The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg applies every one of its 5,000-plus pounds to startling off-road prowess--and to startling on-road fuel consumption and unwieldiness.
The Touareg’s two gasoline-powered engines benefit from Audi/VW’s gasoline direct-injection wizardry, dubbed FSI. But rather than reducing their thirst, they upped the power to contend with all that curb weight. The base 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, contends Kelley Blue Book, now “provides adequate power.” The optional V-8, fortified to the tune of 350 horsepower, “provides adequate power” and yields “a subtle growl when passing,” remarks Motor Trend. Edmunds finds the 5.0-liter turbodiesel V-10, at 310 hp and a stump-pulling 553 pound-feet of torque, to be “the most intriguing (and expensive) entry.” It also yields both the swiftest acceleration and the best fuel economy.
All engines are paired with “a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive,” reports Kelley Blue Book, who explain that the Touareg’s “low-range gear, adaptive torque distribution and locking center differential help take the Touareg 2 over the most intimidating terrain.” Car and Driver complains that transmission in their test vehicle “whined whenever the vehicle was coasting.” But Edmunds praises the “rock-solid platform co-developed with Porsche,” that is “more in line with the Range Rover than the growing number of soft-roader crossovers.”
All of this brute strength, off-road ability, and stout structure take their toll at the pump. The EPA rates the Touareg at 14/19 mpg, 12/17 mpg, and 15/20 mpg for the V-6, V-8, and diesel, respectively—all dismal numbers in this age of skyrocketing oil prices. Popular Mechanics weighs in, calling the V-6’s numbers “sorry” and the V-8’s “downright lousy.” Edmunds comments, “fuel economy is relatively poor for this class of vehicle.” Note that premium is recommended for both gasoline engines.
All that weight takes a toll on the handling as well. ConsumerGuide feels that “Touareg 2 feels ponderous in fast changes of direction, and it's no match for lighter SUVs such as the Acura MDX or Lexus RX.” Still, the Touareg’s steering and handling are generally praised: “light steering and a supple off-road ride,” comments Car and Driver; “The ride is compliant yet provides plenty of road feel, and the fairly responsive steering feels artificial at low speed,” remarks Motor Trend. But bringing that weight to a halt resulted in “the longest braking distance of this pack,” reports Car and Driver in an eight-SUV comparison.