Road Tested: 2016 Volkswagen Touran on the roads of Europe

With plenty of power and every meaningful option, this van should be the commuter-of-choice for families everywhere in Europe.

Photos by Darin Pemberton

KAISERSLAUTERN, GERMANY, March 29, 2016 — The Touran is built around one thing – get people and their stuff from where they are to where they want to be.

To test that, I loaded my teenage son and daughter, my daughter’s friend, and an adult friend of mine, and a weekend’s worth of gear. Our destination – the city of Love.  Paris, France – about 290 miles from my home in southwestern Germany.

With a supportive and comfortable driver’s seat, legroom is plentiful.  Yours truly wears 36 inseam jeans and drove the van for three days before realizing the driver’s seat was only about halfway back to its farthest position.

Passengers fair as well, although my grown-up co-pilot at 5’1” found one complaint – the weird angle required to rest her bare feet up on the dash from time to time.

The teens in the back seat – ranging from 5’ 1” to 5’ 10” did not complain once – the middle seat position being the least comfortable. Each of the outward seats had the benefit of airplane-style fold-down tray tables, complete with cup holder cut-outs.

Nice touch, Vee-Dub! No one complained about sore rumps – as the seats are comfortable and supportive.

Hitting the open road – Autobahn 6 in this case – the Touran proved an excellent participant no matter the speed limit or traffic congestion.  The 2.0L TDI Diesel routed through VW’s excellent DSG gearbox extremely well, the engine’s 280lbs-ft of torque was never more than a throttle-jab away.

Perfect tuning for commuting, the Touran never felt out of its power band for more than a split-second until the DSG caught up with the driver’s applied motivation to the throttle.

Cruising up to an indicated 220km/hr – and seeing 235km/h on a slight downhill – the Touran was solid at speed.

Read: Road tested: 2015 KIA Sedona SXL

For those who do not want to do the math, this little van cruises at 135mph. Cruises – not stressed nor panicked ‘barely’ reaching that speed – the Touran reached those speeds without drama.

Despite its height, the Touran never felt out of sorts nor adversely affected by the wind at speed.

Speaking of wind – the most-glaring negative aspect was the wind noise in the cabin above about 150km/hr. Approaching 180km/hr the wind noise made even conversation difficult from the front to the back seats.

Above 180km/hr, forget about it. Not worth even talking.

The Touran is essentially a minivan though calling it a ‘tall wagon’ might be the sexier term. The driver’s seat offers excellent sight lines apart from knowing where the front of the car is. Navigating Paris streets was a breeze, taking advantage of the front and side visibility and the Touran’s excellent proximity sensors.

At one point near the Arch De Triumph, I was turning right to hear the screaming sensor – stopped me as a car breezed by on the right side merely inches from the VW.

Score one for electronic wizardry.

Through the French countryside the 3400lbs Touran did not so much as hiccup through winding roads and elevation changes.

Stopping only to admire quaint villages, the Touran could motor along under varying loads without flinching. Passing power was available on demand.

The DSG transmission might be the single best car part ever designed.  Instant shifts with capable driver-mind-reading.

Steering is perfectly weighted – even wearing the Blizzaks fitted to the Touran’s wheels.

The tires – as much as they can being winter tires – communicated nicely through the steering column.

The chassis is well-sorted.  Through the handling loops, through the farmland around Kaiserslautern (Up from Otterbach – between there and Baalborn), the Touran felt capable, responsive and avoids strong understeer typical in minivans of the past.

Lift-throttle oversteer or rotation was easily modulated.  (Hey Volkswagen – make this car AWD to save the poor front tires!)

Around town the Touran is a capable commuter, back from Paris and over the two weeks I commuted to work, the Touran recorded (as displayed, not verified through math) 34.7mpg for my 6km commute.  Respectable numbers in a car as comfortable and capable as the Touran.

For comparison consider the fuel economy reporting website showing 37.4mpg for the 2016 Smart Fourtwo. For the room, comfort, power and acumen of the Touran, I’d gladly sacrifice three mpg.  I would gladly sacrifice ten mpg.’s rating for the Touran is 35.6 making the margin even smaller.

While fuel economy is probably one of the last car-buying criteria I consider – with ‘emissions’ being an absolute NON-factor – having 700+mile range is terrific (~22-gallon tank @ ~34mpg) something I could get used to.

However, it is something I could get used to only with the kind of performance offered by this car.  700 mile range in a slow, boring, or otherwise uninspired car would be a deal breaker.

However, with as-tested MSRP of 41.890,00€ – this car is expensive.  Approaching $45,000, the money buys you many great features – from auto parking to USB plug-ins, to more than 40 cubbies and storage spots.

I think the price point might be what is keeping the Touran on this side of the Atlantic.  With larger vans from Honda, Kia and others hovering around $10,000 less, the Touran would face stiff competition – and especially from its stable-mate the Tiguan.

In summary, the Touran is an excellent performer. It is comfortable with great ergonomics and sight lines.  There is room enough for Five adult-sized people and their stuff.

Come on America – it’s just not fair Europe gets this kind of ‘benefit’.  Channel your inner Bernie and demand goodness be shared with the masses.  The Touran is a commodity capable of transforming malls, highways, and soccer parking lots, removing simply awful ‘basic’ group transportation and providing cable, stylish, dare-I-say FUN for the whole family.

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