VW Puts the Punch in a Premium SUV
SUVs are ubiquitous, on the road, at the mall and maybe even in your neighborhood and driveway. Size, seating capacity, options, powerplants and fuel economy can make it seem like a dizzying array of vehicles to choose. Clean Fleet Report would like to suggest narrowing your scope by first considering the engine and fuel type – gasoline vs. gasoline-electric hybrid vs. clean diesel – as this will have the most impact on your cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle.
The Touareg is one of the rare SUVs that comes with three engine options: gasoline, clean diesel and hybrid, along with six trim levels. we’ll take an in-depth look at one of them. The 2014 Touareg TDI I was driving had
the R-Line package, which is surpassed in options only by the Executive and Hybrid models, but has more standard equipment than the Sport, Sport with Navigation and Lux versions. Confusing, yes. However, what you are looking at are primarily comfort and convenience options and packages, so figure out what options are critical for you and the picture clears up nicely.
Volkswagen considers the 2014 Touareg to be a “premium” SUV, not luxury such as those offered by sister-brands Audi, Porsche or Mercedes-Benz. This could be viewed as a marketing ploy if VW could not make a case for exactly what Premium means and why you should consider having a Touareg in your garage.
The Touareg TDI is powered by a 3.0-liter, 24-valve direct injection, turbocharged clean diesel V6, and is rated at 20 City/29 Highway, with an average of 23 mpg and a range of 700+ miles. The 29 mpg highway rating is the best in class (standard SUV) with the turbo-diesel producing 240 hp and delivering a whopping 406 lb-ft of torque. All Touaregs come with VW’s 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic.
There is approximately a $3,500 premium for the clean diesel engine over the 3.6L, 280 hp/265 lb-ft VR6 gasoline engine. However, for the pure driving fun (and good fuel economy) the TDI is the way to go.
The Driving Experience: On The Road
The first thing that becomes apparent is that massive 406 lb-ft of torque. It is strong and stout off the line but really shines when kicking-in at 2,000 rpm (at around 40 mph). Keep your foot in it to 70 mph and Yowzers – oh yeah, that was fun! Even weighing in at 4,974 lb, this power made easy work of SoCal freeway onramps and changing lanes.
Touareg TDI up to the task
The Touareg TDI R-Line feels solid and confident on the road with responsive handling due to all-wheel drive, 20-inch alloy wheels, all-season tires, four-wheel vented power-assisted disc brakes and ABS. While not a sports car by any means, the Touareg lives up to VW’s claim that it is a performance SUV.
The low noise levels, even with the diesel engine, demonstrate the time VW engineers have put into making the driving experience as enjoyable as possible. The high seating position, aided by a power driver’s seat, provides excellent viewing from all angles.
I did not test the Touareg’s off road capability or ability to tow 7,700 lbs, so I will leave those for you to explore. However, when locking the 4Motion transmission into all-wheel drive, you will get a 30 percent front and 70 percent rear wheel distribution of power, so driving on roads in snow should be a reassuring experience.
One of the convenient and very helpful features on the Touareg are the Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights, which rotate in the direction of a turn being made. It was a treat having the headlights illuminating where I was actually going and is an excellent safety element that makes the Touareg a stand-out.
Driving Experience: Interior
Since VW calls the 2014 Touareg TDI R-Line a “premium” SUV, it had better be equipped with a long list of features that go on-and-on, and, that is the case. The interior has a luxury feel and look with a fit and finish that
are German-tight and have R-Line-only high-gloss black and brushed aluminum trim on the dashboard, center console and doors, along with brushed aluminum pedals and steering wheel.
There is a good mix of soft and hard plastics with no unnecessary fake woods or plastic chrome pieces. The heated leather front seats (bottoms and backs) were very comfortable (with a 12-way power driver’s seat with
memory) so along with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, finding a comfortable driving position was easy. I did find the center console to be rather tall and wide, taking up a bit of cockpit space. The 40/20/40 flat folding rear seat is comfortable for three adults with ample storage space and the power, panoramic moonroof/sunroof is a nice feature bringing the sky into the car.
The 8-speaker sound system with CD and SiriusXM sounded very good and is upgraded to the Dynaudio system in the Executive and Hybrid models. The 8-inch color touch screen controls the navigation, climate and entertainment settings.
Driver comfort can only be as good as driver confidence in the vehicle’s safety equipment. The Touareg comes with nine airbags, adaptive cruise control, Area View monitor with four cameras, lane assist and side assist blind spot monitors and the previously mentioned all-wheel drive, power disc brakes, ABS and adaptive headlights.
More information on equipment can be found here.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The exterior styling is conservative but equals the designs of luxury SUVs with appealing clean lines and no unnecessary cladding or body panels. To set it apart, the Touareg TDI R-Line has some styling features that differentiate it from the other Touareg models such as special scuff plates, front bumper fascia, side skirts, LED taillights and oval shaped exhaust tips. All tastily done and add to the look of the vehicle.
The Touareg is offered in six models and three powertrain options ranging in price from $44,905 to $65,080. All prices are MSRP and include the $910 Destination Charge.
The 2014 Touareg TDI R-Line I drove was priced at $58,525, including the $910 Destination Charge.
Half of all Touareg sales are equipped with the turbo charged, clean diesel engine, according to VW, and 24 percent of Volkswagen’s USA overall 2013 sales are clean diesel models. When combining the Volkswagen Group of America’s 2013 sales of VW, Porsche and Audi, these three brands command 75 percent of the diesel market and exceeded the 100,000-TDI engine sales mark during 2013.
Observations: 2014 Touareg TDI R-Line
So did VW make a case for exactly what makes the 2014 Touareg TDI R-Line a “premium” SUV? Let’s see…upscale interior with contemporary exterior styling, excellent fuel economy, performance and handling, plus a long
list of safety and entertainment features all for thousands less than competing luxury SUVs? Yes, I believe they did
The SUV market, from small to full size, is very competitive with a wide array of brands and models to choose from. As with all vehicle purchases it is important to ask yourself what you need from a car or truck for your lifestyle and driving patterns.
You can find other premium SUVs that you personally may find more appealing, and that, of course, is your decision. However, for the features, equipment, comfort, safety, ambiance and above-all fuel economy, the 2014 Touareg TDI R-Line should be on your shopping list.
Other contenders in the standard-size 4WD SUV category that are close on the heels of the Touareg TDI’s 29 MPG Hwy. are:
- Jeep Grand Cherokee w/3L diesel – 28 MPG
- Audi Q7 TDI w/3L diesel – 28 MPG
- Infiniti QX60 Hybrid – 28 MPG
- Mercedes ML 350 BlueTEC w/3L diesel – 28 MPG
Story & Photos by John Faulkner
Posted: Dec. 23, 2013
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