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2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

 Diesel Power and 28-MPG

      Much the same as many ground breakers, the first generation Volkswagen Touareg sought to set the world on fire with its 5.0-liter 310hp and 553 lb-ft of torque V10 turbodiesel. But it didn’t. The price of entry was too high, $64,565, and then of course there is the fact that most American’s don’t like diesels, unless it’s under the hood of a Golf or Jetta. No matter, because Volkswagen is trying again.
      What you see above is the second generation (or really the third if you count the headlamp refreshed Touareg 2, which we don’t) Volkswagen Touareg. Like the first gen model we tested back in 2005 this one is also powered by a diesel. This time, however, by a more sensible 3.0-liter V6 TDI. But before you start despairing over the loss of power that must result when lopping four cylinders off the block, let us review the specs. At ­­­3,500 rpm there is 225 hp on tap and an amazing 406 lb-ft of torque available from just 1,750 rpm. The gearbox has eight forward gears that render any interruption in the delivery of all that torque to the 4Motion all-wheel drive system almost nil. Put your foot down at any point and the tranny calls up the right grear for best imprinting upon the leather seats the size of your waistline.
      Keep your foot out of that massive well of torque though and the Touareg becomes the fuel miser of the behemoths. Officially, the Touareg is rated 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg highway. To test this Editor Gernand and I set out on a 200 mile road trip, a simple out and back from Flint to Port Austin. I piloted the Touareg first and pulled off an amazing indicated 33.4 mpg despite my frequent mashing of the accelerator into the carpet. My colleague feathered the flow of fuel during his leg of the journey and because of some gusts of wind (his excuse) managed only 30.3 mpg as indicated by the computer. Once back at the pumps around home base, Gernand pulled out his abacus and discovered that the trip computer was exaggerating a bit and we really only achieved a comparatively feeble 29 mpg. Still, for a 4,974-lb SUV that was pretty amazing.

      The real reason for dropping $58,320 on a Volkswagen SUV, however, isn’t solely to get 28+ mpg I’m guessing. No, it’s to obtain one of the more contemporary looking rigs out there. The 2011 Touareg has benefited greatly from its makeover. The front end is toned down and yet more distinctive with its horizontal grille running into the reshaped and rethought lighting elements. Bi-Xenon headlamps and LED running lamps light the way very effectively. The enormous 20” dual 5-spoke painted alloy wheels complement the Toffee Brown Metallic exterior paint finish, giving it more status than a simple brown car should command. Overall the Touareg’s shape holds true to the original pattern whilst going in for a thorough dry cleaning and a good pressing.
      Inside the Cornsilk Beige Interior we find a host of amenities to keep you and your passengers comfortable on your journey. There is the obligatory satellite navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as satellite radio integration. Soft leather, rich wood and some very modern looking nickel plated trim keep the cabin looking price appropriate. The front seats, outboard rear seats and the steering wheel are all heated, a definite perk for the subzero days of Michigan’s winter. The panoramic sunroof is absolutely massive and lets in a lot of welcome light. But what really fascinated us were blanked out buttons on the console.

      What these represent is that someone in Volkswagen’s PR department showed restraint and didn’t tick off every option box on the order form. In fact, the item that was left off was the incredibly trick but arguably unnecessary (for most people) off road suspension package. What that means is this VW is not encumbered by heavy raising and lowering suspension components, nor is there an overly complicated computer sitting shotgun telling you “no, you can’t drive that fast at this ride height!” It’s simple and it’s a delight. Now the ride isn’t as airy or soft as it could be with the fluffy pillows at all four corners, but that is one thing you won’t be missing when the road takes a bend. Because the Touareg has an ever so slight sporty side that keeps you planted during the twisty stuff. The only downside; an occasional stiff legged hop over a frost heave.
      So what about value? The $58,320 MSRP is a big pile of cabbage for a Volkswagen. Let me put it another way. The Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC we drove a year ago was very similarly equipped concerning conveniences, was also powered by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel ( 210hp / 406 lb-ft of torque) that was matched with a 7-speed automatic gearbox. It weighed in at 4,974 lbs and achieved nearly equivalent fuel economy. On top of that, this Volkswagen under cut our Mercedes-Benz  by $1,215 with a more modern design and a nav system that didn’t infuriate. The Volkswagen Touareg TDI’s closest competitor literally is the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC, and it’s made by the same people who brought us the Beetle. At the end of the day I’m driving home the Touareg, and enjoying impressive fuel economy along the way.

The Good:
Freshly pressed good looks, more torque than you can shake a stick at, 28-mpg in the real world!
The Bad:
Slightly stiff ride over frost heaves, Volkswagen sticker shock.
The Verdict:
Put the price in perspective and relish the amazing modern turbo diesel!

 Photos by Jason Muxlow

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