As the popularity of SUVs grows, it seems that much of the original rugged, off-road personality of early models has been bred out of the segment in favor of on-pavement comfort and drivability. The shift seems even more evident among luxury SUVs. The original Volkswagen Touareg was one of the sport-utilities that clung to those off-road roots, but even it has exorcised its uncivilized ways in its most recent generations.
It's hard to argue with the results, though. The first-generation Touareg was a capable model known for a high-class interior, off-road ability and respectable towing capacity. But it was also very heavy and returned subpar fuel economy. The newer Touareg lacks the serious off-road chops but is otherwise a superior vehicle more in line with what consumers expect from a modern and luxurious SUV.
Not that the Touareg has gone totally soft, however; It's still capable of towing a robust 7,700 pounds.
Current Volkswagen Touraeg
The Volkswagen Touareg is a five-passenger midsize SUV available in three trim levels: Sport w/Technology, Wolfsburg Edition and Executive.
Sport w/Technology trims come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine (280 horsepower, 265 pound-feet of torque), an eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, a hands-free power liftgate, a trailer hitch, rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, keyless ignition and entry, and adaptive cruise control. Inside are heated power front seats, premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a navigation system and an eight-speaker audio system with HD and satellite radio.
Wolfsburg trims add 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, leather upholstery and a power-folding rear seat. Stepping up to the Executive trim adds key amenities like 21-inch wheels, heated rear seats, an overhead-view parking camera system and a 10-speaker Dynaudio sound system.
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 liked the more fuel-efficient TDI diesel and found it well worth the added premium — until it was discontinued in the wake of Volkswagen running afoul of U.S. emissions testing. A major highlight for any Touareg is the cabin, which scores points for its upscale design and high-quality materials. Lest we forget: This is a Volkswagen that can really tow. With more than 7,000-pound towing capacity, the Touareg is a legitimate consideration for anyone regularly hauling dirt and water toys.
Used Volkswagen Touareg Models
The current second-generation Volkswagen Touareg arrived fully redesigned in 2011 with a new focus on on-road driving dynamics and fuel efficiency. In addition to sleeker styling, this Touareg differed from the previous one by eliminating the dual-range transfer case that made it so capable off-road. Although that change decreased its off-road ability, VW surmised that most upscale SUV drivers spend most of their time on pavement and would benefit much more from a 400-pound weight reduction, improved fuel efficiency and sharper on-road handling. This second-generation Touareg also offers rear-seat passengers more legroom and a reclining seatback.
In the first year of its second generation, the Touareg offered four trim levels: Sport, Lux, Executive and Hybrid. All but the Hybrid could be had with a 280-hp V6 or a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 (TDI). The Hybrid offered a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 paired with an electric motor — the same powertrain behind the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid of the same era.
Changes in 2012 were limited to minor changes in trim level features, while in 2013, the TDI engine's horsepower increased from 225 to 240. In 2014, a celebratory X Special Edition marked the model's 10th anniversary, while the R-Line added some sport flavor. Executive and Hybrid models got a top-view camera parking system, and the former also received LED headlights. Keyless entry and ignition and hands-free power liftgate also came standard on most versions.
The whole Touareg lineup received styling updates in 2015, including xenon headlights and LED taillights. Standard and optional driver assistance and safety features also arrived, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Only minor changes came in 2016. VW dropped the Hybrid model and the base Sport trim level, and the diesel engine in the TDI version came under investigation (VW was ordered to stop selling them in September 2015).
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 a smooth-shifting transmission.