2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI R-Line Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
The turbodiesel VW Touareg crossover SUV equals comfort, luxury, refinement, and surprising fuel economy
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyers Guide
Volkswagen established a presence in the sport-utility market when it debuted the Touareg in 2003. Named after Berber nomads of the Sahara Desert, the Touareg was large enough to hold people and cargo comfortably, yet not so huge as to be something docked, rather than parked. It has evolved since then, with engine and styling changes and structural refinements, and is better than ever today. And has a surprising choice of power available.
2014 Touaregs are offered with a choice of three very different V6 engines, all with full-time all-wheel drive. Standard is the latest version of Volkswagen's compact, narrow-angle VR6, 3.6 liters in displacement and producing maxima of 280 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Want a hybrid for better fuel economy and performance? A 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and parallel electric motor make 380 horsepower and 428 lb-ft. Looking for even better fuel economy?
That would be the TDI. Its 3.0-liter turbodiesel makes 240 hp and 406 lb-ft, enough to make any highway merging operation safe and easy… and still return over 30 mpg on the highway at real-world speeds. 30 mpg highway doesn't sound impressive? This is a 5,000-pound crossover SUV, not an old Beetle. Long ago, I owned an old Beetle. Its low-20s around town and low-30s highway (excluding hills…) were good for the day. The considerably larger Touareg TDI can do just as well, and has no problem at all climbing the steepest of hills. Not to mention that the Touareg can hold more people and cargo, with much easier access.
Note that the 2014 Touareg TDI is not the 2004 model brought back. That one was a limited-production model, not available in California-regulation states. (Which is a large part of VW's US market.) It had a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V10 with 310 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque driving all four wheels. And could light up all four tires with ease… EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg city, 23 highway were far better than what would be obtained from a similarly-powerful gasoline engine, but the new TDI beats that handily with a 20/29 rating even if it won't shred on demand… and the EPA numbers are conservative.
Instead of a plethora of packages, VW adds equipment with each trim level. The biggest change to the Touareg for 2014 is the debut of the R-Line trim level for both VR6 and TDI powertrains. It sits just below the premium Executive level, and above the Lux, with Sport and Sport With Navigation being the "lower" levels. They're all pretty much luxury class. My TDI test car was an R-Line, comprehensively equipped with no options included or necessary. (Executive for that if you must.) Besides interior and exterior trim enhancements, the R-Line also means a sport-tuned suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels shod with 275/45 R20 tires. If not quite a sumo-class GTI over the road, the R-Line Touareg is much lighter on its feet than is expected of a 5,000-pound vehicle. Sport-touring-luxury SUV describes it best. And with the TDI, add economy -- my stint yielded 25.8 mpg, with more highway driving than usual, with a 22.3 mpg long-term average.
APPEARANCE: Outside, R-Line means restyled front bumper fascia, with a sportier look, slightly more flared side skirts, R-Line badging, and LED taillights and oval exhausts at the rear. A recent freshening has brought details into step with the newest VW styling, with a simple two-box shape emphasized by crisp lines on the hood and the end caps. All models get LED running lights, in a U shape around the headlights. There is no truck in its ancestry; with nothing for a size reference, you might think you were looking at a Golf.
COMFORT: Inside, R-Line means gloss black and aluminum trim on the instrument panel, console, and doors, aluminum-trimmed sport pedals, R-Line scuff plates on the door sills, and an R-Line steering wheel. A Touareg will never be compared to a Golf from the inside. If there are stylistic similarities, that's VW design language at work. And it works well, shading instruments from glare and placing everything right where it works best. There is plenty of space for everyone -- VW has resisted trying to stuff a third row in behind the second. Seats, outside mirrors, and the power panoramic sunroof are power-adjustable, with three memory positions for the mirrors and driver's seat. The steering wheel adjusts manually for tilt and reach, and has phone, information system, navigation, and audio controls. The rim is leather-covered, as are the seats. Brightly-backlit analog main instruments are easily read, with a useful information display between the tach and speedometer. Visibility is good, with backing aided by a rearview camera display in the screen in the stack also used for the navigation system. There is useful storage, plus space for water bottles, in all four doors, and a small covered compartment in the top of the instrument panel. The locking glove box has a cooling vent, and also a coin holder and light. A 12VDC power point plus mini-USB and iPod connections are found in the console box. Rear passengers get a 40/20/40 split folding seatback, contoured bench, outboard floor heat vents, rear console AC vents, and 12VDC and 115VAC (150W) power outlets. An inflatable spare tire lurks beneath the rear load floor, accessed by a power-operated tailgate.
SAFETY: The Volkswagen Touareg has the full complement of modern car safety features, from its chassis construction to front and Side Curtain Protection™ airbags, three-point belts for all passengers, automatic unlocking of the doors and disabling of fuel and electrical systems in the event of a crash, the Rollover Sensor System which turning angle and speed to deploy head airbags in a rollover, and good steering and suspension response and strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock and disc drying for active safety.
RIDE AND HANDLING: For a two-and-a-half ton vehicle, the R-Line Touareg dances well. Spring and shock damper rates are firmer than stock but not overly so, meaning less body motion while still delivering a comfortable ride. The laws of physics prevent it from getting down the road as well as a GTI, but with an aluminum-intensive fully-independent suspension, the Touareg is far better on a mountain road than a truck. It's also capable off pavement, at least on moderately-maintained forest roads, where its full-time all-wheel drive and 7.9 inches of ground clearance will be useful. Ditto for snow, either in the mountains for skiing or where you live.
PERFORMANCE: Why buy the TDI instead of the hybrid? It's less expensive and has better fuel economy. Yes, this diesel goes further on a gallon of ultra-low sulfur diesel than the Touareg Hybrid goes on a gallon of unleaded premium gasoline. EPA estimates for the TDI are 20 mpg city, 29 highway. For the Hybrid, 20 and 24. Real-world experience? 18 to 23 around town, with short hops on the highway. 22-25 on backroads. And over 30 on the highway with no difficulty -- at speeds usually much greater than the EPA simulation and rarely on level ground. YMMV and all, but this is an excellent and long-legged machine for going the distance.
The secret is the latest TDI turbocharged and intercooled diesel from VW. It's a dual overhead cam, four valve per cylinder compression-ignition engine with a sturdy cast iron block and aluminum alloy heads. Maximum horsepower is 240, at 4000 rpm, with torque peaking at 406 lb-ft at 2000 rpm. It's matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and while there is a manual-shift mode, with torque like that, who needs a gearbox at all? It never works hard. If towing is in your needs, all Touaregs are rated at 3500kg (German, you know) or 7716 pounds.
CONCLUSIONS: Add an efficient turbodiesel to VW's Touareg crossover SUV and the result is comfort, luxury, refinement, and surprising fuel economy.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI R-Line
Base Price $ 58,190
Price As Tested $ 59,100
Engine Type DOHC 24-valve turbocharged compression- ignition 90º V6, cast-iron block and aluminum alloy heads
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower 240 @ 4000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 406 @ 2000 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 113.9 in. / 188.8 in.
Curb Weight 4974 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 20.7
Fuel Capacity 26.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement ultra-low sulfur diesel
Tires 275/45 R20 110H Goodyear Eagle LS2
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS
Suspension, front/rear independent upper and lower control arm / independent multilink
Ground Clearance 7.9 inches
Drivetrain front engine, full-time multi-mode all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 29 / 25
0 to 60 mph est 7 sec
Towing Capacity 7716 lbs / 3500 kg
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge $ 910