First Drive: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

The TDI diesel returns
We know you're wondering about the TDI engine option, and diesel fans have nothing to fear. Volkswagen is still going to sell the V-6 TDI here since it currently accounts for half of all Touareg sales. The theory is a hybrid Touareg will draw in new shoppers and hopefully add incremental sales instead of cannibalizing TDI or regular V-6 sales. With that said, there aren't any clear sales expectations for the hybrid right now. VW doesn't even know how much the hybrid will cost, even in relative terms, compared with its V-6 and TDI counterparts.

New styling inside and out
Despite the fact the 2011 Touareg looks very similar to its predecessor, the vehicle is almost entirely new. And like so many other recently introduced vehicles, it looks much better in person than in photographs. The front end looks more masculine and aggressive since the vehicle is lower and wider than before. Anyone riding in the back seat will appreciate the nearly two inches of extra wheelbase since that growth directly translated to increased legroom in the back seat.

Inside, the Touareg's cabin materials are upgraded and a new navigation unit is standard across all trim levels. VW considerably reduced the number of configurations for the SUV with this redesign and there are now only three trim levels; the sole stand-alone option is a trailer hitch. Dealers complained that the 110-170 possible Touareg configurations were far too complex to keep in stock, so now there are only twelve variations plus the hybrid model. All hybrids are fully loaded except for the 20-inch wheels that are available on non-hybrid models because the hybrid-spec tires are only available for 19-inch rims.

Lots of tech, but it's not all coming to the USA
We tested quite a few technologies in the European-spec Touaregs we sampled in Italy. Everything from active cruise control with stop and start ability to dynamic bi-xenon lighting and an around view camera system similar to what Land Rover offers is on the options sheet for Europeans. It seems like Volkswagen is still sorting out which electronic gadgets are worth offering in the litigious U.S. market, so we'll give you a full overview of the technological advances the Touareg makes once the U.S. spec sheet is finalized.

On sale this fall, with all three powertrains
Volkswagen expects to have the 2011 Touareg models on sale this fall, perhaps in November. Sales begin in Europe this summer and all three powertrains will be available from day one for U.S. consumers.

Though the Touareg still stands more or less alone in the market, especially in hybrid trim, we're happy to see it refreshed. Everything gets a little more refined, the interior is upgraded, it's very quiet in the cabin, and 2/3 of the powertrain choices are green. If you're going to be the odd man out, it's best to bring your A-game, and that's exactly what Volkswagen has done with the 2011 Touareg.

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