EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I’ve always thought VW’s big SUV is across the board a nice truck that does nothing outstanding, but doesn’t fall on its face in any category, either.
Everything is good with this 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Lux; nothing is outstanding, nothing horrible. It’s pleasant enough to tool around in, the diesel is nice and packs lots of torque (though it feels a bit lame at the lower revs), the driving position is comfy, and the ride and body motions feel taut. The interior feels and looks well-built and the controls are intuitive.
I like diesels generally, and this engine is smoother and sounds less like a diesel than I remember the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel sounding. I suppose driving the Vee Dub back to back with, say, a Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec diesel would be educational.
One point in this car’s favor: according to the in-dash mpg measurer, I never averaged less than 20 mpg; impressive for a 5,000-pound vehicle considering 90 percent of my weekend driving was on city streets. I’m sure on a long trip the range would far outlast my bladder.
Off the top of my head, the ML, Porsche Cayenne, Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW X5 diesel and this car basically make up the diesel SUV class in the U.S. For long distances, I really don’t think getting any of them would be a mistake. In this particular case, there is the notion of paying $50K-plus for a VW, even though I gotta admit it cost less than I would’ve guessed. If you can get your head around that, this is a fine midsize SUV.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Lux comes in at a base price of $56,460 with our tester topping off at $56,785.PHOTO BY VOLKSWAGEN
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I’ve liked the Touareg since my first experience with one, and this TDI Lux is a lovely example of a luxury five-passenger crossover on par with anything Audi, Mercedes or BMW offer. In fact, that’s its biggest flaw, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The best thing about the Touareg is its lust-worthy powertrain; it’s completely unflappable in any situation, feels like it could pull a house down the street, and makes the Touareg flat-out quick if you need it to be. There’s zero diesel smell, only the slightest clatter from under the hood, and I regularly achieved 25 mpg in mixed driving -- outstanding for this class of vehicle.
Likewise, the interior refinement is solidly in Audi territory with leather, wood, metal and soft-touch materials lining every conceivable surface. The enormous panoramic moonroof opens up the interior, and unlike some large crossovers, the Touareg has a relatively low beltline for excellent visibility all around.
Wes makes a point regarding spending $57,000 on a Volkswagen, but if you consider the Touareg an inexpensive Audi…well, that doesn’t work, either. I optioned up a diesel Audi Q5 similarly to our Touareg and it came in $1,000 less. Yes, the Audi is on a different platform, but the Q5 has more rear legroom and roughly the same cargo space, plus a more prestigious name and the same engine, all for less money.
So why does the Touareg exist? Perhaps it’s to serve as a spiritual successor to the VW Phaeton. It’s certainly following the same sales trajectory: 550 Touaregs to Audi’s 3,800 Q5s in May 2014.
Shame too; there’s a lot to like here…at $45,000.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Lux receives an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined fuel economy.PHOTO BY VOLKSWAGEN
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Volkswagen calls the Touareg a “premium SUV” on its consumer site and, as pointed out above, it’s a fitting descriptor. The Touareg has always been a pricier option in the five-passenger SUV field, punching in above the likes of the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’ll admit that its higher-grade interior surroundings and more buttoned up ride quality are worth a small premium, but I’m not sure the extra cheddar that VW is asking for is worth it. For example, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland with the optional diesel V6 engine wears a sticker of $51,690, which is $4,770 less than this 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Lux model.
There is a trim level below the Lux model, though, to shave some from the price. A Toaureg TDI Sport with navigation model begins at $52,520 and is still equipped nicely. The things you’ll be missing from the Lux model are a panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, leather seats and 12-way power front seats. That means you have to make do with 18-inch wheels, leatherette seating surfaces and eight-way power front seats -- appalling, I know.
Volkswagen’s 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 is another item worth paying a little more for. As Andy says above, it’s strong and refined without excessive rattle and clank, which can’t be said about the Grand Cherokee’s diesel powerplant that’s coarse and makes quite a bit of racket. The eight-speed gearbox whips off shifts with aplomb.
The Touareg has always been an exceptional handler for a hefty vehicle with a high ride height. In typical VW fashion, steering is lightly weighted but responsive. It confidently takes corners without a bunch of lean, and the brakes easy slow things down with a firm pedal underfoot. The Touareg also rides down the road in a confident manner, not letting impacts from bumps upset it, but instead absorbing blows to provide a comfy enough ride.
I have to agree that things appear and feel near Audi-grade inside with quality finishes and materials. Front seats are flat, but still comfortable. The central touchscreen is responsive and intuitive, while a tasteful number of standard buttons remain to switch between entertainment and navigation menus.
So there’s a lot to like about the Touareg -- some of which is worth paying a little extra for. Whether the premium is worth it is ultimately up to the consumer. If a particular buyer is looking for the best diesel drivetrain in a midsize SUV and not wanting to make the leap to a luxury nameplate, then without question the VW Touareg TDI is it. If it were me, I would have to think long and hard about it, because the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is still good, but just not as refined. I wouldn’t blame anyone for purchasing a Touareg and paying a little more. That’s something I can’t say about its little sibling the Tiguan that’s also overpriced compared to its competition, but definitely not worth the premium.
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