2010 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on May 08, 2010

A familiar profile, VW's Touareg can be found in almost every neighbourhood. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Upright profile allows for plenty of room in back. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The differentiating factor... VW's turbo-diesel engine makes the Touareg TDI one of a kind. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The Touareg handles the road as well as it handles trails... very well indeed. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Nice... chocolate and beige mixed together in one stylish, premium-quality, fully-featured interior. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Love the seats. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Rear accommodations are ideal. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Not only a roomy cargo area, but one of the best finished luggage compartments in the industry. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The attention to premium-level detail is fabulous. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Real 4x4 capability. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The 2010 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is a cut above. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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I've long been a Touareg fan, and not for the usual reasons I like a vehicle.  Being mostly a visually stimulated person, visual being the most common dominating sense at about 55% according to various psychology studies I've read on the subject, styling is normally a big turn-on or turn-off for me.  And while the Touareg is attractive, it's more of a girl next door than anything that zaps the nerve endings, that is until getting inside. 

Truly, few SUVs deliver as much clean, crisp interior styling, high quality materials and overall impressiveness even when labeled with a premium brand, let alone those in the sub-premium sector where Volkswagen battles it out.  My tester featured a beautiful chocolate brown and tan motif, the chocolate covering the Touareg's leather-wrapped steering wheel and soft-touch plastics starting at just below the window-line upwards excepting the woven fabric adorned pillars and roof liner which gets the bright tan treatment also set aside for below that window-line, including the lower door panels, lower dash, seats and carpeting.  It looks fabulous, although I must admit difficult to keep clean when the kiddies climb aboard. 

The 2010 model is a carryover from the Touareg's recent mid-cycle upgrade, and still looks relatively fresh if you haven't seen the upcoming 2011 model yet.  A few items have been added for this last year of the current iteration, such as standard Bluetooth connectivity, anti-theft wheel locks for those sporty five-spoke rims or for the standard 17-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded 18-inch rims or new 20-inch optional alloys. Additionally you can now get bumper-integrated projector-lens fog lamps as standard when you upgrade to the Highline or optional on Comfortline, plus a VW individual exterior design package is now available, and Shadow Blue Metallic, as shown in the photos of my test vehicle, has been added. 

Speaking of my test vehicle, Volkswagen provided me with a new TDI, replacing the base model's gasoline-powered 3.6-litre V6 with a diesel-powered 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder mill, and oh was I glad.  Don't get me wrong, the standard V6 is a fine engine and thanks to 280-horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque capable of measuring up to all rivals in part because of its slick six-speed Tiptronic gearbox, the same automatic as used in the diesel, but the TDI is in another league altogether.  It does battle with the Mercedes-Benz ML diesel as well as the Lexus RX 450h hybrid, and in many ways VW wipes the floor with both. 

The most obvious way it outperforms its peers is off-road, where a sport utility vehicle earns the credentials to wear the SUV badge by rock climbing, mud slinging and generally fulfilling the go where its crossover competitors dare tread credo.  Four-by-four tech nerds will appreciate the stats, starting with an approach angle of 28°, a departure angle of 28°, a breakover angle of 22°, lateral driving angle of 35°, static angle of 45°, maximum gradient of 45°, fording depth of 500 mm (19.7 inches) and overall ground clearance of 212 mm (8.3 inches).  Some rivals are in the Touareg's league when the road turns to trail and wheel slip begs for a bull low gearing range, but these same 4x4s can't manage pavement with anywhere near the Touareg's prowess except maybe Land Rover's much more expensive Range Rover Sport.  That's the Touareg's differentiator, the ability to balance superb on-road handling with thoroughly capable off-road mastery.  Truly, the Touareg is in a class of few. 

With the TDI powerplant, the Touareg not only has the necessary torque to crawl up and over a rocky embankment and full dose of horsepower for passing on the highway, but the fuel economy needed to continue past the next highway exit and go deeper in the woods before turning around.  Together with its 225-horsepower that maxes out at 4,000 rpm and unfathomable (for a 3.0-litre V6) 406 lb-ft of torque available at a low, low 1,750 rpm, the midsize SUV gets an estimated 11.9 L/100km in the city and 8.0 on the highway.  Let's put this fuel economy into perspective before I get comments in my inbox about Lexus hybrid numbers, folks.  The Touareg TDI is a meaty vehicle weighing in at a substantial 2,406 kilos (5,304 lbs); it's no lightweight crossover.  You can tow up to 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lbs) with trailer brakes and haul up to 642 kg (1,415 lbs) in its 900-litre (31.8-cubic foot) cargo area (it opens up to 2,000 litres or 70.6 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seatback folded flat… yeah, nearly four tons and three-quarters of a ton respectively.  I've already mentioned its off-road capability, and this doesn't come without a weight penalty.  The TDI's fuel economy, when stacked up beside any competitor that can compete against it on and off the road, is exemplary. 

