2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Road Test Review

Jon Rosner - CAP staff
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Etched memories of growing up in New England, slip-sliding winter away in rust-bucket Dodge Darts with 160 pounds of sand in trunk for ballast to keep those old rock hard tires in contact with the road. Youthful bombing over the back roads on crap tires in the Berkshires is generally good training for anything but open warfare driving in New York (you KNOW that they're gonna do it), Boston (they are gonna do it with no warning, maybe), or Berkeley (I know Officer, I know that, I'm going down a one-way street, I AM going one way...)

But skills get rusty, and when this author found out that he was going to a Bas Mitzvah in Massachusetts in winter, REAL weather, he called VW and then John Lawlor, President of New England Motor Press Association for advice. Safety? Security? Check List; room for a mob, low fuel consumption, and a comfy, cozy interior were requested.

A Volkswagen Touareg diesel was the response.

When the first snowflake drifted over our windshield the heated seats went on… ah, comfort.

Programming the large screen map system revealed one hiccup. We were not in Boston, Ohio going to Peabody, Massachusetts. We were in Boston, Massachusetts, going to Peabody, Mass. Change of tactic, input the zip code. The mapping voice responded warmly, "You will be turning left in one mile." We spawned upstream through the rush hour Boston Escape Throng. Arriving intact and not the least bit frazzled, the Touareg had not allowed the road to take a toll on our attitude.

After a long flight and a big dinner you would expect that the kids would have been exhausted. Not a chance, a milk and cereal run was in order. The kids were left with Grandma and we were off. We glided past stately homes of brick and whitewash board construction that had a feel of permanence that make houses in California seem like they were built during the aforementioned rush hour. What looked like the right direction took us south towards swirls of light chimney smoke fading into the dancing snowflakes. Real, live picture postcard New England. But we were definitely lost. Two buttons on the map touch screen and we heard our soothing map voice once again directing us to the hotel, nice.

The Touareg TDI shows the usual deft touches of interior elegance. Fully supportive leather thrones, intuitive radio and heat controls with large easy to read buttons, corporate boardroom with cavernous interior, tailgate storage great for swallowing and hiding our luggage.

Boston traffic doesn't slow for anyone, so diving into the Boston commute feels a bit like playing Russian roulette. Fortunately the 3.0-litre TDI has 225 horses and a massive 406 foot-pounds of torque from 1,750-rpm, the latter handily on the Baldwin Locomotive scale and good for a 3,492-kilo (7,700-pound) towing capacity. The eight-speed automatic has a nosebleed .69 overdrive. Yes, you can feel the heft of the Touareg when changing lanes, as it's far from being a lightweight at 2,256 kilograms (4,974 pounds). While the standard Touareg is not a road burner this diesel felt darn quick even with the 4motion permanent all wheel drive. Pushing it we saw fuel consumption at 273 km (170 miles) to ¼ tank and 462 (287) to the half-tank, with a 98-litre tank. If calculations serve, then we were looking at 9.0 L/100km for the highway section and 10.7 around town, versus an U.S. EPA equivalent of 12.3/8.4. Simply superb.

My daughter loved the nearly full-roof dual-sunroof, really nice cup-holders, and headrests that weren't too high. Very comfortable. And she said it had a lot of room and wasn't "squishy" in the back. My son loved being able to charge his iPod from the backseat via the 12v centre console charger port.

What's not to like? The new style headrests that ensure that your head doesn't flail back if you're rear-ended sit right behind your head and push it forward a bit more than this author is used to.

I went back to my notes from driving the Touareg TDI at Media Day in early March:  
A step above the crowd in terms of deftness in snap lane-change maneuvers, not crisp like a Lotus, but smooth and communicative with a clear statement from the helm. With a 2,895-mm (114-inch) wheelbase and 18-inch wheels, driving coastal roads around Carmel, California showed that this is a large vehicle. But the dynamics are so resolved, the composure and control so well matched that the Touareg bettered the new Mini 4WD utility that felt as stiff as an old Chevy S10. Back to back, the Lexus felt utterly sloppy and underdeveloped in terms of road control. The scale of difference was unexpected. The Honda Pilot and the Lexus SUV both reacted harshly to potholes and overly soft suspension that make them comparatively bouncy with jarring reaction when asked to do anything but go in straight line. The Touareg never skipped a beat in maintaining a fast pace with the speedier group, while offering true luxury accommodations. Very balanced in terms of acceleration, braking, handling and maneuverability.

The Volkswagen TDI has an MSRP of $48,440 (which, incidentally, is less than a thousand more than the U.S. version), and earned top points in every category. It hands-down wins the prize for most desirable luxury SUV on the market regardless of price.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Volkswagen, VW, 2011, Touareg TDI, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Volkswagen

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