The Touareg is Volkswagen’s large SUV and has been in the range now for several years, since 2002 to be exact. It’s reasonably common knowledge that the Touareg was developed along with the Porsche Cayenne and uses the same platform and many common parts. The joint venture was aimed at “building an off-road vehicle that handled like a sports car.” Both vehicles are assembled at a VW plant in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Despite their basic similarity, I’ve always preferred the styling of the Touareg to that of the Cayenne. It’s not easy to explain, but the Touareg has a kind of brawny masculinity that appeals to me. It’s a very understated SUV in many ways and doesn’t shout “upscale” at first glance, but check it out and you’ll find that it’s a very luxurious product and an amazing performer. The styling is by no means showy and the look is very much “all business” and that’s what many SUV buyers seem to prefer.
It’s a fairly large vehicle but for that minor sacrifice, you get huge amounts of interior space and with the rear seats folded, a cargo area that rivals a commercial van. Its boxy shape really pays off if it’s practicality you’re after. As is common in this class, a big powered rear hatch swings high to allow easy access for large loads.
My test Touareg came in exactly the guise I would opt for if I were to buy one - with a powerful diesel engine under its hood. Quiet, economical and boasting a very long range, the 3.0-litre V-6 TDI (turbo diesel) 225-horsepower unit in the Touareg is certainly one of the very best in its class. Anyone who has any lingering notions that diesel engines are noisy and smelly will have them utter dispelled if they try a Touareg TDI. Quite apart from its obvious qualities, this powerplant develops a massive 406 lb-ft of torque which makes it capable of towing a very large travel trailer or boat. In fact, the towing package is standard with this VW. It’s a joy to use and on the freeway, is as silky smooth as anything you’ll find under the hood of a luxury car. Since this rig is a highly capable off-roader, it’s no surprise that it comes with VW’s much-praised 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.
The transmission, incidentally, is an 8-speed automatic with VW’s Tiptronic Dynamic Shift Program (DSP). It seemed the perfect unit to have in the test Tiguan I tried. Other technical attributes include anti-lock brakes and a wide range of electronic stability and brake assist features which must make this VW one of the safest SUVs on the road. Even the battery is contained in a protective hard shell case. Naturally, the interior features a full suite of air bags and current-technology seat belts.
I did say earlier that this is a luxury vehicle and one glance into the cabin will confirm that. The Touareg is beautifully fitted out in the finest materials and the one I tried had excellent leather upholstery to the seating. Nicely grained soft-touch vinyls abound and this always creates a luxury ambiance. The instrumentation is clear and businesslike and all the switches are easy to reach and grasp. The navigation/information screen is large and clear and I found it very intuitive to do everything from planning a route to setting up my iPhone for hands-free use. The occupants sit high in the vehicle, which gives the driver a very good sweeping view of the road ahead. The rig seems sold and dependable inside and out and I’m sure it would keep its looks for many years to come.
While the Touareg is easy to drive in urban situations, it’s a thoroughly capable off-roader as I proved to myself when I first drove one of these. A trip up the crumbling old logging roads behind the Stawamus Chief on Howe Sound in snowy conditions showed the Touareg in its best light. It seemed to want to go on forever whatever the surface and never put a wheel wrong. This VW truly is an “all rounder.”
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door, 5-place SUV
ENGINE: 3.0-litre V-6 TDI as tested
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with Tiptronic
TOWING CAPACITY: 7,700 lbs
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.8-litres/100 km city; 6.7-litres/100 km highway
PRICE: $49,675 base MSRP, $63,000 approx as tested.