2009 Volkswagen Touareg Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 3, 2009

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is comfortable and capable.

In bringing you this comprehensive review covering the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg, TheCarConnection.com looks to some of the most respected review sources on the Web. In order to make the review especially useful, TheCarConnection.com's editors include their firsthand driving experience and impressions in this definitive assessment.

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is a mid-size SUV that blends softer styling with very serious off-road capabilities. Although the Touareg is luxurious and comfortable, it’s woefully inefficient—both in terms of space and fuel economy.

The Volkswagen Touareg got a modest restyling for last year, and VW felt it warranted a moniker change to "Touareg2." The newer styling elements include more brightwork around the headlights and front air intakes, while a new LED rear lamp takes the place of the lighting on the original Touareg. Wind-tunnel testing leads to a more aerodynamic shape, while roof rails are now included as standard fare, and a discreet rear spoiler blends in much better with the silhouette.

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is a capable luxury SUV, which means that the interior is a drastic departure from VW's traditionally Spartan cabins. Upscale touches include fine leather, metal, and wood interior materials, while soft-touch plastics round out the cabin design. Fit and finish is superb as well, and while most gauges are easy to read, there is a rather confusing array of buttons and controls.

Review continues below

Seating and utility is a bit of a mixed bag on the Touareg. The front seats are spectacular, managing to be both luxuriously soft yet firm enough for ache-free long drives—and the driving position is nice and upright—but the rear seats disappoint. The second-row bench is comfortable, but there’s no third-row seat and surprisingly little room for either passengers or cargo in back.

For 2009, Volkswagen ditches the previously available V-10 turbodiesel and replaces it with a more fuel-efficient 221-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, which will be phased in later in the model year. While the V-6 turbodiesel is no longer the hulk of the powertrain lineup, it meets emissions regulations in all 50 states and gets much better fuel economy—expect an EPA highway fuel economy rating of around 25 mpg.

The 3.6-liter gasoline V-6—an updated version of VW’s venerable narrow-angle VR6 engine—offers 276 horsepower from 3.6 liters of displacement, but it doesn't have a lot of low-rev torque to move the heavy Touareg or offer much in the way of acceleration. The available V-8 pumps 350 hp out of 4.2 liters and provides much more satisfying acceleration. When properly equipped, the Volkswagen Touareg can haul up to 7,716 pounds.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg has an extremely smooth, settled ride that's comfortable but not as bouncy as some SUVs, and the interior is remarkably quiet. It also handles well for a vehicle that in some trims can approach three tons—although the weight can be felt in abrupt maneuvers. Despite the Touareg's length and width, which aren't that different from a mid-size sedan's, the Touareg is somewhat difficult to park, with limited rearward visibility—though now-standard parking sensors help.

The Touareg's all-wheel-drive system has a low range for serious off-roading, along with the impressive approach and departure angles to conquer some precarious situations. Hill descent and climb assist, two electronic aids, also help with slippery situations. The available air suspension package brings the ability to adjust ride height and improves handling both on- and off-road.

Several features that were optional before are now standard on the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg, such as a power rear liftgate, sonar parking sensors, and Sirius Satellite Radio. Heated seats, a sunroof, keyless entry, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control are also included. Major options include a high-end Dynaudio sound system, a navigation system, adaptive cruise control, and cricket leather and walnut trim upgrades. A Bluetooth hands-free system is still not offered.

Front side airbags, full-length side curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are all standard on the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg. It has done very well in federal crash tests, with top five-star ratings in both frontal and side-impact tests.

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2009 Volkswagen Touareg

Styling

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg returns with the same sleek profile and appealing interior.

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is handsomely styled, most reviewers agree, with a more rugged stance than the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne with which it’s related.

According to reviewers at Edmunds, the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg "is a midsize five-passenger SUV available in two trim levels that correspond to engine options: VR6 and V8." The exterior is stylish, and despite the fact that the Touareg Volkswagen is a departure from VW's traditional small car offerings, it still maintains the corporate image. Kelley Blue Book states that the Volkswagen Touareg "looks every bit a member of the VW family, with restyled headlamps and a large chrome grille that echoes the look of the Volkswagen Passat." As for exterior styling elements, Cars.com notes that the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg sports "scalloped headlights with pronounced bezels," while the rear "has darker taillights and a new roof spoiler." Unlike some just-for-show SUVs, the Touareg Volkswagen is very capable off-road, which Kelley Blue Book recognizes in the styling, by commenting that the Touareg's "tall, wide stance gives the impression that it's ready to take on the toughest trails." New for 2009 is a Volkswagen Touareg with a V-6 turbodiesel, although Motor Trend points out that, "from the outside, the only real evidence that this is a diesel is the TDI badge."

