A Volkswagen? In the “Luxury” section? Isn’t it the “people’s car”? Okay, I’ll stop. We all know those days are long over. A brand that was introduced to the market as an affordable vehicle for nearly everybody has now been strategically placed as a premium brand just below Audi. The introduction of the Touareg (a vehicle which nobody seems to be able to correctly spell the name of) for 2003 marked just as much controversy as its sibling, the Porsche Cayenne. On and off, Volkswagen also sold a ten-cylinder, twin-turbo diesel motor with over 500 lb/ft of torque. I was one of the fortunate few to have one in the family for nearly 7 years; a 2004 V10 TDI.
This new one, however, is a V6 TDI. With a brilliant 3.0L 6-cylinder, this Touareg TDI puts out 240-horsepower and a honking 407 lb/ft of torque. Critics a few years ago spoke of the V10 TDI as having enough torque to spin the Earth’s rotation into the other direction. This one, with 70-less horsepower, feels almost exactly the same as the old car, just infinitely more refined and less diesel-like. The first thing I noticed when I turned the key to this monster was the fuel range. It showed 1429 km to empty on a full tank. Volkswagen diesel indeed!
Driving the Touareg TDI for a few days led me to ask myself a sincere question. Who in their right mind would purchase a gas-powered one? This diesel engine is nothing like the clattery, smoky, smelly diesels of yesterday. You can barely even hear that there’s an engine running while you’re inside the car. When you’re outside, it does sound slightly different from a traditional motor, though the gentle hum of the TDI motor whirring is almost soothing. The acceleration doesn’t feel any different, and the 8-speed Tiptronic transmission makes any sort of driving feel effortless. Even the handling is stellar; it doesn’t roll around corners nearly as much as other SUVs of its size.
Volkswagen put me in a 2013 Execline model with just over 1,500km on the odometer at the time of testing. The Execline, priced at a hefty $63,800, is the most expensive and most heavily-equipped Touareg you can buy right now. Along with the typical standard equipment expected on a premium sport-utility-vehicle, the Execline comes with 20″ alloy wheels, a 620-watt Dynaudio sound system, heated rear seats, bi-xenon headlights, a rear-view camera, and a wonderful panoramic sunroof that truly goes the length of the passenger cabin.
The one thing I have noticed with Volkswagen as of late is that while quality is still up to German standards, the physical size of the buttons on the dashboard are huge, as are the fonts of the text on said buttons. I’d go as far as to assume that Volkswagen based this design on the assumption that everybody who buys the Touareg is older and/or requires larger font sizes, but the same is the case on the all-new Beetle. The controls and ergonomics, however, are exactly how they should be. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to change the radio station, set a destination on the navigation system, or find a specific song on the iPod. Volkswagen does need to do away with their brand-specific proprietary cable to connect USB devices though; it’s not that hard to put in a standard-issue USB port.
So, where’s the answer to the question everybody asks about a diesel? How was my fuel economy? Over the course of city, highway, and spirited driving, I managed to get an awesome 9.0L/100km. I was also pleasantly intrigued by the fact that save for metropolitan downtown Toronto, diesel is available almost everywhere. Efficient as it may be, with a huge fuel tank, fill-ups of over $120 do feel a bit painful on the wallet. 9.0L may not seem incredible, but let’s keep in mind that this is a nearly 5,000 lb SUV with full-time 4Motion. Also, unlike the majority of “SUVs” on the market today, this one is actually capable on more than just a semi-paved gravel road.
When I heard that Volkswagen is no longer offering the behemoth 10-cylinder TDI, I’ll admit, I was a bit saddened. I do think that this new, much cleaner, more efficient, and far better to drive 6-cylinder is at a point where it’s 99% the engine the V10 was. It provides just as much driving satisfaction and while it’s not nearly the conversation piece the old one was, it’s a highly impressive and classy vehicle no matter how you look at it. Seriously, if you don’t need a third-row and if you’re not a big stickler on a luxury badge, the Audi Q7 and even the Porsche Cayenne Diesel are relatively redundant. I can safely say that all biases aside, the Touareg TDI is hands-down one of the best SUVs out there.
2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Gallery