- Smooth ride
- Attractive, well-appointed interior
- Refinement and quiet
- Top safety protection
- Backseat and cargo space are disappointing
- Surprisingly tough to maneuver and park
- Low fuel economy (gasoline engines)
The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is comfortable and capable.
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.
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.
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.