The interior of the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg earns praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com for its high-end styling, although some reviewers complain about the abundance of controls. For 2009, Volkswagen upgrades the Touareg's navigation system, and Automobile Magazine says "a much nicer display and more intuitive functionality make interacting with the navigation system a breeze" now. Edmunds, meanwhile, raves about the Volkswagen Touareg's "upscale, elegant cabin," while ConsumerGuide notes that "the gauges, dashboard, and console look contemporary and upscale." However, they find "the proliferation of buttons and controls requires a preflight briefing."

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2009 Volkswagen Touareg

Performance

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg lacks impressive on-road performance, though its off-road ability is respectable; fuel economy is dismal, but those who need better numbers now have a new clean-diesel option.

Any time you drive a vehicle that weighs north of 5,000 pounds, you should expect to pay a hefty price at the pump. That is generally true for the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg, but a new V-6 turbodiesel engine option helps ease the pain when filling up for your next adventure.

As noted earlier, the big news for the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is that it now offers a relatively fuel-efficient, torque-happy V-6 turbodiesel engine. ConsumerGuide lists power output at 221 horsepower, while the other options include a "3.6-liter V6 model [that] has 280 hp [and] the 4.2-liter V8 model [that] has 350." Performance from the Touareg Volkswagen's standard V-6 isn't overly impressive, as ConsumerGuide notes that "the V6 labors in mountain driving and highway passing sprints," but the Volkswagen Touareg's V-8 "delivers better all-around acceleration and is a necessity for towing." The turbodiesel, on the other hand, wins rave reviews in articles researched by TheCarConnection.com. Car and Driver says that the Volkswagen "Touareg V-6 TDI is a remarkably smooth SUV" with "almost none of the characteristic growl that distinguishes the Touareg V-10 TDI from its gasoline-powered competition." Motor Trend adds that "even though the TDI Touareg has less horsepower than the gas V-6 and the diesel version weighs about 110 lb more, you wouldn't know it from behind the wheel."

Despite the availability of three different engines, Edmunds says that "a six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and a low-range gear are standard." Motor Trend raves about the "excellent six-speed automatic" that is fitted to the Volkswagen Touareg, while Kelley Blue Book reports that "hard-core off-roaders will also appreciate the Touareg 2's optional locking rear differential."

Diesel engines are known for two things: high torque and high fuel economy. The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI delivers on both counts, but probably more impressive is fuel economy. While the EPA estimates that the conventional V-6 will get 14 mpg city, 20 highway highway and the V-8 gets just 13/18 mpg, the TDI fares much better. While official EPA estimates aren't available, reports read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that the turbodiesel should get 17 mpg city, 25 highway.

The Touareg Volkswagen's hefty curb weight exacts a bit of a penalty in terms of handling, though ride quality is a plus. On the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, Automobile Magazine reviewers "found the amount of body roll to be excessive." ConsumerGuide, meanwhile, reports that "the steering has a linear feel, but it isn't as precise as it should be." Braking isn't exactly a strong suit either, with Car and Driver claiming that the Volkswagen Touareg has the "longest braking distance of this pack" of eight SUVs in their comparison test. The Touareg's off-road credentials are impressive, though, with Popular Mechanics calling the Touareg "hypercapable off-road." Also on the positive side, the Volkswagen Touareg's ride quality is compliant. ConsumerGuide contends that "the impressively rigid structure enhances comfort," although "bumps intrude on models equipped with the 19-inch wheels, and some testers complained of float in Touaregs so equipped."

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2009 Volkswagen Touareg

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg earns its sticker price with the quality of its materials and construction, but it comes up short on utility.

The mid-size 2009 Volkswagen Touareg SUV boasts top-notch materials and assembly, but it features a surprising lack of space for both passengers and cargo.

The Volkswagen Touareg stands out in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com for its plush, comfortable front seats. ConsumerGuide observes that the "firm and comfortable seats" up front combine with a "standard tilt and telescopic steering wheel [that] helps drivers find an ideal position" to create an exceedingly comfortable driving environment. MyRide.com reviewers agree, noting that "the long bottom cushion is perfect for long thighs, offering plenty of support." However, the Volkswagen Touareg is unanimously derided for its low overall seating capacity—Kelley Blue Book notes that "many SUVs now offer a third row of seats, increasing occupant capacity to seven, but the Touareg 2 remains a two-row SUV, thus limiting the number of seats to five." Adding insult to injury, Cars.com reports that the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg's "99 cubic feet of passenger volume is smaller than some of its competitors," while ConsumerGuide says that "foot and knee space" in the back "shrinks to marginal with the front seats set far back."

