What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Volkswagen Touareg gets new wheel and trim options, while the diesel engine's output increases to 240 horsepower. The hybrid model gets LED taillights.
Volkswagen doesn't usually enter into the typical consumer's discussion of luxury brands. Aside from the short-lived Phaeton executive sedan, VW remains a staunchly working-class badge. Nevertheless, the 2013 Volkswagen Touareg challenges such perceptions with a combination of power, performance and interior comfort that rivals BMW and Lexus. Take any seat in the Touareg and you are bound to ask: "This is a Volkswagen?"
The Touareg crossover SUV offers buyers a trio of engine choices, including a capable V6, a burly and economical V6 diesel and a supercharged V6 hybrid that delivers V8 power with V6 fuel economy. And as befits a model that shares its basic platform with the Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg feels solid and confident on the road.
High-quality materials, rich wood and metallic accents, and contemporary electronics and entertainment interfaces fill out the Touareg cabin, and the sliding and reclining second-row seat is pretty useful. But there's no third-row seat as in some other similarly sized crossovers, while the Touareg's cargo capacity is middling at best.
If interior room is a priority for you, both the 2013 Acura MDX and new Infiniti JX probably would be better choices. Meanwhile, the 2013 BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class display more premium badges, also offer diesel engines and are slightly more sophisticated overall. On the hybrid front, the 2013 Lexus RX 450h is a notable bargain when you compare it to the Touareg Hybrid. Fortunately for anyone shopping this segment, there's not a loser in the bunch, and the Touareg holds its ground among an impressive group of rivals thanks to its strong performance, plentiful standard features and upscale design.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Volkswagen Touareg is a five-passenger midsize crossover SUV available in Sport, Lux, Executive and Hybrid trim levels. All but the Hybrid offer either a gasoline (VR6) or turbodiesel (TDI) V6 engine.
The Sport comes with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, foglights, roof rails, heated washer nozzles, a power liftgate, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power/heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with touchscreen control, a six-CD changer, satellite radio and iPod connection. Adding the optional navigation system also includes an 8-inch color touchscreen and a rearview camera.
The Lux bundles the Sport equipment with the navigation package and adds 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats (with power lumbar support for the driver), driver memory presets and power rear-seat releases in the trunk. Moving up to the Executive adds 20-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, different wood trim, keyless ignition/entry and a premium Dynaudio sound system.
The Hybrid takes the Executive level trim, substitutes 19-inch wheels and adds LED taillights, rear parking sensors, a power-adjustable steering column, passenger seat memory presets, power lumbar seat support and metal door-sill plates.
Options are few and include a roof spoiler, a trailer hitch, mud guards and a rubber or carpeted mat kit.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Volkswagen Touareg comes with a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. TDI models come with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 good for 240 hp and a prodigious 406 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard across the lineup.
The Touareg Hybrid is motivated by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. The combination generates an impressive 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, enough to catapult this Touareg from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, according to Edmunds testing. The eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive also are standard.
EPA fuel economy estimates show the gasoline V6 is capable of 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined, while the TDI is rated at an impressive 20/29/23 mpg. The Hybrid -- tuned more for performance than maximum economy -- rates only slightly lower than the TDI at 20/24/21.
Properly equipped, the Touareg can tow 7,700 pounds, which is more than most competitors.
Every 2013 Volkswagen Touareg comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, hill-hold assist, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Touareg Hybrid stopped from 60 mph in an admirable 121 feet. In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Touareg earned a top score of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Few consider Volkswagen a luxury automaker, but the Touareg's interior transcends its humble badge and holds its own against pricier crossover SUVs. The Touareg cabin isn't as tech-forward as an Acura MDX or as refined as a BMW X5, but it is still an enveloping place to sit, surrounded by soft-touch surfaces and cushy seats.
The Touareg does not offer a third-row seat as some other midsize SUVs do, limiting occupant capacity to five. The Touareg exploits the configuration, however, with a 60/40-split rear seat that can slide 6.3 inches fore and aft and features reclining seatbacks. Second-row legroom matches up to the rest of the class at about 37 inches. Cargo capacity is 32 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 64 cubic feet when stowed.
Finally, the navigation system uses crisp graphics and an intuitive touchscreen interface, while higher trim levels feature the very nice 10-speaker Dynaudio stereo system.
The 2013 Volkswagen Touareg lacks a low-range transmission for off-road excursions, yet still provides a fair amount of trail prowess thanks to minimal front and rear overhangs, decent ground clearance and a compliant suspension. But most Touaregs will not see rigorous dirt duty, and in the urban wilds most drivers will appreciate the sharp steering response that makes the Touareg feel like a smaller vehicle.
The regular V6 engine is refined and suitably powerful, but we think the diesel V6 is worth the extra cash, considering its superior torque and fuel economy. The Hybrid is impressively quick and impressively fuel-thrifty, but given its substantial price premium, we'd certainly hope so. The diesel just makes more sense if mpg is your priority.
Regardless of engine choice, the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts with an almost imperceptible ease, and the Touareg feels confident and quiet at highway speed. Even over rough road or varied highway surfaces, the Touareg doesn't break stride, offering a solid, composed feel over bumps.