- Over-engineered feel inside and out
- Composed, refined driving experience
- Rarity; you won't see yourself coming or going
- Mercedes money, VW warranty
- Light on high-tech options
- No third row
Although it might be sold alongside pedestrian Jettas, the Volkswagen Touareg looks and feels nearly like a full-on luxury SUV at a (slightly) cut-rate price.
The 2017 Volkswagen Touareg is a five-seat crossover SUV with a couple of problems. The first is existential: it's really a rival for the Mercedes GLE and BMW X5 in price, but it's awkwardly pitched now as a half-step down from those vehicles, a half-step up from more pedestrian hardware from Asian and American brands.
Its other problem is new: the common-sense turbodiesel model gave it a unique selling point, but it's gone for 2017 in the wake of VW's diesel-cheating scandal.
What carries over for the new model year is still one of the more thoughtfully engineered utility vehicles on the road, one that really does vie with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in terms of its premium feel inside and out.
Four Touareg trim choices are on offer: Sport, Sport with the Technology Package, Wolfsburg Edition, and Executive, all of which feature the same V-6 engine and permanent all-wheel drive system.
Updated for 2015, the Touareg soldiers into 2017 with some repackaging to its standard features and wider availability of important collision avoidance technology. In its current form, we rate it at 6.6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
VW Touareg styling and performance
The Touareg is attractive inside and out, but it is very conservative and cautious. The body doesn't say anything other than SUV, but the interior implies a class-higher standard of trim and design. It's conservative, sure, but the fit and finish are far ahead of the VWs built in America and Mexico, as they should be for the Touareg's stiff price of entry.
The current Touareg arrived as a 2012 model, but a lineup that once included a hybrid and a diesel has been pared back to just a gasoline-fueled V-6. The common-sense diesel is a victim of VW's emissions scandal; the former Touareg Hybrid, of slow sales. The 2017 Touareg offers only one drivetrain combination, one that teams a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 and its strong torque well to an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
What was once a grossly overweight vehicle has gone on a hefty diet since this nameplate launched almost a decade ago, but it retains some of its rough road capability—more than rivals—and it can tow at least as much as most shoppers are likely to require. Its handling is far from sporty, but it is precise and it blends a composed ride with a relatively agile feel.
Comfort, safety, and features
Though it offers seat belts for just five, the Touareg's interior is comfortable and efficiently laid-out. That lack of a third row is undoubtedly a deal-killer for family buyers, but those interested in seating a smaller number of passengers won't find much to complain about.
The Touareg looks like other VWs inside, yet its materials are a big step above and are generally competitive with full-on luxury brands. So too the features count, but VW's infotainment system is a step behind, and even the range-topping Executive trim level doesn't pamper like a loaded (and admittedly much pricier) Mercedes-Benz GLE350.
And that's also true for the dealership experience and the Touareg's warranty. VW dealers don't roll out the red carpet in quite the same way that BMW and Mercedes showrooms do, and the Touareg's 3-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty comes up a year and 14,000 miles short of that offered on all luxury rivals. In that respect, the Touareg is more closely-aligned to the less expensive Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Like BMW and Mercedes, the base Touareg Sport (and Sport with the Technology Package) features leatherette instead of leather seats, but at least the automaker has made automatic emergency braking standard on all but the base Sport model, a big value boon. And it's worth noting that VW considers the base Sport to be a special order-only item, so you won't likely find one on a dealer lot.
The EPA rates the Touareg at 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined, on the low end of its segment. Federal crash test data is available, but the independent IIHS give it top "Good" scores on all tests, although it hasn't yet undergone a full battery of tests.
The Touareg isn't just the most expensive and luxurious model VW sells in the U.S. It's also the larger of two sport-utility vehicles in the company's lineup, and its basic underpinnings are shared with the Porsche Cayenne. With lackluster sales and a new three-row, Tennessee-built crossover coming, the Touareg's future in the U.S. may not stretch beyond a couple more years.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
The Touareg is attractive inside and out, but it is very conservative and cautious.
From a design perspective, the Touareg slots in well with the current lineup of VW products. It's conservative and sophisticated, and its cabin is a step—and in some cases, several steps—above mainstream SUV competitors. And it's not far behind full-on luxury brand competitors.
We rate the Touareg a 7 out of an available 10 since although it offers a comfortable place to spend time, it is beginning to feel a little outdated against rivals with fresher designs. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The only choice to make outside—other than paint color—is wheels. Sport rides on standard 18-inch alloy wheels, while the Wolfsburg one-ups its sibling with 20s. The Executive, meanwhile, has its own 21-inch wheels—but be advised that its lower profile tires stiffen up the ride.
Inside, the layout won't surprise VW faithful other than the crossover seating position. Every control is about where you'd expect it, and buttons are generally marked well.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
With just one engine on offer, Touareg is down on power compared to rivals. However, it rides and handles very well.
Nearly every competitor to the 2017 Volkswagen Touareg offers a choice of drive wheels and powertrains, but VW makes things simple: All Touaregs use the same 3.6-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive is the only offering.
That makes buying one pretty simple, but it doesn't give buyers looking for more power or better fuel economy much flexibility, which is why we rated the Touareg a 7 out of an available 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The high-mpg diesel model we have praised in the past has been dropped in response to VW's admission that it illegally cheated on the EPA's emissions test. And VW also dropped the short-lived Touareg Hybrid due to slow sales.
