2014 Volkswagen Touareg

Rating

60/100

Background

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg is such a well-rounded five-passenger SUV that its biggest problem might be the VW badge on its grille. That’s because many Americans still think of Volkswagen as a mainstream brand that has no business selling a luxury vehicle. But here’s the true Touareg story: This midsize SUV is actually the product of a joint venture with Audi and Porsche, so it has a more regal pedigree than just about anything else in this price range. When we look at the Touareg, we don’t see an overpriced Volkswagen — we see a bargain-priced Cayenne.
That said, the VW’s interior looks relatively plain, even though the materials are high in quality. And no Touareg can keep pace with the high-performance Cayenne variants. But fundamentally, the Volkswagen’s résumé is comparable to that of the Porsche, from its excellent diesel engine option (shared with the Porsche) to its responsive steering and flawless high-speed composure.
Naturally, the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg faces formidable competition from midsize SUVs and crossovers sold by traditional luxury automakers. The 2014 BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class trounce the Touareg in snob appeal, and their first-class cabins (with available three-row seating in the BMW) help justify their higher prices. If it’s something family-friendly you’re after, the similarly priced, but much roomier three-row 2014 Acura MDX would be a better way to go. These models can also be had with some features not found on the Touareg, such as a rear-seat entertainment system and safety features like blind spot monitoring and on-demand telematics services.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, we’d recommend the multitalented 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which can be had for thousands less than a comparably equipped Touareg. Still, if you’re looking for equal parts performance and luxury in an unpretentious package, there aren’t many midsize SUVs that put it all together as well as the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg.

Drive

There’s a sense of substance and purpose in the way the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg goes down the road, but it’s not so large that it ever feels unwieldy. In fact, thanks to exceptionally responsive steering for an SUV, the Touareg can be genuinely fun to drive. It also excels on the highway, where low noise levels and exemplary stability give it a cool, confident demeanor that’s instantly likable. Off-road, the Touareg remains composed despite its lack of low-range gearing, powering through washboard roads and light-duty trails without breaking a sweat.
The Touareg’s regular V6 engine delivers smooth, eager power, but the TDI V6 is where it’s at if you want both performance and efficiency, not to mention superior driving range. The Hybrid, however, is a head-scratcher: Yes, it’s quick, but it’s well off the TDI’s fuel economy pace, and its eye-watering price makes it a questionable value. The eight-speed automatic transmission does faultless work across the lineup, providing almost imperceptible upshifts along with responsive downshifts on demand.

Exterior

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg is offered in Sport, Lux, X Special Edition, R-Line, Executive and Hybrid trim levels. All but the Hybrid and X Special Edition offer either a gasoline (VR6) or diesel (TDI) V6 engine.
The Sport starts with 18-inch wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, roof rails, heated exterior mirrors, a power liftgate, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with manual lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with touchscreen control, a six-CD changer, satellite radio and iPod integration.
The Sport’s optional Navigation package — standard with the TDI engine — adds (surprise!) a navigation system as well as keyless entry/ignition, a rearview camera and a hands-free power liftgate that you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
The Lux starts with the Sport with Navigation’s equipment and adds 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, power-folding exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, front-seat power lumbar adjustment, driver memory functions and power rear-seat releases in the cargo area.
Based on the Lux with the TDI engine, the X Special Edition features exclusive paint, unique 19-inch wheels, LED taillights and upgraded leather upholstery and interior trim.
Compared to the Lux, the R-Line loses the hands-free liftgate, but otherwise starts with the V6 Lux’s features and adds 20-inch wheels, a sport body kit, a sport-tuned suspension and LED taillights.
The Executive has all of the V6 Lux’s features, including the hands-free liftgate, and adds distinctive 20-inch wheels of its own, LED taillights, rear parking sensors, a top-view parking display with four cameras, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a premium 10-speaker Dynaudio sound system.
Although the Hybrid is the most expensive Touareg, it downgrades to 19-inch wheels and the standard sound system (versus the Dynaudio setup). Otherwise, the Hybrid is equipped similarly to the Executive, and it also adds a power-adjustable steering column and passenger-seat memory settings.

Interior

The Touareg’s interior lacks the glitz and glamour of traditional luxury-brand SUVs, but there’s a strong vibe of quality and craftsmanship nonetheless. The materials are generally rich-feeling and pleasing to the eye, while the knobs and levers move with well-weighted precision. Although the Touareg doesn’t provide a fancy infotainment system with a silly name, it does give you a standard touchscreen interface with a large screen and sharp graphics. Even better, it’s easy to use. The Executive model’s punchy Dynaudio sound system is one of our favorites; shame you can’t get it on lower trim levels.
The Touareg is strictly a two-row, five-passenger SUV, but its rear seat is quite versatile, offering reclining seatback cushions and 6.3 inches of fore/aft seat travel. Rear-seat legroom is competitive for a midsize SUV, while the seat bottom is high enough to give rear passengers both solid thigh support and a nice view out. Cargo capacity measures 32.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 64 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down.

Safety

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, hill hold assist, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on every Touareg except the V6 Sport, while an upgraded top-view camera is standard on Executive and Hybrid models. Note that VW’s new Car-Net telematics system is not offered on the 2014 Touareg.
In SUVS brake testing, the Touareg Hybrid stopped from 60 miles per hour in an extraordinary 121 feet and the TDI, at 123 feet, nearly matched that effort.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Touareg its top rating of "Good" in all crash-test categories, though it has not subjected the Touareg to its new small-overlap frontal-offset test. The Touareg’s seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Specs

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg’s engine lineup starts with a 3.6-liter gasoline V6 that generates 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The TDI models boast a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 rated at 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard either way. During SUVS testing, a Touareg TDI ran from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds, which is about the same as a gas-powered V6 midsize SUV and pretty quick for a diesel.
The Touareg Hybrid has its own thing going on, featuring a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline V6 paired with an electric motor. The combination cranks out a whopping 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, whisking the Hybrid from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.8 seconds, according to SUVS testing. The eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive are also standard here.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the base gasoline V6 version stand at 19 miles per gallon combined (17 miles per gallon city/23 miles per gallon highway), while the TDI V6 rates a remarkable 23 miles per gallon combined (20 city/29 highway). The Hybrid disappoints on this front, checking in at 21 miles per gallon combined (20 city/24 highway).
Properly equipped, the Touareg can haul up to 7,700 pounds, which is more than most competitors.

Value

Powerful and fuel-efficient engines; confident handling; high towing capacity; classy interior; respectable off-road capability.

Verdict

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg is a respectable pick for a midsize luxury crossover SUV, delivering satisfying performance and luxury in an unpretentious package.

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