2011 Volkswagen Touareg: Leaner, But Not A Lightweight

February 10, 2010

Time and time again we've heard complaints from loyal VW fans who had been happy with their Jetta or Passat and traded it in for a Touareg, with the promise of a little more utility, a little more versatility, in a vehicle that was (surprisingly) an inch shorter than the Passat.

They were often disappointed, sometimes infuriated, to find that they were spending twice as much or more on fuel. You see, while the Touareg was sold in this country against car-based crossover vehicles, it's a much heavier (5,300 pounds in TDI trim), tougher SUV that's capable of off-roading and towing with the best of them.

Volkswagen today gave a first look at the next-generation 2011 Volkswagen Touareg, well ahead of its official Geneva auto show preview later this month, and one of the most important pieces of news is that, straight off, the Touareg has lost a lot of weight and Volkswagen looks interested in earning the crossover crowd back.

The new Touareg is 450 pounds lighter and 20-percent more fuel-efficient. Volkswagen will also offer the new Touareg in a hybrid model, which the automaker says will be able to move on electric power alone at speeds of up to 31 mph. VW claims nearly 29 mpg (European combined) for the new Touareg Hybrid, while the Touareg TDI manages nearly 32 mpg. These combined-cycle numbers typically correspond, roughly, to EPA Highway figures. To compare, the current Touareg TDI gets 25 mpg on the highway, while the base Touareg V-6 is rated at just 14 mpg city, 20 highway.

Helping with those fuel economy figures, along with weight, are reduced aerodynamic drag and a new eight-speed automatic transmission that's standard across the 2011 VW Touareg line.

Even considering these improvements, the 2011 Touareg won't be a lightweight on the trail. It has improved torsional rigidity than the outgoing model and maintains its off-road toughness. On standard Touareg models the ruggedness has been toned down a little bit; a more fuel-efficient all-wheel drive system has a Torsen limited-slip differential and off-road driving mode that recalibrates the vehicle electronics for more slip. Hill Descent Assist is also included. A Terrain Tech package will be available, including center and rear locking diffs, to bring performance on the level of the outgoing Touareg, with a rotary switch enabling a Low range or automatic control of the diff locks.

"Equipped like this, the Touareg can conquer any terrain on Earth," declared VW in its press release.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Inside, Volkswagen introduces new-design seats and more front legroom, and it's given the rear bench seat more than six inches of fore/aft travel plus a power-folding arrangement to access a completely flat loading floor. The new Touareg is roughly the same size as the outgoing one, gaining about an inch in wheelbase and overall length.

The outgoing 2010 Touareg has also been a high-achiever in safety, with straight five-star results from the federal government and a very impressive list of features. VW promises nine airbags onboard the new Touareg, with options including an Area View monitor with four cameras; Lane Assist and Side Assist; adaptive cruise control; and bi-xenon headlamps with Dynamic Light Assist. There's also adaptive roll compensation, though we're not sure yet if it's the equivalent of the currently optional (on the 2010 and earlier) air suspension with Continuous Damping Control.

The base sound system includes a 6.5-inch touch screen, while other available features include a panoramic sunroof that's claimed to be the largest of any SUV, A two-tone burgundy/black or beige/black interior in Nappa leather is optional, as is real wood trim.

Look for the U.S.-spec 2011 VW Touareg to arrive this fall.

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