The Touareg's remaining V-6 puts out 280 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. That's not quite as much as most rivals offer from their V-6s, but it is enough to motivate the nearly 4,700 pound Touareg reasonably well. You're not going to win a drag race, but at least the 8-speed automatic makes the most of the power on tap.
Similarly, the Touareg isn't going to carve its way through a canyon quite as well as its Porsche Cayenne platform-mate, but the VW version definitely handles better than its girth might lead you to expect. Nicely weighted steering calibrated more for cruising than mixing it up in the twisties helps give the Touareg a relaxed demeanor.
VW has dropped the off road modes and adjustable air suspension options it once offered on the Touareg, but its 7.9 inches of ground clearance and permanent all-wheel drive deliver a modicum of unpaved road ability.
If you're looking to tow, the Touareg isn't a bad choice in its segment. VW rates the crossover at up to 7,700 pounds capacity.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
Comfort & Quality
The Touareg's interior is a massive step above other VWs, but not quite luxury-grade.
In shopping the latest VW Touareg, 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.
Volkswagen once positioned itself as a brand that straddled the line between mainstream and upscale, and the Touareg still reflects that positioning. Its interior looks almost as though it was lifted from the automaker's Passat, but every material is nicer and it has more available features.
Yet at this price, we expect a little more of a high-end feel and a larger cargo bay despite good front and rear room, which is why the Touareg rates a 7 out of an available 10 points and not higher. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Functionally, the Touareg's high seating position affords a good view out ahead. Front seats are excellent, but the rather tall and very wide center console tends to make the front area feel a bit cramped.
There's space for five, and the adult-sized rear bench can slide fore and aft through six inches of travel. You won't find a third-row seat like in the Audi Q7, but cargo space is quite good, with a power-folding arrangement that yields a fully flat load floor.
The Touareg offers a commanding view of the road ahead and its thin roof pillars and low belt line aid overall outward vision. Opt for the Sport trim level and you'll get lots of shiny silver and grey plastic inside. Step up to Wolfsburg and you'll get brushed aluminum, while the Executive boasts attractive glossy wood. The same story is true for seating surfaces, which range from reasonably convincing leatherette on the Sport to soft leather on the Wolfsburg and Executive.
The Touareg's tailgate opens to reveal 64 cubic feet of storage space with the second row up, a figure that lags by a few cubes compared to most rivals.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
Expanded availability of Touareg's collision avoidance tech is a plus, but it has not been tested by NHTSA.
Only the IIHS has tested the Volkswagen Touareg and the crossover performed well enough to earn the top "Good" rating for crashworthiness in the moderate overlap front, side impact, roof strength, and head restraint tests.
Because the Touareg has not yet been subjected to the NHTSA's crash tests or the IIHS' challenging small overlap test, we cannot rate it using our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The IIHS has also praised the Touareg's collision avoidance technology, rating it "Advanced." That tech has been expanded to the Sport with Technology trim level for 2017, meaning only the base Sport lacks automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control.
Additionally, all Touaregs include Xenon headlights and a rearview camera as standard.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
Although it lacks some things buyers might expect at this price, the VW Touareg impresses with an overall high-end feel.
The Volkswagen Touareg is exceptionally well-equipped for a mainstream brand crossover, but even the top-of-the-line Executive trim level lacks some of the features luxury buyers should expect to find at its more than $61,000 sticker price.
It's because of that questionable value and lack of high-end available features expected at this price point that we rate the Touareg a 7 out of an available 10 points for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Touareg is offered in Sport, Sport with Luxury, Wolfsburg, and Executive trim levels.
Standard equipment in the Sport includes 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon adaptive front lighting, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, leatherette upholstery with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a touchscreen infotainment system, and power-adjustable front seats.
Step up to the Sport with Technology, which VW bills as a trim level and not an option package, and you'll get navigation and a power tailgate plus a suite of safety equipment including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and a blind spot monitor.
What was previously known as the Lux model has been rebadged the Wolfsburg Edition for 2017. It builds on the Sport with Technology by including brushed aluminum interior inlays, stainless steel door sills and pedals, a black headliner, two-tone ventilated leather seats, gray door inserts, and contrast stitching—not to mention a Wolfsburg badge and 20-inch wheels available in silver or black finishes.
The Big Kahuna model is the Executive, which includes 21-inch wheels, a power adjustable steering column, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a 10-speaker Dynaudio sound system.
The Touareg is lacking somewhat in connectivity and infotainment options, however. Unlike most of VW's range, the Touareg hasn't yet been equipped with the automaker's CarNet system, which is similar to General Motors' OnStar and offers diagnostic and convenience features through a smartphone app.
2017 Volkswagen Touareg
At just 19 mpg combined, VW's Touareg pales against many rivals.
Volkswagen dropped the least thirsty versions of the Touareg last year, leaving only the gasoline V-6. That's not a good story for the automaker, but it was necessary given the Touareg Hybrid was a tough sell due to its hefty price and the diesel-powered Touareg TDI illegally cheated the EPA's emissions testing.
As a result, we rate the Touareg at 5 out of 10 available points in this category. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
At an EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined, the 3.6-liter V-6 doesn't impress against rivals that offer upward of 20 mpg combined. At least the Touareg's engine has been designed to run on regular-grade gasoline.