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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Taken off-road, the Touareg amazes, negotiating steep passes and deep ruts
Driving the Touareg TDI is no different than driving any other Touareg
Last year Volkswagen introduced a more fuel-efficient turbodiesel engine to the lineup. The new 3.0-liter TDI V-6 makes 221 horsepower and 407-lb-ft of torque—especially good for off-roading or towing—yet achieves EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway. The engine is much cleaner than the previous diesel offered on the Touareg and meets 50-state emissions. For 2010, VW discontinues the V-8, leaving the TDI as a premium to the base engine on the Touareg, a 3.6-liter gasoline V-6. The V-6 is an updated version of VW’s venerable narrow-angle VR6 engine. Output is a respectable 276 horsepower, but the V-6 doesn't have enough low-rev torque to move the heavy Touareg with much authority.
Reviewers aren't very impressed with performance from the V-6 either. As ConsumerGuide notes, "the V6 labors in mountain driving and highway passing sprints." 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." 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."
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."
The four-wheel-drive system included with the Touareg 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 Touareg's off-road credentials are impressive, with Popular Mechanics calling the Touareg "hypercapable off-road." The available air suspension package brings the ability to adjust ride height and improves handling both on- and off-road, or when towing. When properly equipped, the Volkswagen Touareg can haul up to 7,716 pounds.
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. While the EPA estimates that the conventional V-6 will get 14 mpg city, 20 highway, the TDI fares much better.
Weight gets in the way of agile handling in the 2010 Touareg, but ride quality is quite good no matter which model and whether you get the available air suspension. On the 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.
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."
The 2010 Volkswagen Touareg is stellar off-road, though it's not particularly noteworthy for on-road performance. Fuel economy is quite good with the TDI engine, though.