By Steve & Tami Laser
Volkswagen’s local press fleet office recently asked us if we would like to test the new Touareg TDI for a week. Since we haven’t been in the latest generation of the auto maker’s midsize crossover, we said yes. Afterwards, we looked at each other and said, “It’s a diesel.”
Truth be told, we haven’t tested a diesel in years. It’s not that we’ve been avoiding them. It’s just that the vast majority of cars sold in the U.S. are gasoline so we test what shoppers buy. Okay, it’s time to come clean. We have been avoiding diesels.
Yet after driving the Touareg TDI more than 200 miles on a variety of roads, highways and freeways we have to admit that we’re impressed. This is a smooth and quiet engine that’s easy to live with. Sound insulation makes it only a bit louder than a gas engine inside the cabin. We detected no black smoke from the tailpipe thanks to its sophisticated emissions system.
We were also impressed with the TDI engine’s low-end torque. It pulls very strong from a stop making it easy to keep up with traffic, pass other cars and merge into busy freeways. Touareg’s 3.0-liter V6 TDI is a clean diesel with EPA estimated fuel economy of 29 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in the city.
The engine block is made of compacted graphite iron for strength and to reduce weight. It puts out 240 horsepower and a stout 406 ft-lbs of torque from just 2,000 rpm. A special catalytic converter with an injection system that sprays AdBlue into the exhaust helps reduce NOx emissions by up to 90 percent. There is the added cost of the fluid, which needs to be checked and refilled at every oil change.
Touareg drives and feels like a luxury SUV. That’s because its platform was engineered and shared with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. It’s also a bit heavy, with a curb weight of nearly 5,000 pounds. We drove the Touareg up steep hills, did a little off-road driving on easy trails, used the air conditioning extensively during a warm spell and took a 50-mile trip to Orange County. We scored 20 mpg for this week of moderate to hard driving.
In addition to the TDI engine, our Touareg was fitted with an 8-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and manual gearshift control. The top two gears are overdrive for effortless, quiet cruising on the highway. Volkswagen’s standard 4Motion all-wheel-drive provided excellent traction with a rear limited-slip Torsen differential that splits torque 40 percent front and 60 percent rear.
The sporty R-Line equipment on our tester included 20-inch “Mallory” wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, unique front bumper fascia, side skirts, LED taillights, oval-shaped exhaust, high-gloss black and brushed aluminum trim on the dash, center console and doors, aluminum sport pedals and an R-Line steering wheel.
The cabin was filled with luxury features including a panoramic sunroof, touchscreen navigation system, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, a power tailgate, 12-way power heated leather seats and power-folding outside mirrors both managed by the convenient driver memory system.
With a base price of $58,190, our tester added destination for a bottom line of $59,100, putting it into the realm of luxury crossovers. However, it remains lower priced than the Audi Q7 TDI Prestige that starts at $61,400, or the Porsche Cayenne Diesel at $62,695.
We were so impressed with the Touareg TDI, that we would select this model over its gasoline counterpart. However, those with tighter budgets would do well to consider the base Touareg Sport that starts at $44,570, including a 3.6-liter gasoline V6 and 4Motion AWD.
If you’re in the market for a luxury crossover, be sure to put Volkswagen’s Touareg TDI on your shopping list. Yes, it’s a diesel…and we liked it.
[2014 Volkswagen Touareg press vehicle provided by Volkswagen of America, Inc.]
Story, photos and video ©2014 CarNichiWa