by Chris Wall
Volkswagen calls the smaller Tiguan a stylish SUV, the large Atlas a family SUV and the mid-size Touareg the luxury SUV. We're not sure if that will help the lagging sales with two models sounding inferior to the Touareg, but it does make sense. The Tourareg costs more because it has more in it, and it makes better use of the shared V6 motor than in the bigger Atlas. The Touareg is the Volkswagen that's built more like an Audi inside and out and has some great safety features to make the hurt of paying so much for it.
Inside a new Volkswagen Touareg things are certainly upmarket with a choice of fine leather finishes along with some really good seating that can include heated and ventilated 14-way power seats up front if you tick the right boxes. There's a decent navigation system to option that's headed up with an 8-inch touch screen and a 60gb hard drive for your own tunes, but it does stall now and then.
The layout and materials may be looking a little dated thanks to very few changes in the model's almost 15 year production run, but that doesn't take away from the good layout and functionality of the controls and systems. Brushed aluminum and chrome trimming in select spots will always be a nice touch and looks better than the previously offered wood trim. There's enough space to seat seven, not as much as in the Atlas, but enough so long trips aren't at all uncomfortable.
The Volkswagen Touareg is the medium SUV in the range, but it's still a sizeable machine, and it feels as big as it looks when driving. It does make better use of the V6 powerplant than the bigger Atlas, but in the segment you can find a few rivals with more power on tap. This means things are less efficient and so you can expect the Touareg to have a drinking habit.
The electronic steering gives good feedback and the suspension is firm enough that the SUV doesn't feel wallowy, but the weight shows when braking had because things feel a bit spongy. You'll still stop ok in an emergency thanks to the on board safety systems. The Touareg offers a good drive overall though, but you may want better for the price.
Being in its second generation, the Volkswagen Touareg looks about due for more changes in the engine compartment. There's more than enough punch for it to feel fast, but that feeling will go away fast if you tried to pull away from some of the competitor cars. After the recent scandals the diesel engine was dropped and now just one engine can be had across the range, the 3.6-liter V6 with 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. All models also now come with 4Motion all-wheel drive as standard with a smooth 8-speed automatic.
There haven't been any new systems added to the tech and spec list for the Volkswagen Touareg, but it's still got enough on board so that it can still square up with the competition. Notable features include the Anti-Slip Regulation system to help with traction along with the electronic diff lock. The later actually affords the Touareg some good off road prowess. The SUV has a 5-star crash rating for occupants, thanks to many systems like the Intelligent Crash Response System, passenger occupant detection, a break override system and a rigid reinforced safety cage construction.
While the Volkswagen Touareg is quite good, it does need an engine refresh and a few more powertrain options since some popular options fell away. True fans of the model would be future buyers, but with the Atlas being the new kid on the block, for less money, the Touareg in the United States may be living on borrowed time.