A WOLF IN ANOTHER WOLF’S CLOTHING
Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI
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Published on Thu, Jul 4, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John Grafman This has all the trappings of a Porsche. Each and every part down to almost the last detail is what one expects out of the Leipzig factory. It has gobs of power and 406 pound-feet of torque, smoothly brought to the ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. The handling is an artful blend of sportiness and luxury that we call a little slice of heaven. Like most other cars from that performance sports car company, this has a price that looks fairly hefty. Yes, this has all of earmarks of a Porsche, but surprisingly, this isn’t a Porsche. This is the 2013 Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI, and it certainly isn’t a dog, or even a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Honestly, this is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. The cooperation of the two German companies has created two very remarkable and similar products, the Porsche Cayenne and the VW Touareg. As much as we want to draw comparisons, we’ll keep that to statistical information, as we don’t have the Porsche alongside to provide fair, seat of the pants reporting. One of the features both companies share is the delightful diesel engine that raises the question, why would anyone not consider this?
After days of driving several hundred miles, I am getting concerned. I don’t see the gas gauge needle budging more than a hair. This means one of two things. First, the fuel indicator is malfunctioning, and apt to lead me down the primrose path only to be stranded in the worst possible way. The other possibility is the fuel tank is something like 40 gallons or larger, potentially much larger. This could require a hefty bank account and a line of credit that’s substantial just to fill it back up. As it turns, out none of these are true. The fuel indicator works just fine. However, as the diesel gets far better fuel economy, we hardly notice much of a drain on the tank. The tank itself is the same dimension as those on all of the Touareg models, 26.4 gallons (100 liters). In roaming the Southern California area from Calabasas to Newport Beach, we did get a sense of fuel prices in a few different areas. Generally speaking, diesel was often no more than premium gasoline, and frequently less than even regular unleaded gas. The pay off with diesel is an improved fuel economy of 25-30 percent. Looking at this another way, the TDI provides an EPA estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway, which is the same as the Touareg Hybrid model in the city, but it gets five miles per gallon more on the highway. Oh, and with a sticker price of $60,840 fully loaded, this costs about $7,000 less as well.
The nagging issues with diesels really are minimal, or nonexistent. The noise is almost imperceptible. There isn’t any mal odor being emitted either. The only differentiating aspect that a driver feels is the red line is lower than it’s gasoline-powered siblings, thereby requiring shifting earlier. In other diesel driven cars, this can be annoying. However, this eight-speed transmission shifts quickly and with the additional gears the VW doesn’t have any jarring during shifts. The eight-speed also leads to better mileage overall. What the diesel gives up in horsepower over a similar size motor it gains in torque. The TDI eats up the hills like Bruce Jenner devours Wheaties! It is always eager to romp harder. Now, this doesn’t have the long legs in the rev range that’s favored in sports cars, but the 5,000 RPM redline is sufficient, and the reality is this is an SUV, not a sports car. In the world of automotive diesel engines, a 5,000 RPM redline is far better than average. Additionally, with 240 horsepower, this never feels like it can’t keep up with traffic on the 101 or the 405 at any time of day or night. The Touareg is a very well-behaved driver. The 4Motion all-wheel drive provides great traction. On smooth roads and highways, this can easily be confused as a premium luxury car, not an SUV. When the roadway gets a little twisty, the VW doesn’t get weak in the knees like lesser products. The Touareg is a champ. It isn’t until it’s being pushed hard that the driver remembers that this is indeed a higher profile vehicle and subject to the laws of nature. But, even when tossed about, it still seems better composed than other SUVs.
Aside from a few styling cues that look like its lower-level VW brethren, this does appear and feel like a top-of-the-line product suitable to go up against Audi, Cadillac, or several other upscale manufacturers. The body panel fit is impressive, especially from a company that synonymous with affordable cars. The tail lens look like they were hand fit by Bentley or Rolls-Royce, as the gaps between the plastic and adjacent fender are extremely well-crafted. The interior materials are equally well-executed. In fact, as much as we dig around the car, we can’t find anything that reeks of cheapness. This Touareg is an SUV that anyone can live with for a long time without ever thinking even once about upgrading. Perhaps part of the reason for this feeling of satisfaction comes from options. This is the most complete option package that Volkswagen offers on the Touareg. The Executive model does have sweet step-up features like “Vavona” interior trim, and the Dynaudio® sound system. Nice touches included in this package include keyless entry with push-button start, heated multi-function steering wheel, and heated rear seats. Adding a little something extra to the exterior are 20-inch “Pikes Peak” alloy wheels.
The Touareg also has a lengthy list of must-haves featuring power tilt and slide panoramic glass sunroof, navigation w/ premium eight-inch color touchscreen, rearview camera, Media Device Interface w/ iPod® cable, Bluetooth® connectivity, Bi-Xenon® headlights w/ LED daytime running lights; dynamic headlight range adjustment, front fog and cornering lights; 12-way power adjustable front seats w/ driver seat memory and power adjustable lumbar, 40/20/40 split rear seat, power adjustable and heatable exterior side mirrors w/ memory, Walnut interior inlays, wood center console, and more other features than you can shake a stick at. Cars often come with tons of features that lead to distracted drivers. Once again, this VW is superior in this respect to many contenders. The controls are intuitive and easy to use. Not only is this safer, but less annoying for the driver as well. Like other luxury SUVs, the Touareg has some unique features, but unfortunately no longer has one of our favorite details from the prior generation, the mini flashlight. One of the features that we found amusing is the readout for altitude. This is found after digging around on the vehicle info system. Through the miracle of GPS, it’s possible to figure out fairly accurately what elevation the Touareg is at while driving. We have yet to figure when this is useful, but it’s fun to play with. “This is your captain speaking, we will now be driving at 1,300 feet.”
So, the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Executive is a complete vehicle for nearly any purpose. It’s easy to use as a daily commuter with decent economy, and it can handle most families with room for five plus tons of cargo. This looks sophisticated enough for a night out on the town any day of the week without looking like a plumber’s van or a soccer mom hauler. This has more than a little of what the Porsche Cayenne offers, with prestigious badging being the notable exception. Here’s the rub: As the Touareg Executive model costs about as much as the base Cayenne with the same TDI engine, it’s easy to see why consumers might opt for the competitor. On the flip side, how many companies wouldn’t want its products to be comparable to Porsche? SUMMARY JUDGMENT: A go-anywhere, do anything, people’s SUV. For more information on Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Executive Price: $47,445 (base) $60,840 (as tested) Engine type: 3.0L, V6 (90 deg V), 24V, DI, aluminum alloy, crossflow head, cast iron block, double overhead camshaft, chain driven, four valves per cylinder, maintenance-free hydraulic lifters EPA mileage estimates: City/ Highway: 20 / 29 diesel Horsepower: 240 hp @ 3,500 rpm Torque: 406 lb.-ft @ 1,750 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: 20-in x 9J aluminum-alloy wheels (opt), 275/45 R20, all-season tires (optional) Rear: 20-in x 9J aluminum-alloy wheels (opt), 275/45 R20, all-season tires (optional) Brakes: Standard, all four wheels, with electronic brake force distribution, Standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Front: Power assisted, dual circuit, 13.0 x 1.3-in vented front discs Rear: Power assisted, dual circuit, 13.0 x 1.1-in vented rear discs Overall length: 188.8” Overall width: 76.4” Overall height: 68.2” Curb weight (lbs.): 4,974