybrid model is called the T8 and pairs a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder and an electric motor. Output is rated at 402 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque, a tad below what you get with the Touareg R. However, the T8 is impressively quick, needing 5.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Top speed is a tad inferior at 230 km/h (143 mph). Pricing for the XC90 T8 starts from £66,645 in the United Kingdom. But unlike the competition, it’s also available in the United States, from $72,700.

Read our full story on the 2020 Volvo XC90

Conclusion

2020 Volkswagen Touareg R Exterior
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Volkswagen fans have been clamoring for a high-performance version of the Touareg ever since the nameplate was introduced back in 2002. With the Golf R on the market and the possibility to borrow drivetrains from sister companies Audi and Porsche, it seemed like a doable project. Sadly, it took Volkswagen almost 20 years to actually put the R badge on the Touareg. Better late than never I guess. But it’s good news nonetheless, especially since the Touareg R is a hybrid.

This means better fuel economy, the ability to drive on electricity alone over short distances, as well as an opportunity to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. This also means that future R models will embrace electricity, which should also translate into better performance. But the Touareg R might have a big issue in its sticker. If it costs notably more than £60,000, it will come too close to the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90. Sure, Volkswagens are more upscale than before now, but it’s still expensive for a vehicle that’s not supposed to cost as much as its premium siblings. The fact that it’s also a regular Touareg with blacked out elements isn’t very encouraging, but the Golf R suffers from the same issue

  • Leave it
    • Almost identical to regular Touareg on the outside
    • It could be too expensive
    • Strong competition
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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