- Quiet cabin
- Luxury-level interior
- Refined driving feel
- Torquey, efficient TDI
- Hybrid doesn't make sense next to TDI
- Few high-tech options
- Luxury price, mainstream brand
The 2015 Volkswagen Touareg is expensive and fancy for a VW, but less expensive than some comparable luxury-SUV options.
The 2015 Volkswagen Touareg is a lavish vehicle, with a premium price, offered alongside the brand's more mainstream models—albeit more of a rival to models with luxury badges.
The Touareg isn't just the most expensive and luxurious model VW sells in the U.S.; it's the larger of two sport-utility vehicles in the company's lineup, and its basic underpinnings are shared with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne.
Although the Touareg got more of a road focus with its last redesign, it remains relatively rugged. The goal then was to give it broader appeal—though the price remains a hangup, and VW's new three-row SUV expected next year will close the market gap, with more value and a lower price.
That said, the latest Touareg is considerably lighter than its porcine predecessor; it's also nicer inside, and more elegant on the exterior, with less of a butch appearance. A slightly wider body, and somewhat longer wheelbase and length give the design more of a conventional crossover-wagon look (and functionally, more space), while the interior layout has remained much the same, with its more upright orientation compared to other family crossovers. For 2015, Volkswagen is subtly redesigning the front end, with a new four-bar grille and a chrome band for the lower fascia. The hatch has also been reshaped, and there are new wheel designs.
Eight-speed automatic transmissions and full-time four-wheel drive are the building blocks in the powertrain department, while under the hood there are three quite different engine choices. Base versions get a conventional gasoline V-6--a 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower narrow-angle V-6 (VR6)--while two other versions show the way toward both more power and better gas mileage, albeit at a price premium.
The clean-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 TDI has been our favorite of the lineup, with its strong torque output (407 lb-ft) and confident feel for towing (up to 7,700 pounds) or highway cruising. An updated version of this engine steps up to 240 hp and even better fuel efficiency.
The Hybrid model combines a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor system, sandwiched between the engine and transmission, for a combined 380 horsepower--and an EPA rating of 20 mpg in city driving. It gets a better boost in highway driving compared to other hybrids, due to the system's ability to disengage the engine and motor for long high-speed coasting.
The Touareg used to be grossly overweight, but with its last redesign VW made it lighter overall, and better-detailed inside. Astoundingly--through the use of advanced materials and techniques--it engineered about 450 pounds out of the vehicle, gaining up to 20 percent better fuel efficiency. It still offers way more truck-like ability than most other crossovers do--and more off-road and towing ability than most shoppers are likely to need. Think of that as a plus or a minus, depending on priorities.
Functionally, the Touareg's high seating position affords a good view out ahead. Front seats are excellent, but the rather tall and very wide center console tends to make the front area feel more confining than it needs to be. There's space for five, and the adult-sized rear bench can slide fore and aft through six inches of travel. You won't find a third-row seat like the one in Audi's longer Q7, but cargo space is quite good in the Touareg, with a power-folding arrangement that yields a fully flat cargo floor.
In all, the interior has luxury-class accommodations for four adults, and the cabin appointments feel more in line with the luxury set than the frugal set. It's in synch with the other VW models in design, yet it's appointed with nicely finished materials that share more in common with Audi in look and feel. Ride quality is quite good, but the high seating position accentuates smaller motions and choppy pavement. VW has added more chrome trim, new wood finishes, and a heated steering wheel for 2015, as well.
Safety is also enhanced for 2015, with the addition of blind-spot monitors, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise; the radar system also includes Front Assist with city emergency braking, and there's an automatic post-collision braking function. The Touareg continues to score well in IIHS testing, although it still hasn't been crashed by the NHTSA.
The 2015 Touareg offers a long list of standard features, although some shoppers might find that it's not quite in lock step with the luxury price. Leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and memory seats are all included in the base Sport model. Executive and Hybrid models add premium audio, rear-obstacle detection, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, and heated rear seats. Major options include an impressive 620-watt Dynaudio premium sound system, and a navigation system with upgraded display and built-in music storage.