Touareg delivers upscale functionality from a basic utility
"All Touareg TDI models come with an outstanding V6 diesel engine that generates 225 hp at 3,500 rpm and an amazing 406 lb.-ft. of torque."
The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI should be atop the list of vehicles to buy if you are in the market for a midsize sport utility. Especially if you want one with all-wheel drive, outstanding fuel economy, good towing ability and great road manners.
And I am joined in those sentiments by my colleagues from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada AJAC).
AJAC named Touareg TDI Clean Diesel the Best New SUV/CUV ($35k - $60k) in the 2010 Canadian Car of the Year competition. In 2012, the new Touareg TDI won that category again and was also chosen Canada’s Best New Utility Vehicle.
Our test Touareg TDI is about as basic as you can get - in Comfortline Trim with no options. But personally I wouldn’t spend the extra to move up to Highline or Execline trim just to get leather upholstery (vs. the Comfortline’s leatherette), heated rear seats, panoramic glass sunroof, park distance control or 12-way power front seats (vs. the Comfortline’s eight-way seats).
Like most Canadians, I’m a little cheap … er, frugal when it comes to new car purchases. The only thing the Highline and Execline models have that I’d want is keyless ignition, because Comfortline’s big key fob is sticky to use (you have to insert the whole thing into a slot on the instrument panel).
But to save thousands, I could learn to live with it.
As tested, our Touareg’s MSRP is $53,575 and includes good stuff such as power tailgate, dual zone automatic climate control, automatic halogen headlamps, media device interface, four 12-volt power outlets, heated seats/washer nozzles/outside mirrors, rain sensing wipers, multifunction trip computer and a 60 GB touch-screen navigation system.
And all Touareg TDI models come with an outstanding V6 diesel engine that generates 225 hp at 3,500 rpm and an amazing 406 lb.-ft. of torque starting at just 1,750 rpm (a V6 gasoline model is available, but it doesn’t have as much grunt and, compared to the TDI, fuel economy sucks). With its standard eight-speed automatic transmission (with Tiptronic) our Touareg has delivered 8.6 litres per 100 km, which translates into a range of about 1,000 km on a full tank.
Also standard is VW’s 4Motion AWD system with adaptive torque distribution.
With its enormous torque, the TDI V6 is well suited to hill-climbing and has enormous towing capacity of 3,500 kg. But it’s also quick enough to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 8.4 seconds and, with 80-100 km/h acceleration of 7.3 seconds, can pass slower traffic with ease.
Today’s modern VW diesels have the driveability of gasoline-powered cars and there’s only a moment’s hesitation to start the engine even when it’s stone cold. Inside the spacious cabin, the engine is quiet and throttle response is excellent.
Driving position and visibility likewise are excellent and controls are easy to use - except for the cruise control stalk which is awkwardly placed for right-handers (the engineer responsible must have been a southpaw!).
A big storage bin under the padded centre armrest hides valuables out of sight and forward of that there are two grippy cupholders that adjust to any size and won’t swallow even small cups of takeout.
The excellent 620-watt Dynaudio sound system has a satellite radio feature that allows you to scan what’s playing on other Sirius XM channels without losing the one you’re tuned in to. It’s so cool I expect it to become standard in all automotive sound systems.
My only quibble with the high quality interior is its shiny “anthracite metallic” trim, which shows every fingerprint and speck of dust. I would choose the less fussy burl walnut wood trim.
2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
Trim level: Comfortline
As tested before taxes: $53,575
Options on test car: none
Engine/transmission: 3.0L turbo V6/ 8-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 225 hp/ 406 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Diesel (85L)
Fuel economy ratings: 11.2 L/100km city; 6.8 L/100km highway
Observed fuel economy: 8.6 L/100km over 564 km
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: BMW X3; Lexus EX 350; Porsche Cayenne
Strengths: tons o’ torque; fuel economy; driveability
Weaknesses: some cabin ergonomics; interior trim