I adore diesels. I spent quite a bit of time with the new Passat with the TDI engine back in the fall, and thoroughly fell in love with it. My daily commute involves a lot of highway driving as well as requires me to carry things from time to time, so my only issue with the Passat was the inability to carry large items. I thought that a similar powertrain in a larger, more usable SUV would be the perfect vehicle for me to own in the long-term. I took out a 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI with the R-Line appearance package to see if it fit the bill.
Packing a 3.0L turbodiesel 6-cylinder motor and putting out 240 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque, the Touareg is a freight train off the line. It pulls with no hesitation and accelerates with confidence and complete ease. This is not one of the noisy, clattery, and laggy diesels of the 1980s; the TDI motor has been refined to a science. The ample amount of torque means that there is passing power literally right across the power band, and the 8-speed automatic transmission shifts fluidly. Everything about the Touareg’s behaviour is effortless. Where the Touareg truly excels though is highway driving. It barrels along highways and expressways quietly and smoothly, often making you forget that you’re behind the wheel of a diesel.
Being a real SUV, the Volkswagen Touareg does have a high centre of gravity. This means it won’t exactly be at home on the racetrack or in any sort of autocross competition. On the road though, it’s pretty competent and does its best to minimize body roll when carving corners and highway on and off-ramps. The front seats are supple and supportive enough to handle these endeavours, but I did get a few complaints from rear seat passengers of a lack of support. Then again, it is important to emphasize that the Touareg is not made for brisk cornering.
When I drove the Passat TDI earlier this year, I saw fuel economy numbers in the 5L/100km range. Some highway hauls meant it was occasionally into the 4s as well. Even though the Passat had two less cylinders and a huge weight savings over the big-daddy Touareg, I was informed by my editor that I still wouldn’t be requiring a line-of-credit for my fuel bill. You see, he used to have a Touareg V10TDI a few years ago with four more cylinders than my tester, and one extra turbo. I did a considerable amount of driving on this test week, largely because I really like the Touareg and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of driving it. I averaged 7.5L/100km over the course of my test, and the huge fuel tank means it’s able to do well over 1000km on one tank of diesel. On the downside, when you do fill up, it becomes rather painful (well over $100 from the empty mark).
The Touareg shares many traits with other Volkswagen family vehicles, namely the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. While it’s no cheapie, it provides considerable value over its siblings, starting at a base price of $50,975. Adding the TDI motor brings the price to $55,275, but the fuel savings will pay for the difference in no time. Gas-powered Touaregs are true fuel guzzlers, which is why I think I’ve seen two in the last five years, as opposed to tons and tons of TDI models. My Execline tester is the top of the line car, equipped with the optional R-Line package. It’s priced at just over $67,000. It seems like a lot of money, but you do get a lot for your dollar.
Execline delivers on the name – this Touareg’s interior was positively scrumptious. The upholstery was Vienna Leather in saddle brown. Brown really is the new black, because I can’t even count the number of compliments I got on the Touareg’s interior while I had it. The huge touchscreen is responsive and makes all tasks simple. One thing I can’t stress how much I appreciate is the fact that there are actual physical buttons to do major tasks, including a very simple system (with a colour screen!) within the instrument cluster that also allows you to do things like browse playlists and get navigation instructions.
Now on to what I don’t like, and honestly, there isn’t very much. I’m a broken record about the Volkswagen proprietary iPod cable rather than a simple USB port. I’m not an Apple user anymore; I’ve gravitated to the Android platform and therefore, no longer have any use for the dedicated iPod cable. I do understand that if I owned a Touareg, Volkswagen would supply me with the appropriate adapter and cable for my phone, but how hard is it to avoid all that and just stick with a conventional USB port? I did bring my old iPod Touch back from the dead for use during this test, and I was impressed with the user-friendliness of the system overall. Also, at $60,000+, I would expect a vehicle to have ventilated seats. In 30-degree plus temperatures, I found the interior of the Touareg a little too warm for my liking.
There aren’t many SUVs I would own – I’m a muscle car and import guy at heart. However, life happens and at some point, most car guys buy one of these (or a minivan) out of necessity. Life comes with kids, and kids come with a plethora of stuff that you can’t live without. The Volkswagen Touareg has the whole package – it’s classy enough that your friends won’t lose respect for you or make jokes about you no longer being a man, and it’s versatile enough that you can pile the spouse, kids, and all the attached junk for a road trip. Best of all though, it’s more efficient than any SUV I’ve ever driven. Right now, with the cost of premium fuel where it is, the substantially lower cost of diesel makes vehicles like the Touareg TDI even more appealing.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Gallery