As far as Volkswagen in the UK is concerned, the Touareg is the final resting place of the larger capacity engine. Nowhere else in its current consumer line-up will you find a V6, or even a petrol motor boasting more than two litres of displacement - and in all likelihood nor will you ever again. That makes its large SUV an interesting outlier; a reputation it has quietly cultivated for nearly two decades as the half-forgotten sibling of the much more famous Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. Access to a fun-filled parts bin has previously seen VW install everything from a 6.0-litre W12 to a V10 TDI in its voluminous engine bay. Elsewhere in Europe, you can buy the current model with the non-electric compressor variant of the Audi SQ7's 4.0-litre V8 TDI with 422hp and 664lb ft of torque - 148lb ft more than is delivered by a Range Rover Sport SVR.
That VW has thus far denied this tantalising option to UK buyers says much about the Touareg's status (or lack thereof) in a saturated marketplace. In Germany, the V8 starts at €90k - the kind of jumping off point that would mean talking British patrons from big ticket Land Rover products. Or else from Audis or Porsches, which would rather defeat the purpose. Consequently, Volkswagen's flagship car in this country is powered by the slightly less spectacular prospect of a 340hp 3.0-litre TSI, which outguns the equivalent V6 TDI by 54hp (while giving up 111lb ft in peak twist).
If that output sounds familiar it's because the same six-cylinder unit is used in a string of large Audi saloons - and also the entry-level version of the Porsche Cayenne. This means that the Touareg claims much the same level of performance - 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, 155mph top speed - and shares the same eight-speed automatic gearbox. Get busy with the cost-option tick boxes and you can share in other VW Group components, notably air suspension (using a simpler two-chamber variant of the three-chamber pneumatic springs deployed in the Bentley Bentayga) and rear-wheel steer (as featured in the Lamborghini Urus). If you really push the boat out you can even have the 48-volt active roll stabilisation system fitted.
Regardless, what you end up with is a Touareg - a big, friendly, sexless SUV in the inimitable VW mould. Apparently the third generation was designed with Chinese tastes in mind, although - liberal serving of chrome brightwork aside - that doesn't count for much. What does count is the usual quota of Volkswagen good sense: the Touareg is well proportioned, well trimmed, mostly well thought out (save, perhaps, for the integration of the climate control with the infotainment screen - a pet hate) and, in the case of our R-Line press car, very well equipped.
Oh sure, it's as benign as a tea-dunked digestive - but what was perceived as a fatal flaw at the original launch is now arguably among its most appealing assets. In the aftermath of the Bentayga and the Urus and even the Q7, there's plausibly plenty of room for a five-metre long SUV that isn't trying its damnedest to standout. Encouragingly, its V6 motor is tailored to fit. At idle it chugs softly away in the far distance and at speed never gets closer than a determined whirr. It makes for seen-and-not-heard motoring; the sort of noiseless, vibrationless, mostly effortless progress you'd probably associate with the Touareg way.
No, it is not hugely fast. Not on the silly scale of what now counts as a fast SUV. But nor is it slow. It will hustle well enough if you insist. It finds the outside lane of a motorway very smoothly. It obliges prompt overtaking. Most importantly, it does all of this without the wheeziness of an overworked, over-boosted 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot. The V6 hauls the Touareg's two-tonne burden uncomplainingly and without the sense of strain a smaller, less well balanced engine would bring to the job.
In the base Cayenne its lack of fireworks is doubtless an issue; in the Touareg, not so much. Volkswagen's SUV has few sporting pretensions, and honestly it's hard to imagine a repeat customer complaining much. Equipped with the air suspension, the ride quality is never less than good natured. Certainly it's more concerned with your comfort than your cornering speed, making the hushed - and obviously very spacious - Touareg a fine companion for long, laborious journeys.
It's no house of cards should you suddenly decide to lean against it either. True, there are no handling rabbits to pull from the drive select dial - opting for its sportiest mode will marginally improve body control, yet never in a way that makes you forget that all the mass is being carried an inconvenient distance from the ground. Nevertheless, the Touareg's huge footprint and adaptive, centre diff lock-enabled all-wheel system tend to make it feel surefooted in a unashamed, big shouldered kind of way. Leaving it in 'normal' (never was the description more apt) and simply accepting that your outside butt cheek is going to occasionally lever from the seat cover is the way to go about it.
The only problem with all this steady-as-she-goes maturity is that it doesn't really get you very far. Quite literally. Driven moderately at motorway speeds the Touareg in question averaged around 28mpg; not disgraceful in the grand petrol-burning V6 scheme of things by any means, but a fairway short of the TDI's quoted economy - and with the V6's performance assuredly of the buttoned-down sort (and with just 0.3 seconds separating the 0-62mph times) you do begin to wonder if the sacrifice in refinement is worth all the extra visits to the fuel pump.
Then there's the price for getting onboard in the first place. The R-Line's starting price is £56,175 - hefty enough before you get to the temptations of a conspicuously lengthy option list. Add up all the goodies on Volkswagen's press car - many of them worthy - and you hit £69,895. That's around £70 more than the starting price of a Porsche Cayenne S, a car which delivers an additional 100hp, much sharper handling and the obvious prospect of an upmarket badge. If none of those add-on attributes interest you, the Touareg is an obliging way of going against the grain. But it is unquestionably the vanilla choice in a rum and raisin class. If only it had V8 sprinkles.
SPECIFICATION - VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG R-LINE V6 TFSI
Engine: 2,995cc, V6, turbocharger
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340@3,500-4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,340-5,300rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,020 (unladen)
Price: £56,175 (£69,895)