THE ULTIMATE PEOPLE’S CAR
2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Mar 17, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
It’s the people’s car that the richest one percent of the population will be perfectly comfortable in. It’s a luxury vehicle that a working class Presidential candidate can get away with. It’s a green car with 380 horses on tap. It’s the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, and it’s like no other VW that came before it. It’s the ultimate people’s car. John Grafman reports. By John Grafman There are two types of SUVs. There are the ones that feel a bit like riding an elephant. The driver sits up really high, and can merely make suggestions to the pachyderm with regards to changes in direction. And then there are those that behave like a dressage horse, where every input is followed, and the rider is always in charge. The Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid isn’t a typical SUV. This is much more refined in how it negotiates the twists and turns of everyday commuting in a manner that’s more cat-like than beast of burden or trained horse. While I profess to have a certain disdain for SUVs and the like, this VW quickly gets the better of me.
I guess one should clarify a point here right from the get-go. This bears little resemblance to what people think of typifies a VW. Remove the badging, and it’s easy to confuse this with a product from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes in many respects. And, from the standpoint of any Touareg owner, that’s a good thing. In the remodel from the ground up, the Touareg is now longer, lower, and lighter, and all the while creating a stiffer body structure. Sounds like a magic trick. This is styled and appointed in an upscale manner, enough so that our notion of what a VW should be is not just tossed to the curb, but it’s also smashed, kicked around, and then finally washed out to a storm drain, never to be seen again. But, more on this later. The hybrid version suggests greater fuel savings, and it’s evident, especially around town. However, that takes a back seat to the performance abilities of the Volkswagen. This boasts 380 horsepower (333 from the supercharged engine, and 47 from the electric motor) coming from a 3.0 liter supercharged V6 engine, and 428 pound-feet of torque. All of which grabs the terra firma via the 4motion permanent all-wheel drive system. Translation: This is a blast to drive!
The battery offers an energy density of 1.7kWh. A nickel metal-hydride battery consists of a 288-volt pack consists of 240 individual cells residing inconspicuously under the luggage compartment. Well, it’s inconspicuous until one lifts the panel that would typically hide a spare within the rear storage compartment. The power is appreciated and even a bit provoking, but the transmission is equal in sophistication. The 8-speed provides smoothness, power and milks the most out of every drop of fuel. Again, this is very unexpected in a product wearing a VW badge. The feel through all inputs signal to us that this is a driver’s vehicle. But, it doesn’t stop at the drivetrain. The interior rewards the driver with refined and tasteful materials. The rich leather and top notch trim are tactile delights. The design and layout of the interior is something that could easily be confused with an Audi (did we say that already?). A couple features that are appreciated above the others are the mega panoramic sunroof and power shade. The electronically actuated shade of a translucent material allows a slight amount of light to enter but provides privacy and blocks out direct sunlight. The sunroof is now 350 percent larger than the previous Touareg model. The width is 39 inches wide and an enormous 57 inches long. This is the next best alternative to turning this into a roadster.
The center stack provided by the RNS 850 touchscreen radio/nav with a single disc payer allows for iPod connectivity, just as one might expect. It features a crystal-clear eight-inch screen, with a DVD/CD player that has MP3 playback capabilities and Satellite/FM/AM stereo. Yes, this does provide Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones too. But, displaying maps and directions in a high-definition 3D view is really what sets this apart from competitors. The graphics clearly have a thoroughly modern feel and function with less fussing than most. In conjunction with the center infotainment center are the crisp and clear dials and readouts on the instrument panel. Drivers’ benefit from the high resolution, color, seven-inch screen that snuggles between the speedo and tach. The display provides system info, fuel range, and turn-by-turn navigation. The graphic display looks more advanced than other brands, and frankly is more user friendly. In spite of the sedan-like functionality, this still has SUV qualities. The five-seater can tow just over 7,700 pounds. Without a third row of seats this can also swallow a healthy amount of luggage. Now, all is not double rainbows and puppy dog tails with the Touareg Hybrid. The Hybrid does provide fuel economy of 20 city and 24 highway, which is better than the 16/23 of the base model Touareg. It should be pointed out that the Hybrid carries a weight penalty of 424 pounds, for a curb weight of 5,135 pounds. With less heft to haul this might provide better economy. However, the TDI does offer up EPA numbers of 19/28. The diesel has but 225 horsepower, but it boasts 406 lb-feet of torque at just 1,750 rpm.
It’s even more important to consider those figures in light of the price tag. The $61,110 for the Hybrid is a big jump from the base sport model, which comes in at $43,375 (add roughly $3,500 for the diesel model). Albeit, the Hybrid comes with a trim level that is far superior to the starting packages on other models. True, this is hard to argue with when it comes to design, trim, features, ease of use, and drivability, plus the overall pleasure factor. But this begs the question, is this really a Volkswagen? If buyers look at the pricing they would swear this is an Audi. The last time Volkswagen ventured astray the result was the much loved, but unsuccessful Phaeton. Does this carmaker really want to travel the same bumpy road once more? Well, at least in the Touareg, we can handle most rutted paths, potholes and steep terrain! SUMMARY JUDGMENT Get ready to have your preconceived notions about Volkswagens up-ended. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Price: $61,110 (base) $61,110 (as tested) Engine type: Parallel hybrid; one electric motor with compact disengagement clutch. mounted between V6 engine and transmission: 3.0L V6 (90 deg V), 24V, supercharged/intercooled, TSI EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 20 mpg/24 mpg Horsepower: 380 total, 333 @ 5500 rpm Torque: 428 total, 325 @ 3000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: Eight-speed automatic transmission, torsen center differential and adaptive torque distribution Suspension: Front: Upper and lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar Rear: Multilink with coil springs, telescopic dampers Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 19-in aluminum-alloy wheels, 265/50 R19, all-season tires Rear: 19-in aluminum-alloy wheels, 265/50 R19, all-season tires Brakes: Front: Vented discs Power assisted, dual circuit, 14.2 x 1.4” diameter Rear: Vented discs 13.0 x 1.1” diameter Standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS Standard, all four wheels, with electronic brake force distribution Dimensions Overall length: 188.8” Overall width: 76.4” Overall height: 68.4” Curb weight (lb): 5,135