Review: A very clean VW Touareg

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Fri., Mar. 4, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Ordinarily, when we review a new vehicle, we tend to talk primarily about the package as a whole, rather than spend too much time on a particular aspect of said vehicle. But this week, I really need to focus on the engine of the Volkswagen Touareg TDI, because while this stylish SUV has many things to recommend it, it’s the turbocharged clean-diesel engine under the hood that really makes this a very special machine.

The tailpipe emissions (specifically particulates and oxides of nitrogen) that have always made diesels a dirty affair have been curtailed to the point where the exhaust is about as clean as most modern gas engines, which is an accomplishment many pundits thought wouldn’t be possible a few years ago. What is still present is the diesel’s incredible low-end torque and excellent fuel economy, while noise and vibration have also been dramatically reduced, making this a very refined, desirable powerplant.

Before I go into more detail about the TDI engine, I should point out the five-door Touareg rides on a 113-inch wheelbase and comes standard with VW’s excellent 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system. A 3.6-liter gasoline V6 (and a 3-liter gas-electric hybrid) are also available in addition to the diesel, giving you a choice of three very interesting engine configurations.

Our TDI produced 225 horsepower and 406 lbs.-ft. of torque, and was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that had the perfect ratios for exploiting the diesel’s power and economy to the fullest. The RPM range of a diesel is far narrower than a typical gas engine; so having all those gears (and the super-smooth shifting of this unit) makes for brisk acceleration from any speed. All that muscle lets this relatively compact vehicle tow up to 7,700 pounds, and there is 1,331 pounds of payload capacity.

The 4Motion all-wheel drive system did a great job on our slippery winter roads, and there is an off-road setting for more adventurous excursions. The sophisticated power steering is super light at low speeds, but tightens up well the faster you usher the vehicle along.

We were fortunate enough to borrow a Touareg TDI in the Executive trim level, and the furnishings of the cabin wouldn’t be out of place on a corporate jet. A panoramic moon roof that includes the rear seat area (fine split-bench perches) helped to make an already roomy space seem even more comfortable, especially on longer trips. With the rear seats folded, you have 58 cubic feet of space to haul whatever you desire.

With the impressive performance of latest-generation diesel engine, in concert with a very intelligently engineered chassis (and luxurious interior), this handsome SUV has established itself as a very unique player in the class.

The 2011 VW Touareg TDI Executive is EPA-rated 19 MPG city/28 highway and we observed a quite excellent 24.6 MPG in mixed winter driving. The base price of this well-equipped machine is $57,500, and with destination charges, our sticker came to $58,320.

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