A strange name hasn't prevented the Volkswagen Touareg from becoming successful. Now in its seventh year of production, the Touareg was redesigned in 2011 to stay competitive against strong competition from Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and BMW. The premium SUV gets a sharper razor-blade grille, a newly designed interior, an automatic transmission with eight gears, and Volkswagen's only hybrid model that emphasizes performance over efficiency.
In Europe, the Touareg comes with a dizzying array of gasoline and diesel engines. But Volkswagen keeps it simple for America. The Touareg is available with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine with 280 horsepower, a 3.0-liter diesel, and for those feeling guilty about driving a big SUV, a supercharged hybrid with 380 total horsepower. Despite its green connotation, the hybrid is actually the fastest and most powerful of the bunch. All of that power only nets it slightly better mileage that's almost on par with the base V-6.
With a 7700 lb towing capacity, the Touareg is strong enough to handle passengers, cargo, and big toys in supreme comfort. The Touareg has also garnered a successful off-road racing career, though few Touareg owners are likely to attempt to replicate those victories.
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Engines: 3.6-liter V-6, 3.0-liter TDI diesel V-6, 3.0-liter V-6 hybrid
Models: V-6, TDI, Hybrid
The Touareg was completely redeveloped for 2011 with more power, revised powertrain choices, an eight-speed automatic transmission, a panoramic roof, and a hybrid system in lieu of a larger V-8 engine -- with 380 horsepower, it's the most powerful and luxurious Touareg yet.
A three-blade razor grille gives the Touareg a familiar appearance with the rest of Volkswagen's lineup. The shape is still recognizable as the outgoing model, but it loses the brightwork and gains a softer shape. The headlights feature glare-free high-beams, which adjust their range and pattern to minimize glare for drivers in front and make Touareg drivers seem a bit friendlier. 20-inch wheels can be ordered for that extra touch of flash.
With tasteful amounts of wood and aluminum trim, the Touareg can been described inside as an executive sedan. A touch-screen radio, corner-sensing bi-xenon headlights, and Bluetooth connectivity come standard, but drivers can also add a wide array of options, including a rearview camera, a power panoramic sunroof, Park Distance Control, and a 620-watt Dynaudio premium sound system.
Performance & Handling
Both the 3.6-liter gasoline engine and VW's 3.0-liter TDI turbodiesel provide adequate acceleration with similar performance figures, while the 380-horsepower hybrid system is stupendously quick, with the best brakes of the trio. We'd prefer the diesel version of the three as an optimal compromise between the weaker gasoline engine and the borderline-excessive hybrid drivetrain, as it features slightly smoother acceleration, improved torque, and greater fuel economy. The eight-speed automatic performs admirably, but steering is slow for the Touareg's weight.
The Touareg comes with six airbags: front and side airbags for both driver and front passenger, while side curtain airbags are standard. For the high-tech side, the Touareg can be ordered with adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function for traffic. A lane departure warning system features Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, and a Precrash system that can automatically apply the brakes if an imminent crash is detected.
EPA Fuel Economy
V-6: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway
TDI: 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Hybrid: 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway
- Strong engine options with torquey diesel
Upscale cabin offers near-Audi quality
Impressive off-road and on
You Won't Like
- Loss of V-8 option, locking rear differential
Heavy curb weight doesn't help fuel economy
Value packed, off-road ready
If You Like This Vehicle
- BMW X5
- Lexus RX
- Mercedes ML-Class
- Volvo XC90