Is the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg an overpriced VW, or a Porsche with inexpensive badging? Answer that question and you’ll know whether you want to buy one.
Let’s start with the Touareg’s history. The latest generation VW SUV is a product of a collaboration between Audi and Porsche engineering. That’s some pretty serious automotive lineage. Unlike plush upscale SUVs that are meant to coddle you around town, the Touareg is designed to be driven. It may not have as much performance as its Porsche Cayenne cousin, but it’s definitely a cut above the norm.
My test car was the turbo diesel version. Horsepower was rated at 240. Not overpowering, but enough to get you around town. There’s a slight power lag as you take off from a stop, but once you get moving, the engine works well. The diesel version is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Mate that up to a fuel tank that holds more than 26 gallons and you won’t be filling up anytime soon. It was impressive to see the display reading my range on a full tank as 690 miles. My week with the Touareg averaged 23.5 mpg, which I actually found a little disappointing compared to what my wife’s MDX gets. All-wheel drive means you can handle most conditions (although not necessary in Phoenix) and the eight speed transmission was sufficiently smooth. If you haven’t driven a modern diesel, it’s worth a test. And the VW diesels are right at the top.
The interior is nice, but not necessarily in the luxury range. I liked the simple layout of the dash. The display worked well, although navigation was just in the average range (to be fair, I don’t find many in-car systems to be very impressive compared to my phone’s Google maps). Seats were comfortable in both the front and passenger rows. It has a huge panoramic sunroof which looks great. Having said that, I think sunroofs are a waste of money. The driver doesn’t get to enjoy it, and here in Phoenix that glass only serves to bake the interior. One small detail I liked was dual sun visors for the driver. One flips to the side, while the other can block the front. It’s always annoying to have to flick the visor back and forth while traveling northwest in the late afternoon. My test car had a two-tone brown interior that was probably just a bit too much light and dark chocolate for me. I’ve seen other photos with what I consider prettier interior choices for the Touareg.
Outside styling is nice. It is similar to the Audi with a rounded look. VW doesn’t feel the need to put any styling being on the sheet metal. In fact about the only issue I had with the looks was the giant VW emblem on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a VW guy from way back, but I always liked the car maker for its mix of value and performance.
Which brings me to price. While the Touareg starts at $44,570. My test car was the Turbo Diesel Lux which stickered at $55,885. There are various other versions available maxing out with the hybrid model at $64,745 (this hybrid is designed for power and as a result mileage aficionados will be disappointed in the 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway numbers).
Is the Touareg a great car? Yes. Is it a great deal? I’m not convinced. You can buy other cars that will give you more luxury (and definitely more snob appeal) for the same money. In fact, the Touareg is really close to Audi Q7 money which makes me wonder why not just bump up to a more upscale name? You can even spend less money and still get more status.
Having said that, if your priority is the driving experience, and you’re willing to trade-off the VW name for Porsche engineering, the Touareg could be a great choice.