Full 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011 the Volkswagen Touareg is redesigned and boasts notable improvements in performance, fuel economy and rear passenger space.
The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg represents the luxury SUV's first full redesign since it debuted a decade ago. In a nod to the on-road preferences of most crossover SUV owners, VW did away with the heavy and complex dual-range transfer case for off-roading. This contributes to a weight loss this year of nearly 400 pounds, which along with the new structure's increased rigidity notably sharpens on-pavement performance.
Under the hood, the new VW Touareg offers a choice of three engines. Two are carry-over: V6 gas and V6 turbodiesel. But rather than a gas-guzzling V8 at the top of the ranks, there is now a hybrid model sporting a supercharged V6 along with a battery-powered electric motor. This powertrain has been developed in conjunction with Porsche, and indeed it is the same hybrid powertrain that powers the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid.
Volkswagen's first-ever hybrid is as close as you'll get to a "cake and eat it" experience, as it provides the performance of a V8 but with better fuel economy than a V6. Along with a net output of nearly 400 horsepower that allows the Touareg Hybrid to sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in just 6.2 seconds according to Edmunds testing, the hybrid powertrain provides a combined fuel economy estimate of 21 mpg. That's 40 percent higher than the 15 mpg combined the V8 version offered a few years ago. A new eight-speed automatic (standard for all trim levels) also helps improve the fuel economy of both the V6 gas and turbodiesel models.
The 2011 Touareg's exterior styling is taut and crisp, with more pronounced character lines and wheel arches. Up front is VW's new corporate face, while out back there are distinctive LED taillights. The Touareg is still a midsize crossover with seating for five, but those in back are particularly well served now, with more rear legroom and a backrest that reclines to three different positions. With rich wood, metallic accents and high-quality materials throughout, the Touareg's cabin gives nothing away in terms of luxury ambience to more prestigious nameplates.
All things considered, the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg lineup not only compares favorably in terms of luxury and performance against respected rivals like the Acura MDX and BMW X5, but also has what it takes to compete against cutting-edge hybrid rivals like the Lexus RX 450h and Mercedes ML450 Hybrid.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 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 Sport comes well equipped with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, power tailgate, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power/heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, a navigation system, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio and iPod integration.
The Lux adds 19-inch wheels, a huge "panoramic" power sunroof, heated sideview mirrors, walnut cabin accents, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats (with power lumbar support for the driver), driver memory presets and power rear seat releases.
Moving up to the Executive adds a corner office (just kidding), 20-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, keyless ignition/entry, rear park assist and a Dynaudio premium sound system.
The Hybrid comes loaded with all the aforementioned along with a power-adjustable steering column, passenger memory presets, passenger power lumbar seat support and metal door-sill plates.
Options are few and include a Towing package, carpeted floor mats and the Protection package (which consists of rubber floor mats, a rubber cargo area mat and mud guards).
Powertrains and Performance
An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard on every 2011 Volkswagen Touareg. The VR6 versions have a narrow-angle 3.6-liter gasoline V6 that makes 280 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque. The TDI versions feature a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 good for 225 hp and a whopping 406 lb-ft of torque. The Hybrid features a supercharged, direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. The two combine to generate an impressive 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, enough to catapult this Touareg from a standstill to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds according to Edmunds testing.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the VR6 stand at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined, while the TDI is rated at an impressive 19 city/28 highway and 22 combined. These represent improvements of 2-4 mpg over the previous Touareg VR6 and TDI. The Hybrid rates 20 city/24 highway and 21 combined.
Properly equipped, the Touareg (any trim level) can tow 7,700 pounds, which is more than most competitors.
Every Volkswagen Touareg comes standard with antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability and traction control, hill hold assist (to prevent roll-back when you stop on a steep incline), front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Touareg earned the agency's "Top Safety Pick" award by acing all of the tests, including frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength.
Interior Design and Special Features
The only real difference between the Touareg's cabin and, say, the BMW X5's is the big VW badge on the steering wheel. Most surfaces in the Touareg's interior are soft-touch, and the hard surfaces feel smooth and substantial. The navigation system boasts crisp graphics and an intuitive touchscreen interface. At higher trim levels the Touareg is decked out like a Range Rover, what with the Dynaudio stereo and the upgraded styling cues and interior materials.
While many other midsize SUVs offer a third-row seat, the Touareg does not, limiting passenger capacity to only five. However, the second row is roomy enough, with a higher seat cushion than you'll find in the X5. Cargo capacity is 32 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71 cubic feet when they're folded. Sure, that's useful but not particularly impressive given that a humble Honda CR-V has more maximum storage space.
Although the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg does without the formerly standard low-range transmission feature for driving off-road, this utility vehicle still has a fair measure of ability in the dirt thanks to its minimal front/rear overhangs, decent ground clearance and compliant suspension. But even if you never venture off the beaten path, this is one satisfying SUV from behind the wheel. Steering response is particularly sharp, though the effort level is perhaps too light for some tastes.
The VR6 engine is refined and adequately powerful, but the V6 TDI diesel is well worth the extra cash, providing superior torque and fuel economy. The Hybrid is impressively quick while returning good fuel economy, though its $60K price tag is rather dear. Regardless of engine choice, the eight-speed automatic transmission's shifts are barely noticeable. At speed, the Touareg feels unflappable, devouring highway miles while cosseting its passengers in a cocoon of quiet luxury.
The Touareg's handling and ride dynamics are similarly refined, with a solid, composed feel in the corners and over the bumps. Though the brake pedal feels somewhat mushy with its long stroke, under hard braking, the brakes themselves are powerful enough. We recorded a good 121-foot stopping distance with the heaviest Touareg, the Hybrid.