For me, the Touareg has always been something of a disappointment - a car without a purpose. It's neither as sporty as its European competition (BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML) nor as useful, practical, and functional as the American SUVs that it was patterned after. Poor sight lines, a relatively space-inefficient interior, and a lackluster powertrain compound the problem. The engine lacks torque down low - it's not helped by the Touareg's substantial heft - but frustatingly, the six-speed automatic downshifts as if its innards were mired in molasses. The adjustable suspension (Sport/Automatic/Comfort) alternates between wallowy and painfully brittle, and finding pavement that the Touareg actually liked was something of a challenge.
On the plus side, however, this drive got me thinking back to the V-10-powered diesel Touareg that we had in the office last year. Yes, it was heavy, and yes, VW of America reportedly sold only a handful of examples before discontinuing the model on emissions grounds, but the big diesel Touareg was really the best of the bunch. That truck was relatively economical, torquey as hell, and possessed of a stiff-yet-compliant suspension tuning that neither beat you up nor made you motion-sick. Makes me hopeful for the V-6 diesel Touareg that VW is supposed t to unveil at the Los Angeles auto show in November.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor