New & Used Volkswagen Touareg: In Depth
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The Volkswagen Touareg is surprisingly capable, even after the mid-size SUV lost some of its off-road gear in the second generation. The Touareg sits atop VW's crossover lineup, competing with the likes of the Ford Explorer, Honda's Pilot, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Toyota's Highlander and 4Runner.
The Touareg offers gasoline and diesel versions, the latter with impressive fuel economy but with prices that vault the Volkswagen into BMW X5 territory.
After a 2015 refresh, the 2016 Touareg drops its Hybrid model and adds an Automatic Post-Collision Braking system that automatically applies the brakes after a crash to help prevent further damage. Regular-grade fuel is now acceptable for the gasoline V-6, and VW has shuffled some equipment as well. The base model loses some features but also drops in price by $2,000. The Lux and Executive models add 14-way power-adjustable ventilated front seats, and the Executive gets a suite of safety features that includes VW's Area View exterior camera system, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking.
MORE: Read our 2016 Volkswagen Touareg review, for more details, as well as photos, specs, and pricing
A completely redesigned Touareg, along with a new Touareg Hybrid model, arrived for the 2011 model year. It offered a choice of three powertrains, two of which continue to this day. The base engine is a 280-hp V-6 and buyers can opt for a turbodiesel V-6 with 240 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. A hybrid edition with 380 net horsepower has been discontinued this year. The diesel is rated at 20 mpg city, 29 highway, which is quite frugal for such a large vehicle.
Features changed very little into 2012 and 2013, with only a few cosmetic differences. The 2013 model year brought new LED taillamps for Hybrid models, most notably.
A special Touareg X edition was introduced at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. With 19-inch Moab alloy wheels, plus a panoramic sunroof, silver-anodized roof rails, bi-xenon headlamps, darkened taillights, and special logos, this 2013 special edition celebrated the model's tenth anniversary. Then the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg got a sportier R-Line variant offering 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique front bumper, side skirts, LED taillights, and oval-shaped dual exhaust tips. Inside, it added aluminum trim, stainless-steel scuff plates, aluminum sport pedals and an R-Line steering wheel.
An updated Touareg arrived for 2015. Exterior changes were subtle, with the most obvious being a more aggressive front fascia and revised lighting elements. Bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights became standard. Cabin materials were upgraded, including the trim and switchgear.
The aim of this most recent update was to help move the Touareg upmarket some to make room for a less costly mainstream three-row crossover that VW will build at its U.S. factory. The unnamed crossover is due within a year or two. At that time, the Tiguan will also grow to include a three-row option, leaving the Touareg as the more upscale option within the VW crossover lineup, but only with two seating rows.
The diesel comes at a premium, expanding the Touareg's substantial price tag into luxury-SUV territory—plotting it against luxury rivals. Towing capacity with the Touareg, though, is quite impressive, and VW thoroughly improved the basic design over the first generation with better proportions and styling details. The Touareg remains a five-seat SUV, though, while the related Audi Q7 is a three-row crossover. Cargo space is good, too, and though the ride quality is a little firm, the Touareg gives many high-end shoppers a reason to look down in price without moving down in performance.
The first-generation Touareg
The first-generation Touareg was introduced in the U.S. for the 2004 model year. This version looked far more like a tall wagon than a truck, but it actually had more trucklike ability than most modern utility vehicles, with rugged off-roading chops and impressive trailer-towing ability. Early models were powered by either a 220-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 (actually VW's narrow-angle VR6 engine) or a 310-hp, 4.2-liter V-8. Later that year—and also for the 2006 model year, but not for 2005—VW made what is still regarded by some to be the king of the Touareg models: a Touareg TDI model, powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection diesel V-10, making 310 hp and a massive 553 pound-feet of torque. It gave the Touareg the ability to tow heavy trailer loads without breaking a sweat.
The V-6 Touareg models were a different story entirely. With just 220 horsepower to move more than 5,000 pounds—and not a lot of low-range torque—the engine felt overwhelmed and performance was sluggish even though the six-speed automatic transmission offered Tiptronic manual control and did its best. A new, 276-hp, 3.6-liter version of the VR6, introduced for 2007, was the first six-cylinder model to prove adequate. The V-8 model wasn't downright fast either, but it accelerated briskly enough and cruised comfortably; that engine was upgraded to 350 hp in 2007.
Overall, first-gen Touareg models had impressive interior appointments, room for five adults, and one of the quietest, more refined rides of any utility vehicle. However, unlike some other vehicles its size, the Touareg didn't (and still doesn't) have a third row of seating. There was also not much cargo space with the back seats up. Sturdy off-road hardware, with help from modern electronics, was part of the package. With an available air suspension, the Touareg offered three different ride heights and was a more-than-able off-road device. It could handle modest rock-scrambling, along with slick, muddy slopes or loose sand. And for all Touareg models, safety was top-notch.
For 2008, Volkswagen renamed the Touareg the Touareg 2, signifying a mild refresh and a revised list of features, including an improved off-road anti-lock braking mode plus new options such as adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot warning system. Truthfully, the Touareg hadn't changed much. In 2009, the Touareg got a more modern, economical V-6 TDI, replacing the big V-10 diesel. While this engine no longer had the semi-like torque output, at 221 hp and 407 pound-feet it was still the best choice for trailer-towing. It was rated at 17 mpg city, 25 highway and was 50-state emissions legal this time. The V-8 model was dropped for 2010.