Unlike traditional hybrid vehicles, the gas-electric version of Volkswagen's midsize Touareg luxury SUV isn't focused solely on achieving sky-high fuel economy numbers. Instead, it was designed to offer V8 power and V6 mileage while maintaining the luxury and capability of the standard Touareg.
The Touareg Hybrid, which is VW's first-ever hybrid vehicle, uses a 3.0-liter supercharged and direct injection V6 gasoline engine that is paired with an electric motor that significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions compared to the last-gen V8 model it replaces.
The electric motor draws power from a nickel metal-hydride battery pack fitted beneath the luggage compartment. The 288-volt battery consists of 240 individual cells and offers an energy density of 1.7 kWh. The gas and electric systems are capable of running independently or together. When combined, they produce a total of 380 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque.
The Hybrid uses an eight-speed automatic transmission, helping it to achieve an EPA rated 24 miles per gallon during highway driving. City mileage is pegged at 20 mpg. When the driver releases the gas pedal, the engine will shut off while a special clutch disengages the transmission from the engine, allowing it to "coast" forward emission free without electric or combustion power to further aid in fuel savings.
Regenerative breaking also allows the electric motor to recover kinetic energy during coasting and braking to help recharge the nickel metal-hydride battery pack. Touareg Hybrid can drive up to 30 mph on pure electric power.
The Touareg Hybrid packs a standard start-stop system, which automatically stops the engine during idling. In this system, the brake is the control mechanism and, when activated, stops the engine. When the brake is released, the engine starts again. This function improves fuel economy and reduces emissions, especially during city driving conditions.
Like all Touareg models regardless of the powertrain configuration, the Hybrid variant has a towing capacity of 7,700 lbs. when equipped with the factory-installed tow package.
Larger, Lighter and Still Luxurious
Aside from its powertrain, the Hybrid is essentially the same as the standard Touareg. Compared to last-gen model, the latest Touareg is wider and has a shorter overall height for a stronger visual presence. A longer wheelbase and increased overall length provide more room inside the cabin, while the use of new materials and various other changes have reduced vehicle weight by roughly 350.
Stylistically, the SUV is highlighted by Volkwagen's horizontally oriented corporate grille, which connects to trapezoidal headlight housings that carry U-shaped LED running lights and bi-xenon high intensity Gas-Discharged headlamps. 'L-Design' taillights and triangle-shaped exhaust outlets dress up the rear end, and the overall look is one of understated athleticism.
The Touareg's high-quality interior belies Volkswagen's "people's car" tagline with a high-quality look and feel worthy of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Attractive wood and metal trim pieces abound, and the dashboard's controls are well laid-out. With 32 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Touareg offers class-competitive stowage space, and a full 64 cubic feet are available with the second-row seats folded. Unlike some competitors, no third-row seat is available, meaning the SUV is limited to carrying five occupants.
An all-independent suspension composed largely of aluminum is one of the factors in the Touareg's weight loss for the latest generation, and it also contributes to the SUV's buttoned-down handling dynamics. All Touareg models come standard with Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system, which sends 40 percent of power to the front axle and 60 percent to the rear under normal driving conditions.
While Volkswagen offers the Touareg with off-road-ready items like a two-speed transfer case and skid plates in other markets, the automaker doesn't expect U.S. buyers to venture off the pavement and therefore leaves those goodies off the options list. Even with those extras, the Touareg offers a decent amount of off-road capability thanks to a high-travel suspension along with generous approach and departure angles.
Standard and Optional Features
The Touareg Hybrid comes well-equipped with leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, touchscreen-activated navigation system, heated and power-adjustable front seats, an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM sound system with iPod integration, ambient lighting, a multi-function trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, cruise control, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated and power-adjustable and power-folding side mirrors, keyless access with push-button start and genuine Walnut interior wood trim.
All Touareg models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and Rollover Sensor System, which monitors the vehicle's turning angle and speed and can help detect a possible rollover situation.
The Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid's largest competitor is probably the less expensive standard Touareg itself, but aside from that the BMW X5 stands the greatest chance of competing in luxury appointments and off road capability. Other capable competitors include the Lexus GX460, Volvo XC90 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.