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As the popularity of SUVs grows, it seems that much of the original rugged off-road personality these models were known for has been bred out of the segment in favor of on-pavement comfort and drivability. Among luxury SUVs, that shift seems even more evident. The Volkswagen Touareg was one of the sport-utilities to cling to those off-road roots, but it's recently made the shift toward the everyday.
It's hard to argue with the results, though. The first-generation Touareg was a capable model known for its high-class interior, off-road ability and respectable towing capacity. But it was also heavy and earned subpar fuel economy. The new Touareg lacks off-road chops but is otherwise a superior vehicle that's more in line with what consumers want from their modern SUV.
Current Volkswagen Touareg
The Volkswagen Touareg is a five-passenger midsize SUV that's available in four main trim levels: Sport, Lux, Executive and Hybrid. All but the Hybrid can be had with either gasoline V6 ("VR6") or turbodiesel ("TDI") V6 power.
The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, while the turbodiesel V6 TDI generates 225 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid variant features a supercharged, direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine paired with an electric motor that combine to produce 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard on all models.
Even the base Sport trim comes loaded with bi-xenon headlights, a power tailgate, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats and a navigation system. Stepping up to the Lux trim gets you a panoramic sunroof and leather upholstery. The Executive adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, keyless ignition/entry and a premium sound system. These trim levels are available with either the gasoline or diesel engines. Opting for the Hybrid adds a power-adjustable steering column and additional front seat functions.
In our reviews, we've found that the Volkswagen Touareg is a well-designed crossover SUV that offers commendable driving dynamics. The Touareg's base V6 is a solid pick, but we've found the V6 TDI diesel more to our liking and well worth the sticker premium. On the other hand, the Hybrid model boasts the type of power and performance of a V8 engine, but its less-than-frugal fuel economy may fall short of some expectations. In essence, it consumes about as much as a V6 engine would. A major highlight for any Touareg is the cabin, which scores points for its upscale design and high-quality materials.
Used Volkswagen Touareg Models
The Volkswagen Touareg was fully redesigned for 2011 with a new focus on on-road driving dynamics and fuel efficiency. In addition to its somewhat sleeker styling, this Touareg differentiates itself from the previous one by going without a dual-range transfer case. Although that change reduces all-out off-road capabilities, VW realized that most upscale SUV drivers likely spend most, if not all, of their time on pavement and would benefit much more from a 400-pound weight reduction and the resulting increases in fuel efficiency and on-road handling dynamics. This second-generation Touareg also provides more comfort for those in back via added legroom and a reclining seatback.
The first-generation VW Touareg debuted in 2004 and lasted through 2010. Initially, it came equipped with either a 220-hp 3.2-liter V6 or a 310-hp 4.2-liter V8. Many owners considered this V6 to be underpowered, so going with the V8, especially now that depreciation has set in, probably isn't a bad idea. VW also sold a few range-topping Touareg V10 TDI models that first year -- the TDI had a diesel-fueled turbocharged V10 displacing 5.0 liters. It was rated at 310 hp and a stout 553 lb-ft of torque. Every engine was connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The V10 was dropped for 2005, while the original V6 received 20 more hp. Changes for '06 included upgrading the optional CD-based navigation system to DVDs and adding an available rearview camera, an auxiliary multimedia MP3 connector and a 115-volt power outlet (in place of the previous 12-volt source) in the rear cargo area. The V10 engine also made its return to the U.S. market very late into the 2006 calendar year.
Some notable engine changes occurred for '07. For that year Volkswagen brought out a new 3.6-liter V6 engine that produced 276 hp, while the Touareg's 4.2-liter V8 was given a boost to 350 hp.
In 2008, the Touareg was renamed the Touareg 2 and received a slight refresh (not a full redesign), but VW dropped the "2" two years later to once again make it just the VW Touareg. Changes included updated styling and revised feature content. This was also the last year for the big V10; it was replaced for '09 with the V6 TDI, which made 221 hp and a still robust 407 lb-ft of torque). The V8 was also discontinued at the end of the 2009 model year.
Of the few demerits attributed to the first-generation Volkswagen Touareg, mediocre backseat and cargo space were the most prominent. The lack of a third-row seat and the standard suspension's stiff ride also managed to dull the Touareg's shine, though an optional (and pricey) air suspension fixed the ride quality issues. Overall, the Touareg proved to be an excellent road tripper, with a luxuriously quiet cabin on the highway and smooth-shifting transmission.
Read the most recent 2013 Volkswagen Touareg review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Touareg page.