2011 Volkswagen Touareg Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 15, 2011

The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg has dropped some of its ruggedness in favor of the comfort suburban families want—but it's still not quite a rival to luxury-brand utes.

The Volkswagen Touareg might be named after a nomadic people inhabiting North Africa, but for 2011 it trades in some of its rugged, off-road image this year for a focus on suburban families; VW has redesigned the Touareg, making it lighter and better-detailed inside, while a new Touareg Hybrid model joins the clean-diesel Touareg TDI as higher-mileage alternatives to a base gasoline V-6.

The 2011 Touareg is 450 pounds lighter and 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the model it replaces, according to Volkswagen, and a new Touareg Hybrid model allows it to hit an EPA-rated 20 mpg in the city.

The Touareg has been fully redesigned, with the new look adding more carlike details and toning down the ruggedness a bit. On the outside, a new grille and front end design are much more like that used in Volkswagen's car lineup. Overall, the Touareg is slightly wider, though not as tall, as the previous model, but a longer wheelbase and more overall length result in more interior space; given those changes, overall the Touareg keeps a silhouette that's much like that of the outgoing model. Inside, the Touareg keeps more of the same with respect to layout—a high seating position, with an upright orientation to the instrument panel and a high, wide center console—but trims and materials have been upgraded.

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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.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

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.

The 2011 Touareg is about the same size as the outgoing version, yet Volkswagen has worked some magic with seating and made the interior a much better place. That's good, as the former version's interior was surprisingly tight for such a large vehicle. The new rear bench that can travel more than six inches fore and aft. In all, you can very comfortably fit four for a long trip, or five adults for a night out if backseat occupants don't mind contact. Cargo space is quite good, too; what's more, a power-folding arrangement can easily reposition to a fully flat cargo floor.

Those upscale prices demand an upscale cabin, and the Touareg has that. Materials have been fully revamped, and while the Touareg might be in synch with other VW models with respect to design, it's appointed with nicely finished materials that share more in common with Audi.

All models but the base Sport also get leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and memory seats. Executive and Hybrid models add premium audio, rear-obstacle detection, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, and heated rear seats. Exclusive to the Hybrid model is a power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

What the Touareg is missing, feature-wise, are the sophisticated high-tech conveniences of the luxury-brand models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus that it's priced against—items like adaptive cruise control and more sophisticated infotainment features. Considering that, a fully loaded Touareg feels pricey, as well as a little pointless given the competitive set. 

8

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Styling

The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg takes a step away from rugged style on the outside, and it looks smoother, classier, and more at home in suburban driveways.

The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg has been fully redesigned, with the new look adding more carlike details and toning down the ruggedness a bit. Classier, better detailed, and more wagonlike are all ways to describe the look, as VW's changes in design reflect the surging popularity of crossover wagons over trucklike SUVs.

On the outside, a new grille and front end design are much more like that used in Volkswagen's car lineup. Flanks are more softly sculpted, are are the front fenders. Overall, the Touareg is slightly wider, though not as tall, as the previous model, but a longer wheelbase and more overall length result in more interior space; given those changes, overall the Touareg keeps a silhouette that's much like that of the outgoing model.

Inside, the Touareg keeps more of the same with respect to layout—a high seating position, with an upright orientation to the instrument panel and a high, wide center console—but trims and materials have been upgraded, and matte-metallic bezels punctuate the theme. 

Review continues below
8

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Performance

Thanks to a strict weight-loss regiment, the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg is now a much more nimble performer on the road while still trail-capable.

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. 

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8

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Comfort & Quality

Interior design, space, and comfort really matter to premium crossover shoppers, and Volkswagen has shown new attention to that in the 2011 Touareg.

The 2011 Touareg is about the same size as the outgoing version, yet Volkswagen has worked some magic with seating and made the interior a much better place. That's good, as the former version's interior was surprisingly tight for such a large vehicle.

