Aside from the available TDI engine, the 2009 Touareg is largely the same as the 2008 Touareg. We were happy to find a new infotainment unit residing in the dashboard, as the old unit was getting a little tried. Now VW is right with the best-in-class as far as navigation units go. A much nicer display and more intuitive functionality make interacting with the navigation system a breeze.
The other change we noticed was a much softer suspension setup than previous Touaregs. We sampled an the standard steel spring suspension, not the fancy air suspension, and found the amount of body roll to be excessive. The Touareg used to strike a decent balance between sport and comfort when fitted with traditional springs, but the new "comfort" suspension, as the spec sheet calls it, really isn't very comfortable. Navigating canyon roads left us a bit queasy, but puttering around town wasn't so bad. Hard drivers would be well served to pick up a set of aftermarket springs and firm up the ride.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of the Touareg remains the lack of a third row of seats. A vehicle of this size should have at least a pair of kid-sized seats in the back. That would broaden the appeal of the Touareg and allow even more consumers the ability to drive a diesel SUV. For now, those seeking three rows of seating and a diesel will be forced to shop for a Mercedes-Benz; both the R- and GL-classes offer three rows of seats and modern diesel power. However, the Benz name adds quite a bit to the price.
Volkswagen finally has the right engine for the Touareg. Hopefully the 3.0-liter TDI will spur sales of the SUV in 2009. For the first 11 months of 2008, Volkswagen only sold 6226 Touaregs compared with 7590 during the same 11 month period in 2007. An economical SUV could be just what the sales doctor ordered for these tough economic times.