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg's story doesn't get much more appealing when considering the available cargo room, which is far from ideal and leads many to wonder where all the interior space went. Edmunds is somewhat shocked to find that "cargo capacity is 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and a mere 71 cubic feet when they're folded. A humble Honda CR-V beats that." ConsumerGuide, on the other hand, finds that the cargo space on the Touareg Volkswagen is "tall and wide rather than long, but it is spacious enough," although the rear seatbacks don't fold flat until you complete "an annoying ritual of flipping the lower cushions and removing the headrests."

The one saving grace for the Volkswagen Touareg in this category is its build and materials quality, which is unimpeachable. Edmunds notes that "most surfaces are soft-touch, and hard surfaces...feel smooth and substantial," while "build quality is excellent, too." Kelley Blue Book adds that the Volkswagen Touareg's interior is a "richly-appointed cabin of leather, wood and chrome trim" that "easily rivals the best in the luxury SUV class." As for the V-6 turbodiesel, Motor Trend says that "the cabin is just as nicely equipped as other Touaregs." The premium leather is also worth mentioning, as MyRide.com reviewers comment that the leather-covered steering wheel "feels good in the hands; so does the similarly wrapped shift handle."

One area where premium SUVs earn their chops is in noise reduction, and reviews indicate that the Touareg Volkswagen is up to any competitor's challenge. ConsumerGuide is particularly pleased with the cabin noise, cooing that "V-8 versions make a pleasant, expensive-sounding growl at full throttle" while also noting that "wind rush is low for an SUV."

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2009 Volkswagen Touareg

Safety

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg boasts impeccable safety scores and a wide range of standard safety features.

Sometimes, bigger really is better. Such is the case with the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg, which leverages its impressive weight and stout construction.

In NHTSA crash tests, the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg exhibits virtually no structural weaknesses. After subjecting the Volkswagen Touareg to its full array of tests, NHTSA awards the Touareg Volkswagen a perfect five-star rating in every impact category, including front impacts on both the driver and passenger side, as well as side impacts to either side of the Volkswagen Touareg. The IIHS has not yet tested the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg.

In addition to the stellar crash-test ratings, TheCarConnection.com's research shows that the Touareg Volkswagen offers a wide range of active and passive safety features. Edmunds reports that all Volkswagen Touaregs come with "antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, hill descent and incline roll-back control." In addition to those active features, ConsumerGuide says that "front side airbags, and curtain side airbags" are included as standard fare. Cars.com adds that "an automatic brake-drying feature for rainy weather" is standard, while the Volkswagen Touareg also offers an "optional backup camera."

Popular Mechanics brings word of a new rollover protection system, Active Rollover Protection, that "activates the side and side-curtain airbags to reduce the possibility of injury" if sensors detect that the Touareg is about to go belly up. They also mention a new tire-pressure monitoring system that "delivers real-time air-pressure readings to the driver more quickly and accurately."

Another of the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg's safety "features" is its relatively good visibility. Although ConsumerGuide reports that "hampering visibility to the front corners are large outside mirrors and to the rear are back-seat headrests," they do add that "the rearview camera is a help."

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2009 Volkswagen Touareg

Features

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg offers a strong list of base standard features, but the options list gets pricey in a hurry.

The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg starts at just under $40,000 and comes equipped with a wide range of features, but moving up toward the fully optioned, $55,000-plus Volkswagen Touareg starts to diminish the vehicle's overall value.

For your $40,000 entry fee, the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 comes "standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear parking assist, [and] a tilt/telescoping steering wheel," according to Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book reports that "dual-zone automatic climate controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights, [and] heated seats" are also among the standard features. Moving up to the Volkswagen Touareg V-8, ConsumerGuide finds that the standard features list grows to include a "heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, 12-way power passenger seat, memory system (driver seat, mirrors), wood interior trim, automatic day/night outside mirrors, [and] rear side sunshades."

The Touareg Volkswagen's options list holds something for just about everyone, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. A new Lux Plus package for the Volkswagen Touareg adds such features as "keyless access and starting, upgraded sound system," and, for the V-6 versions, all of the V-8's upgraded standard features, according to ConsumerGuide. Another package that the reviewers at Edmunds find desirable is the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg "Technology Package, [which] adds a rearview camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system and an upgraded 11-speaker audio system. A locking rear differential is also available." Unfortunately, Bluetooth functionality is not yet available on the Touareg Volkswagen.

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