You know, I read an article once about a group of Volkswagen Touareg owners that got together to go off-roading a few times a year. These owners were proud to have a Volkswagen SUV that could truly go off-road, competing with the best that Jeep and others had to offer. Sadly, this group was the minority when it comes to Touareg owners.
Most people want a SUV/CUV that has the ability to tow and maybe go off-road, but mostly they just want to get little Suzy to school through the snow and make it to Costco before it closes. Volkswagen gets this reality and when it came time for the second generation Touareg, it kept little Suzy and her parents in mind. Lets see how it turned out.
For 2011 the new Touareg wears the new Volkswagen corporate face. With a two bar grille and three bar lower air dam, the front end will never offend anyone. You could almost call the front end plain until you notice the LED daytime running lights, which are what really gives the front end its style.
From the side the Touareg is anything but slab sided. The metal is shaped with some sculpting towards the rockers which visually brings the sides in a bit. The rear fenders are curved and flow into the rear taillights and C-pillar. At night when lit up, the rear taillights mimic the design of the new Jetta and upcoming Passat.
I do like how Volkswagen integrated the exhaust into the rear facia. It makes for a cleaner, more sculpted look. Overall the exterior is unoffensive and somewhat plain unless you notice the small details.
Nearly everything in the Touareg is made from high-quality soft touch material. The graining is unique and the texture is just right. High-gloss black plastic trim surrounds the center console and is strewn around the dash, mixed with aluminum and chrome trim. This makes for an upscale feel, though the black plastic was already scratched and I can only imagine what it will look like in a few years.
The seats themselves are road-trip comfy, but are covered in V-tex leatherette. Why is leather not standard on a $46,420 SUV? Not only is the material not leather, but it looks and feels somewhat cheap, almost sticky. You can tell this isn’t leather.
The standard hard-drive-based infotainment and navigation system is quite good. It takes a second to boot up when starting the vehicle, but there is no annoying button to press saying that you agree to not kill yourself while using the vehicle. In between the two main gauges sits a large color LCD display. This gives you the ability to control the infotainment system and trip computer from the steering wheel.
One of the the main pitfalls of the first generation Touareg was that little Suzy had limited rear seat legroom and cargo space. The new Touareg has the back seat riding on a track like some of the competition. This allows you to slide the rear seat fore and aft creating either more cargo room or rear seat legroom.
Besides the seats not having leather as standard equipment, the interior is vastly improved both in ergonomics and materials. Fit and finish is first rate and this interior can definitely compete with anything in its class.
My tester featured the base 3.6-liter direct-injection VR6 engine which is good for 280-horsepower and 265 pound feet sent to the wheels through the 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The power is handled by a one choice eight-speed automatic transmission. While the VR6 is no race car, it has enough grunt to move out of its own way on the highway.
In keeping the new Touareg in-line with what little Suzy’s parents will actually use the vehicle for, Volkswagen decided to put the Touareg on a sizable diet. A 450 pound diet to be exact. One of the main components of this diet was the 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Volkswagen has dumped the mechanical locking differentials and instead went with a full-time electronically controlled all-wheel drive system.
In all reality, this was a smart move. The new Touareg will more than likely be able to handle anything that Suzy’s parents will encounter on the way to school or Costco. Slush and snow will be no match for the Touareg. There is an off-road mode which electronically changes the all-wheel drive system to allow more slip. There is also hill descent. If you happen to be one of those people that actually took your Touareg off-road, have no fear. Volkswagen is offering a terrain tech package that includes a center and rear locking differential.
I was happily surprised by the eight-speed automatic. While driving on the highway down to Iowa it never seemed to hunt for gears even when going through some hills. While it did like to seek top gear, the transmission never seemed lazy and always seemed to hold the lower gears when necessary.
The steering is spot on, nicely weighted both at parking lot speeds and on the highway. There was very little slop and it felt connected to the road.
Fuel economy in the VR6 model is up 20 percent due to the new transmission, weight loss, and better aerodynamics. Rated at 16 city and 23 highway, I saw an average of 21.5 mpg on a highway trip cruising north of 70 mph. That’s not terrible considering the Touareg is still no lightweight; unfortunately that is on premium fuel.
Though my tester didn’t feature any options, the price tag was $46,420. That’s quite a bit of coin for a Volkswagen. In fact, that’s Audi Q7 territory. It seems Volkswagen is comparing its new Touareg to the BMW X5, Acura MDX, and GMC Acadia SL. There’s no question this is a more refined vehicle than the Acadia, and when looking at price, Volkswagen is definitely giving you more standard equipment than both Acura and BMW. While it doesn’t wear the premium badge of a BMW or Acura, it can definitely compete.
So did Volkswagen hit the nail on the head? Will little Suzy and her parents be happy driving in a Touareg to school and Costco? What about those off-roaders? Well, the terrain tech package will keep the off-roaders happy, and I am pleased to report that little Suzy and her parents would be very happy in a new Touareg.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Volkswagen