Now, the Touareg is competitive in its class of upscale crossovers, with great new-design front seats, more legroom up front, and a new rear bench that can travel more than six inches fore and aft. In all, you can very comfortably fit four for a long trip, or five adults for a night out if backseat occupants don't mind contact. Cargo space is quite good, too; what's more, a power-folding arrangement can easily reposition to a fully flat cargo floor.

Still, it's a little surprising that the Touareg doesn't have three rows of seating. In shopping this model, you have to consider that its competition isn't the likes of the Toyota Highlander or Chevrolet Traverse but the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Those upscale prices demand an upscale cabin, and the Touareg has that. Materials have been fully revamped, and while the Touareg might be in synch with other VW models with respect to design, it's appointed with nicely finished materials that share more in common with Audi.

Ride quality is good for most road use no matter if you go with the standard suspension or the available air suspension in off-road versions, and the cabin stays quite well isolated from road noise. The 2011 Touareg is still no crisp handler, but it's now as nimble and responsive as many of its rivals. 

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9

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Safety

The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg has lost a lot of weight this year, but that hasn't affected this SUV's excellent safety ratings.

The Volkswagen Touareg has been a solid performer in safety all along, and even though its structure has changed significantly this year, early crash-test indications along with a full list of safety features are hinting that it's probably now even better.

The previous version of the Touareg also earned top five-star results from the federal government, but the 2011 model hasn't yet been tested. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has however tested the 2011 and rated it 'good' in all categories—and named it a Top Safety Pick.

There are 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. 

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7

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Features

The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg comes well equipped, but it's missing many of the top-tier tech and high-end luxury features of its competitive set.

The Touareg might be part of the Volkswagen lineup—yes, the same brand that's recently moved its Jetta sedan downmarket—but it comes equipped more like an Audi. Trim levels are as follows: Sport, Lux, and Executive on V-6 and TDI, while the Hybrid has a single-trim level that is close to the Executive. A navigation system is included on all models, along with heated front seats, a rearview camera, and power front seats.

All models but the base Sport also get leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and memory seats. Executive and Hybrid models add premium audio, rear-obstacle detection, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, and heated rear seats. Exclusive to the Hybrid model is a power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

What the Touareg is missing, feature-wise, are the sophisticated high-tech conveniences of the luxury-brand models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus that it's priced against—items like adaptive cruise control and more sophisticated infotainment features. Considering that, a fully loaded Touareg feels pricey, as well as a little pointless given the competitive set. 

Review continues below
7

2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Fuel Economy

Base VR6 versions of the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg are still thirstier than most in its class, but in TDI or Hybrid form it's a lot greener.

With the TDI and the Hybrid, the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg shows that you don't have to settle for a guzzler to get a roomy, family-friendly utility vehicle. While the base V-6 models aren't so impressive, at just 16 mpg, the two other models, the Hybrid and TDI diesel models, are exemplary, both offering more than 20 mpg in Combined EPA driving.

Actually, Volkswagen's effort with the Hybrid doesn't make a very good argument for itself, as the Hybrid is not only much more expensive than the TDI but worse in Combined fuel economy. While we value the Hybrid as a stepping stone toward greater electrification, we'd advise shoppers to make the practical choice toward the TDI—especially if they plan to do more suburban or highway driving. 

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May 25, 2017
2011 Volkswagen Touareg 4-Door VR6 Exec

Reliable and attractive all-round performer

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my Treg was a CPO, bought in 2014 with 36k. It's been in the shop once for anything other than regular service in 4 years. Problem with the steering assembly making noise (warranty). This has been a pleasant... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2011 Volkswagen Touareg 4-Door Hybrid

Touareg Hybrid

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Our Touareg Hybrid is one of the most luxurious vehicles that we have owned. I've driven BMW, Mercedes Audi and Porsche. It is a amazing performance car, and if you want to have your family is a safe vehicle... + More »
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