One of our favourite SUVs gets fresh styling | The Touareg has always shared the same underpinnings as the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7.
My first encounter with the Touareg has been from that one Fifth Gear episode where one of the presenters (you’ll have to excuse me because I don’t remember which) towed a Boeing 747 with the fire-breathing first-generation Touareg V10 TDI. Yes, it was definitely an impressive spectacle, and I remember the presenter wasn’t allowed to press the brakes because the inertia of the 747 would shred them, very cool stuff indeed. Since then, the Touareg has solidified itself in my mind as something that’s a lot more than your standard cookie-cutter shopping mall SUV for soccer moms. As such, I was pretty excited when my editor offered me the keys to the second-generation 2015 Volkswagen Touareg TDI for the week.
First things first, this is a magnificent looking car. The Touareg has always shared the same underpinnings as the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7. The first generation had a slightly awkward rear end and a front end that resembled a lifted Passat. Volkswagen has done away with its awkward looks with the second-generation redesign. This looks so good in fact; I may rank it about par with the current Porsche Cayenne.
I gave a few family members and friends rides in the Touareg, and one of the things I continued to hear was “this is a Volkswagen!?”. The updated styling on the 2015 model driven here definitely goes a long way to add to the SUV’s curb appeal. Even with the new four bar grill, VW adaptive front lighting system, and LED brake lights, you’ll think of plenty of other upscale brands before your mind lands on Volkswagen, which is a good thing, because it adds to the exclusivity of this model. Additionally for 2015, a bevvy of driving assistants have been added; probably a decision to keep would-be buyers from looking at other alternatives. With an as-tested price of $68,575, this top-tier Execline model isn’t exactly cheap, but once you get behind the wheel and drive one, the price starts to make sense.
Inside, Volkswagen’s mission to ensure everything in their lineup feels considerably more upscale than its competition continues. Premium materials are found everywhere in the cabin, from the aluminum (illuminated) door handles, to the gloss black piano and wood trim. Mix it up with a massive panoramic sunroof and Terra Cotta brown leather seating surfaces, and suddenly the Touareg’s interior seems a lot more Audi than it does Volkswagen – which is another very good thing.
As mentioned earlier, the folks at Volkswagen haven’t done much to upgrade the drive of the Touareg, but that’s more of a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality than anything else. Peak horsepower stays the same at 240, and torque stays the same at a healthy 406 lb-ft, giving the Touareg a ground-crushing towing capacity of 7700 pounds – class-leading numbers to say the least. The diesel is definitely a torque monster, and hauls like a freight train right through the entire power band. Curiously enough, some of the Touareg’s more serious off-roading capabilities have been neutered when VW took out the adaptive air suspension found in the first generation Touareg. But it may have been a cost saving (on the consumer end) decision as a broken air suspension system could cost an arm and a leg to fix.
The car still comes with standard 4MOTION, and a fantastic 8-speed gearbox. The 8-speed gearbox isn’t a DCT but Volkswagen has done a good job of tuning it to know just what the driver needs, but its tuning leans toward the green side of driving rather than the enthusiast. Push the pedal closer to the floor and the new Touareg will respond appropriately by dropping the appropriate amount of gears down and giving you the torque you want. Get on some back roads and begin rounding corners and the gearbox will hold its gears, also great for the city driver. The Touareg’s transmission does offer a Tiptronic mode for when you want to be in control of the gears.
During my week with the largest Volkswagen for sale in North America, I saw averages of 11.5L/100KM of mostly city driving, but got averages as low as 8.0L/100KM on the highway, not bad at all for a diesel SUV. Figures that are right in the range of VW’s estimates, but we must note that our test of this model was in the heart of a blistering cold Canadian winter, with temperatures well below the freezing mark. Additionally, our Touareg tester was equipped with beefy winter tires that would also have a significant impact on overall fuel economy. The 100L capacity means the Touareg can go well over 1000km on a tank of diesel, absolutely wonderful for those road trips down south. Plus, this one can even tow your trailer or race car for track days.
Conclusively, the Volkswagen Touareg is still one of my favourite SUVs on the road. It’s impeccable on-road manners, reasonably good off-road capabilities, and incredible diesel fuel economy makes it one of the most compelling buys out there. Volkswagen Canada will still sell you a gasoline version of the Touareg if you so desire, but I can’t seem to understand why you’d want one. The TDI offers more power, is infinitely more efficient, and is capable of a whole lot more. Even though diesel fuel prices are currently a bit higher than gas, the regular gasoline Touareg asks for premium, negating that. Overall, the Touareg is still my pick over the Q7 and Cayenne, and I’d be happy to own one any day of the week.