Unlike most other Volkswagen models, which have become less expensive and somewhat less sophisticated in order to gain mass-market appeal, the Touareg midsize SUV is a genuine luxury vehicle. Based on the same platform as the Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg isn't cheap but offers buyers an impressive array of attributes: a comfortable and sumptuous and interior, excellent towing abilities and good fuel economy, especially with the optional diesel hybrid powertrains.
For the latest model year, the Touareg gets a minor facelift, more standard equipment and new safety features.
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 wears a simple and Teutonic design. 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 without 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.
Towing capacity is rated at a 7,700 pounds with the available towing package - those looking to do any serious trailering will want to spring for this package, as the Touareg is rated for just 1,650 lbs. without it.
The standard Touareg is available with two engine choices: a gas-burning V6 and a TDI turbodiesel V6. A gas-electric hybrid drivetrain (detailed below) is also offered.
The standard V6 displaces 3.6-liters and is good for 280 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Those willing to drop a bit more money for more torque and improved mpgs can opt for the oil-burning 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. This mill got a slight power increase of 15 ponies for the latest model year, bringing the total count to 240 horsepower, while torque stands pat at an impressive 406 lb-ft. Mileage checks in at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. This gearbox offers a sport mode for spirited driving along with a dynamic shift program that adapts to the driver's individual style and adjusts the shift points accordingly.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Touareg is available in four different trim levels - Sport, Sport with Navigation, Lux and Executive - all of which can be paired with either the V6 or the TDI.
The entry-level Sport comes well-equipped with leatherette upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker touchscreen-activated AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM sound system with iPod integration, ambient lighting, a multi-function trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Few will be surprised with what the Sport with Navigation adds to the Sport trim's features - a touch screen-activated navigation system.
The Lux trim adds leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, a motion-activated trunk opening feature, keyless entry with push-button start, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated and power-adjustable and power-folding side mirrors and genuine Walnut interior wood trim.
The top-shelf Executive trim brings a 10-speaker, 620-watt Dynaudio stereo system, heated rear seats, keyless access with push-button start, park distance control and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Available on both VR6 and TDI Touareg models, a new R-Line package gives the big SUV a more aggressive look.
From the outside, the Touareg R-Line is easily recognizable by its 20-inch wheels, unique front fascia, side skirts, LED taillights and oval exhaust outlets. The package also includes plenty of R-Line badging.
Inside, the R-Line Touareg is treated to gloss black and aluminum trim accents, R-Line scuff plates, aluminum sport pedals, and an R-Line steering wheel.
The R-Line trim doesn't add any power, but the package does include a sport-tuned suspension.
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.
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.
Like all Touareg models regardless of the powertrain configuration, the Hybrid variant has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds when equipped with the factory-installed tow package.
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.
Additionally, buyers can order the Touareg with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist, Side Assist, Front Assist and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System at an extra cost.
For the price, the only rivals to the Touareg that can match it in off-road capability are the Land Rover LR4 and the Lexus GX. More pavement-focused rivals include the fine-driving BMW X5 and the refined Acura MDX.
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 Volvo XC90 and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.