Volkswagen celebrates 10 years of sales of their luxury SUV with the strange name of “Touareg” meaning “a nomadic people.” Touareg intended to be a “go anywhere vehicle” when it was introduced to the USA in 2004. This platform, shared by the Audi SUV’s and the Porsche Cayenne, was not a real toy-hauler, mountain climber, or sporty utility vehicle. Even the level of luxury found in the Audi Q5 was not present in the Touareg- even though the price was comparable. So VW has revised most of the Touareg over the past decade and has finally landed on a very solid luxury SUV that can do it all- and at a lower price.
As for the lack of sport in this Sport Utility Vehicle, VW now offers the upper level R-Line trim. This unique interior and 20-inch “Mallory” aluminum-alloy wheels and sport suspension add to the appeal. Yet, the Touareg R-Line still remains luxurious on the highway. A sloppy ride was the other downfall of the early Touareg. It takes more than stiffer springs to get this kind of weight under control in the corners. Thanks to what VW has learned from their excellent suspension on the Cayenne, the new R-Line Touareg is a controlled drive on and off-road.
In addition to the R-Line model, the Touareg comes in either Sport, Lux or Executive trim levels. There is now a limited production edition X model for 2014. With five different models and three unique powertrains, consumers can select what they want and what they can afford. Power is supplied by VW’s VR6® six-cylinder gas engine, a six-cylinder Clean Diesel TDI®, or even a supercharged gas/electric Hybrid rig.
Our test model was the 3.0 liter TDI Clean Diesel R-Line Touareg that is rated at 29 miles per gallon on the open road. After a week of trips through the mountains, on the freeways, and around the town, we averaged a very respectable 25.2 mpg. When one considers that this SUV can travel up to 700 miles on each tank of ultra-low-sulfur diesel with full-time all-wheel-drive, one can truly go almost anywhere. Unlike most fuel-efficient lighter-weight SUV’s of today, the Touareg fuel tank holds 26.4 gallons.
Volkswagen’s revised 3.0-liter turbocharged and direct injection V-6 is a quiet and smooth engine which turns over quickly. Waiting for a glow-plug to warm up before starting this diesel is a delay of the past. There is just a slight hesitation when getting off the line but from 1500 rpm to redline, this diesel engine pulls like a train. With quick shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission, this SUV is all business when it comes to traction. VW uses a torsion-center differential and an adaptive torque distribution drivetrain to lay down the power. With 240 horsepower and a 406 pound-feet of torque, there are not many toys it cannot haul or mountains it cannot climb.
The 2014 Touareg R-Line includes a new sport-tuned suspension which uses a multi-link coil spring set up with new telescopic dampers that adjust to road conditions. This is not the previous air suspension with all its complications, but rather, some very compliant and sturdy hardware that will reliably last for many years. Stabilizer and anti-sway control bars get larger so the Touareg feels as solid as a monorail in high winds.
The Touareg TDI keeps a power assisted rack-and-pinion steering system that is somewhat numb on center on the road for a mechanical system but quick enough for off-roading. With just 39 feet needed to make a complete turn, maneuvering in parking lots and around boulders is quite fun. Emergency maneuvers are controlled and the roll-over sensor is read to deploy a host of airbags just in case the driver runs of the gravity or luck.
My only criticism of the R-Line 20-inch wheels and 275/45 R20 tires is vibration and road noise over rough pavement while traveling between 35-50 miles per hour. Let’s be honest. Driving around a racetrack or a mountain road highlights the additional traction from low-profile tires and sporty suspensions. However, most of us live and drive on city streets and urban roadways where luxury means a quiet and smooth ride. The R-Line is set up for dry, dirt, or snow-covered roads. For real off-roading, choose the Sport trim level with the 10-spoke 18-inch “Karakum” wheel fitted with 255/55 R18 all-season tires.
The interior is very nicely finished with leather or leatherette material everywhere. It seems like Volkswagen finally looked at their own handiwork in their Audi brand and decided no one would mind if the beautiful Audi designs ended up in a VW. The double-stitched trim and wood accents are not overbearing and the seats are very comfortable for long trips. The bolsters are supportive enough to keep passengers in their seats if rough trails are the road-of-choice for the day.
The seat memory buttons are easy to hit when reaching for the driver’s door handle and annoying when accidentally pushed. The rear seat legroom as improved over the last revision. Rear seats get extra air vents and power supplies with DVD entertainment as optional. Legroom is generous, as is the cargo space (32.1 cubic feet with seat up and 64.0 with the seat down). Even the grab handles make the higher seat positions easier to use.
Every important control is mounted center stage for driver and passenger usage. Our R-Line came with the available RNS 850 touchscreen audio/navigation system. This high resolution eight-inch screen did not “washout” in bright sunlight but gave me some complicated controls over all infotainment systems. This includes a DVD/CD player, MP3 playback, and a satellite/FM/AM stereo. The navigation system is one of the best in the industry with excellent high-definition 3D maps and directions.
Audiophiles can opt for an ear-splitting 620-watt Dynaudio® sound system with 10 speakers. This includes four tweeters, two midrange, four woofers, and a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) system. The 60GB hard drive with 18GB of space available to upload media is also a nice touch. The iPod®, auxiliary, SD card, and a DVD drive inputs are all located in the glovebox for safekeeping. Of course, the full-range of Bluetooth features came standard.
For more goodies, consider the Executive and Hybrid models with a hands-free trunk lid opener. Like Ford’s system, just pass a foot under the rear bumper with the key in your pocket and the hatch opens. Also, 2014 models include an available 360° exterior camera system shows what’s in front and on the sides as well what’s behind the SUV.
Volkswagen will sell 1000 Touareg X models, based off the TDI Clean Diesel Lux trim. The 2014 Touareg X is priced at $56,170. The Touareg X gets unique 19-inch “Moab” aluminum-alloy wheels, Moonlight Blue Pearl paint, LED taillights, and Touareg X-specific badging. Inside, this X model gets Ebony wood accents, Vienna leather seating in black, and a black headliner. The Touareg X standard equipment includes a panoramic powered sunroof; Keyless access with push-button start; Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights; front fog- and cornering lights; the RNS 850 navigation system, 60GB hard drive, and rearview camera; automatic dual-zone air conditioning; 12-way powered and heated front seats with driver seat memory and power adjustable lumbar; and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel.
R-Line® TDI® $57,615 (Includes Lux features; trailer hitch optional)
+ 20-inch “Mallory”aluminum-alloy wheels, sport suspension; R-Line scuffplates; unique front bumper fascia; side skirts; R-Line badges; LED taillights; oval-shaped exhaust tips; high-gloss black and brushed aluminum trim for dashboard, center console and doors; aluminum sport pedals; R-Line steering wheel.
3.0L TDI Clean Diesel 240 hp/406 lb-ft engine