THE ‘POOR MAN’S PORSCHE’ HAS COME A LONG WAY, BABY
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Published on Wed, Jun 29, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Back in the day, they used to call the Volkswagen the poor man’s Porsche. It was, after all, Ferdinand Porsche that came up with the design—and the overall layout of the Beetle was not all that different from the Porsche 365. Later, the title was penned on the Karmann Ghia, and then the Scirroco. But nowhere has a VW been so similar in design to a Porsche as the Touareg is to the Cayenne—they, in fact, share the same platform. What has changed, however, is that this new VW is not for the poor. Meet the professional’s cheaper alternative to the Porsche Cayenne. By Reed Berry I like what Volkswagen vehicles have become. Oh sure, I can remember my high school days in the 70’s when all I dreamed of owning was a Volkswagen bus. They made a lot of noise, didn’t go very fast and, let’s face it, had an interior that was anything but attractive. But they were SO cool. Today’s ‘cool’ is a combination of style, performance and comfort, a description that fits the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg to a ‘T’. When it comes to selecting a new Touareg, it is a multiple choice proposition. For the VW purist, the gas engine FSI Sport will be to your liking. For those who prefer the reliability and lower maintenance costs of a diesel engine, the TDI Clean Diesel Sport may be your Touareg of choice. If ‘going green’ is a priority in your next vehicle purchase, VW has you covered with the supercharged TSI Hybrid.
Originally scheduled to road test the hybrid version, a last minute change has put me behind the wheel of the Touareg FSI Sport. It may be the least expensive of the three models but it is certainly not lacking in features or performance. Just like the other two models, the FSI Sport has attractive exterior styling. The Touareg’s size and appearance somewhat resemble the Porsche Cayenne, which is not that surprising considering both vehicles share the same platform. This is one very neatly wrapped package. The sculpted body design is strikingly accented with chrome in all the right places. And we’re not talking a little chrome—this is an eye-pleasing chrome fest. From the sleek silver roof rails to the window trim and dual exhaust pipes, these shiny features give Touareg a sporty, stylish look. The FSI Sport comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels but bigger, bolder 19 and 20-inch alloy wheels are available for those who really want to make an automotive fashion statement. Just like any attractive package, I am anxious to open it and see what is inside. In the case of Touareg, ‘inside’ consists of a spacious, comfortable interior that seems to make the most of all available space. Slightly longer and wider than previous models, the new Touareg provides a roomier cabin attractively trimmed in – you guessed it – more chrome. A large front center armrest provides generous storage space for personal items and all driver controls are conveniently positioned within easy reach.
The heated seating surfaces are quite comfortable, due in part to the standard 8-way power front seats. Power lumbar support is not standard but is available. The 60/40 rear seat has a three-position adjustable backrest. The FSI Sport has ‘leatherette’ seating surfaces but, if you want the real thing, treat yourself to an available upgrade to 12-way power seats in rich Vienna leather. Now, let’s talk about power. No, I’m not even referring to the engine - I am talking about the power within the cabin. Need to charge your smartphone or power your iPad? No problem. In fact, you can power several devices simultaneously as each Touareg model for 2011 features four 12-volt power outlets (formerly known as cigarette lighters) and one 115-volt power outlet. As for vehicle power, there’s plenty of that too. The FSI Sport, although probably not quite as enthusiastic as the 380-horsepower supercharged hybrid, accelerates confidently and has plenty of passing power with a gutsy 3.6-liter 280-horspower V6. Smooth, efficient shifting is accomplished via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Equally impressive is Touareg’s handling. As I make my way from L.A. into Orange County for a business meeting, the FSI Sport tackles the winding streets and sharp turns leading to my destination like a superstar. Touareg’s all-wheel drive system and double wishbone suspension teamed with the exceptionally responsive steering makes this vehicle a solid performer.
Touareg FSI Sport has quite a few standard comfort and convenience features, including a three spoke leather wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity and even an extremely accurate navigation system with 3D landmarks highlighted (no special glasses required.) One thing missing in my test vehicle – an available option and, in my opinion, a ‘must have’ – is the panoramic sunroof. Don’t waste all this available roof space when you can easily open it up and enjoy the view. The Touareg’s rear liftgate has its ups and downs in more ways than one. The fact that it is designed to open and close automatically at the touch of a button is certainly a convenience, especially when your hands are full or if you have reduced strength or limited use of a limb due to illness or injury. However, while the liftgate was consistent in opening fully, there were several instances in which it only partially closed and then stopped for no apparent reason. On one occasion, the liftgate appeared to close fully but a visual alert on the driver display let me know that it had not closed and latched properly. It closed and latched on the second attempt. While it may not make me forget my love affair with that 70s era VW bus, the feature-packed 2011 Touareg FSI Sport, with a base price in the mid 40’s, is both impressive and practical.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT It's the Epiphone to Porsche's Gibson. For more information on Volkswagen vehicles, go to vw.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg FSI Sport Price: $44,450 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): 16 / 23 Engine type: 3.6-liter 24-valve DOHC narrow-angle V6 with FSI direct injection Horsepower: 280 @ 6,200 rpm Torque: 265 @ 3,000 to 4,000 Transmission type: 8-speed automatic transmission Steering: Servotronic steering Suspension: Front: Double wishbone Rear: Four-link independent steel spring Brakes: Front: Power-assisted vented disc brakes Rear: Vented disc brakes Wheels: 18” Tacora alloy wheels with anti-theft wheel locks Dimensions Wheelbase: 113.9 inches Overall length: 188.8 inches Overall width: 76.4 inches Overall height: 68.2 inches