2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Executive

I drove some 565 miles over an early-April weekend, about 200 miles of which was on two-lane, northern Michigan roads; the rest was mostly freeway. My average fuel economy was 26 mpg, as indicated by the trip computer, so if I had been driving solely on the freeway and kept my speed in check, I suspect I could have achieved the 28-mpg EPA highway figure. I was going 78-80 mph on the freeway and I've been told by automotive engineers that SUVs and crossovers suffer a dramatic loss in fuel efficiency above 70 mph.

This is the second weekend I've spent in the new-generation Volkswagen Touareg with an alternative-fuel engine; over the Christmas holidays I had a Touareg Hybrid. Both the hybrid and TDI powertrains are quite innocuous for normal driving, by which I mean you won't miss your conventional gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine. As for the TDI (which stands for turbocharged direct-injection diesel), my brother Greg, a longtime VW mechanic, was astounded that the vehicle he was riding in was powered by a diesel engine, because it is so quiet. Other random people I encountered over the weekend were also amazed to learn that this Touareg's powertrain was a diesel. It goes to show that the general American public still doesn't have a clue as to how good modern diesels can be.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to drive on some pretty good roads, with lots of different surfaces and some dipping, curvy sections through the northern Michigan woods, which were just emerging from winter. The Touareg handled it all quite well, demonstrating accurate steering, a compliant but not too soft ride, very good body control, and excellent on-road comfort. Greg, who is quite tall, sat in the back seat and had plenty of legroom; my 88-year-old mother was very comfortable in the front passenger's seat, and her ingress/egress maneuverings were much less tortured than they have been in many other SUVs I've driven her in.

The Touareg offers excellent visibility, with a big, broad windshield, and you don't feel like there are yards of dash spreading out in front of you; the A-pillars are a reasonable size, unlike those of many other crossovers. The optional panoramic glass roof brings lots of light into the rear-seat area.

The challenge in considering the diesel Touareg is that it is a mid-size luxury SUV with a mid-size luxury-SUV price but without a luxury badge. If you can get over that and can become accustomed to the idea of a $58,000 Volkswagen, you most likely will love it. If you squint, you might think you're in an Audi, anyway; that's how nice the interior is. I particularly like our test example, which is a medium brown exterior over a tan and brown interior, mostly tan with a brown dash and brown uppers on the interior door panels, all accented with wood trim. The stereo is superb, the steering wheel and gauge cluster are handsome and upscale looking, and my Blackberry synched very easily with the Bluetooth. All in all, I can easily recommend this vehicle to anyone who can afford it.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

1 of 4
nice car, how can get it?
I had an '04 Touareg, V8, lemoned it and got an '05 without any questions for free. Then I proceeded to lemon the '05. It took me 18 months but I got it done. The biggest issue I have is that VW does some things very well, and then they stop caring and refuse to acknowledge the problem, they blame you for bringing it up, then they quietly sort of fix it without ever acknowledging the problem. Or they just tell you "we don't re-engineer parts" ie, they won't allow the service dept to fix a squeaky armrest, because that's how it was made, so deal with it. Or a loud alarm goes off when you start the car and there is no-one in the passenger seat and there is no way to silence it. Or the air bag turns on and off in the passenger seat as my 120 lb wife moves around, or when we hit a bump. Or the leather rips prematurely, or the rear windshield wiper rattles when it moves, or their is the "lag of death"... take it down to about 20 mph and then hit the gas, you will count to 3 before anything happens. POS.
good car
I love the TDI engine. Had an ALH and BHW and now the CBEA engine. I really love the Touareg and want to write a check and get one. But, I wished it had a third row of sears. Q7 is too big. Thats really the big issue for me. Im also worried about the HPFP. I love the design, ride, and all the standard stuff like the back up camera, Nav, etc...
read the NHSTA report on V6 TDI HPFP failures
While Volkswagen and Porsche have done a great job restyling the respective Touareg and Cayenne to look more sleek and smaller, I must remind both Jennifer and David that the new Touareg/Cayenne are bigger than their predecessors. In virtually all dimensions - length, wheelbase, height, and width - the cars grow about an inch or two. As far as driving dynamic, that can only go to show the much improved handling that the company has been able to get out of the platform, but in no way is this in the same size class as a Tiguan.

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