WASHINGTON, September 6, 2014 — Volkswagen’s Touareg has enjoyed some solid market success in its own right, thanks to the many loyal VW fans out there who prefer a mid-sized crossover SUV. Its pricing is well into the mid to upper-mid level price range, and in that arena competes with the BMW X5, Infiniti QX70, Audi Q7, and even the Mercedes M-class. It’s interesting to point out, however, that amongst its peers in this group it’s one of the few that doesn’t offer a third-row seating option, which could be a deal breaker for certain buyers.
The Touareg is also one of the few to offer a TDI variant. Yes, Turbocharged Direct Injected Diesel. Not the diesel’s of yesteryear, no these new ones are quiet, have tons of torque and do a great deal to help improve fuel economy. However, once you add on the additional price for the diesel, you’ll have to consider how long you’ll own this vehicle and how many years the extra MPG will take to offset the extra price.
While many people are caught-up with electric vehicles that have limited range or even hybrid cars, clean diesel is here, it’s available and has a national infrastructure to fuel up at. The 3.0-liter engine in the Touareg pumps out 240 horsepower and a whopping 406 lb-ft. of torque which is available at only 2000rpm. What this means in the real world is that you have tons of power for getting off the line, passing on the freeway and for payload.
How good is the fuel economy? How about 20 in the city and 29 on the highway? With a 26.4 gallon fuel tank you could possibly drive it for over 760 miles on a single tank. Compare that to the rated 17/23 for the standard V6 engine and you’ll have a good idea of why diesel can make a lot of sense to purchase for some long-term buyers.
VW did a great job with the 8-speed automatic which does feature a “sport/manual mode” which isn’t truly manual in that it won’t hold the gears and does force a shift at redline. Nonetheless, there may be some times when a driver wants that mode so it’s nice to have it available.
The interior is a nice blend of form and function, combining nice-to-the-touch materials inside along with good visibility, a decent amount of technology. The infotainment/navigation screen is quite the upgrade over the typical, standard screen found in other VWs today. Its 8-inch screen is a welcomed improvement and is very easy to read.
The sound system is good but not great unless you step up to the Fender package. It’s a multi-speaker, high-powered audio solution that sounds about as great as one can find in any new car on the road today. The bass thumps harder than Thumper (think Bambi) in heat with hearty mids and highs that are pronounced but don’t tear your ears off.
It’s fascinating to me that VWs sister company, Audi, can feature such a world class navigation display using Google Earth and yet the mapping system in the current crop of VWs looks as if it took a page from the video games of the late 90s or early 2000s. Sure it’s functional but because Audi exists and is such a close cousin to VW, it’s still unacceptable.
Driving is the most rewarding part of the Touareg, especially the TDI version. Its torque and off-the-line performance is nearly neck-snapping and gives you the impression that there’s no load in the world that it wouldn’t be able to handle. VW does rate the overall towing capacity at 7,716 pounds and the torque of the diesel should be able to handle it with ease.
Daily driving rewards one with a good sense of stability, stopping power and finesse for a vehicle that weighs nearly 5000 pounds and that’s quite an accomplishment. Even at its curb weight, it still feels mostly nimble with minimal understeer and a suspension that dampens very well yet is ridged enough at the same time.
There’s very little fo fault the Touareg TDI on except perhaps its price which puts it more into the premium market and once that happens, it’s a different ballgame of who VW is competing against. Give that, it’d be difficult to recommend it fully as a brand-new vehicle and one that I’d personally wait to pick-up as a 1-year old model as the diesel should last a super long time and being slightly used would make it more in line with what one would expect to pay given its relative quality and performance.