While Volkswagen has managed to trim a few hundred pounds from the 2011 Touareg compared to last year's model, it still isn't light.
With three powertrains on offer in the 2011 Touareg, you have a choice between standard gasoline or two different shades of green, both at a slight premium. A conventional gasoline V-6—actually a 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower version of VW's VR6—is the base engine, then there's also a clean-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 TDI that makes 225 horsepower, or a new Hybrid, which combines a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric traction motor for total power of 380 horsepower.
All three Touareg models use a new eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard. In the hybrid model, the electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and the transmission, with clutches on either end so that the electric motor can power the vehicle by itself under light load, at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The Touareg Hybrid model incorporates a start-stop system and regenerative braking; and the hybrid system allows the transmission to smartly—and completely—disengage from the engine, to allow coasting long distances at higher speed.
Simply put, thanks to the weight loss, that gasoline V-6 now offers a different driving experience: It seems lighter, louder, and quicker, and unless you're a green-minded shopper willing to pay thousands extra for a slightly lower carbon footprint, the Hybrid especially doesn't make much fiscal sense, for the performance you get or for its $15k higher sticker price. With the gasoline engine, the Touareg feels more responsive to the foot, with plenty of passing punch. The TDI definitely has impressive torque output and remains the choice for anyone who's planning to tow; meanwhile, the Hybrid's 380 horses and 428 lb-ft of torque is enough to scoot out from a stop nicely, but it feels more sluggish and deliberate in its motions.
As for the former Touareg's serious off-road-worthy 4XMotion system? It's still available as a Terrain Tech option package, which also brings specialized modes and an air suspension. The new Touareg can be specified to levels of rock-scrambling and mud-churning close to those of the previous model, but it's no longer built into all of them.
Those who tow will note that the maximum towing capacity is 7,700 lbs for all three engines.