I mentioned the Touareg's brilliant interior, but haven't really gone into too much detail about the SUV's standard and optional features.  The TDI comes in two trim levels, Comfortline and Highline, the former, the same as my test vehicle, featuring heated eight-way manual "leatherette" seats that really look and feel like leather, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, great looking anthracite metallic interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control (the base Touareg just gets air conditioning), remote keyless entry with a really slick "switchblade" key fob, auto up/down windows all-round, a single-CD audio system with Sirius satellite radio that sounds great, Bluetooth connectivity, a multifunction trip computer, cruise control, compass, a powered glass sunroof, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, heated washer nozzles, an anti-theft alarm, and more on the inside, plus heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, chrome window surrounds, black roof rails, and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/60R17 all-season rubber, on the outside.  Hidden within but appreciated just the same is trailer hitch preparation, hill descent control and hill climb assist.  On the safety front, ABS brakes, plus traction and stability control are standard, as are front, side-thorax and curtain-type airbags. 

While I never felt a lack of luxury, the Highline package adds some extras that really bring it into premium territory.  The genuine burl walnut trim is gorgeous and can only be rivaled by Land Rover in the 4x4 capable set, while the 12-way powered and heated leather seats feature really supple, high-grade leather that works well for me.  I don't have much need for its three-position driver's memory anymore, but can appreciate why a family with older teens or young adults living at home might have need of these.  The other features VW has outfitted its Highline with are also worthy of consideration.  Personally, I'm big on forward visibility so the adaptive bi-xenon headlamps would be high on my list when traveling, especially in winter, as are automatic and adaptive auto-dimming exterior and interior mirrors.  And park distance control is always appreciated when maneuvering a big SUV in tight inner city spaces, and even more useful when negotiating rocks and trees off-road.  The power tailgate, also included, is a no-brainer from a convenience aspect, but I've learned from experience that most rain sensing wipers aren't too useful in the misty, drizzling West Coast weather.  Manual rear sunshades are a big bonus if you've got small children, especially infants, as is privacy glass that does its fair share of shading rear occupants and keeping prying eyes from valuables.  The Highline package also includes a heated steering wheel, an upgraded 11-speaker stereo that sounds fantastic, a 115-volt outlet, garage door opener and 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/55R18 all-season tires that improve handling and aesthetics. 

Yes, the Touareg is an easy SUV to fall in love with, and one that I personally could see myself owning.  It meets my needs and my wants, although I must admit that a third row of seats would probably make it even more appealing.  The Touareg, despite wearing a mainstream level badge instead of a full-on premium marque, is priced closer to a premium model, for good reason as I just detailed.  Base models start at $45,300 and the Touareg TDI begins at $49,300 in Comfortline trim and $58,300 when the Highline trim is added.  A $3,500 Sport Package adds 20-inch 'Ayers Rock' alloy wheels with all-season tires, the VW Individual exterior design package, silver roof rails and a sport suspension, while a $3,450 Technology Package adds satellite navigation with a large touchscreen interface, rearview camera and 30 GB hard drive, MDI (Media Device Interface) with iPod connectivity, Dynaudio 600-watt digital sound package with 10 speakers for awesome sound, and a multifunction combi-instrumentation display.  A $700 trailer hitch can be tacked on too, well not exactly "tacked" on, while freight and PDI of $1,580 will bring a fully loaded 2010 Touareg TDI to $67,530.  If you think that's a lot, keep in mind that one of GM's new crossovers can run well over $60k with even fewer options and far less of a premium feel, let alone a diesel engine upgrade and zero off-road capability, while a Tahoe Hybrid starts even higher before discount.  I'm not beating up on GM, because they make a great product, but rather I'm just showing that the Touareg is hardly overpriced. 

Along with the premium feel is a premium-like warranty that covers the Touareg for four years or 80,000 km comprehensively, as well as five years or 100,000 km for the powertrain.  A four-year or 80,000 km roadside assistance package is also part of the standard package, but that's not quite as good as last year's four-year, unlimited mileage roadside assistance program. 

In the end I love the Touareg TDI.  It does everything I ask of it extremely well and delivers more than any of its premium competitors with respect to collective on- and off-road capability, fuel-efficiency, interior quality and overall refinement.  There are reliability concerns if you buy into J. D. Power and Associates study procedure that includes all inquiries to a dealer as complaints and therefore unfairly biasing high technology vehicles, but personally I could live with any real reliability issues considering the Touareg TDI's many positive attributes.  It's a solid two thumbs up in my books.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Volkswagen, VW, 2010, Touareg, Touareg 2, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999, Diesel,

Organizations: Volkswagen

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