Volkswagen Touareg: Off-road capable, on-road stable

Volkswagen's flagship Touareg features high-end interior and exterior design, premium technology and driver assistance systems and an efficient and powerful engine. It has a V-6 gasoline engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic shifting capability. A 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is also standard. Touareg models are capable of towing 7,716 pounds when properly equipped. Motor Matters photo

BY DAN LYONS
Motor Matters

Volkswagen’s Touareg originally debuted as a true dual-duty crossover back in 2004; equally at home on a backcountry trail or at a big city restaurant. Following feedback from its customers, VW recast the Touareg with an upscale attitude, and an on-road bias.

Today’s Touareg has a slimmed-down, scaled-up lineup. The company dismissed the former base model (Sport $42,705) and raised the floor to $49,495, for the new Sport with Technology model. It’s joined by Wolfsburg ($52,795 — formerly Lux) and Executive ($60,195) trim levels.

My 2017 Sport with Technology test model had a delivered price of $50,405 with no additional options. As the name and price (up $6,790 from last year’s base model) suggest, the entry-level Touareg comes with an armful of tech features.

Touareg’s interior is cleanly designed and well finished. Controls are straightforward in operation and the overall appearance is understated, in the manner of many German cars. Six footers fit in both rows. Rear seats adjust 6.3 inches fore and aft, to accommodate either more cargo or taller passengers. Cargo capacity ranges from 32.1 to 64 cubic feet.

Liftover height is manageably low, but the rear seat backs don’t fold very flat. The remote power tailgate has a hands-free feature, which is convenient when approaching with your arms full. The Wolfsburg model is distinguished by brushed aluminum and stainless steel trim, gray door inserts, and model-specific badging. Two-tone black-and-gray leather seats are heated and ventilated, and contrast stitching is applied to the steering wheel, shifter knob, and floor mats.

Wolfsburg editions also have distinct wheel choices, including 20-inch, diamond-turned-finish “Tarragona” rims, or available, blacked-out, 20-inch “Mallory” wheels. Executive models are equipped with 21-inch aluminum alloy rims. Finally, Sport with Tech trim vehicles are shod with 18-inch, 10-spoke “Arica” alloy rims and all-season tires.

Among the exclusive features on Executive models are a 10-speaker, 620-watt, Dynaudio sound system with digital signal processing technology, and a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view camera system. The top-down look makes short work of parking.

Drivetrain choices, numerous in years past, now number one. The hybrid model was discontinued two years ago and diesel engines are idled, owing to emissions issues. The sole current powertrain combines a 3.6-liter V-6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

VW’s VR6 is rated at 280 horsepower, and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient for all normal driving situations. Fuel economy for the VW is estimated at 17 mpg city and 23 highway. Those who tow will want to know that Touareg is rated to pull a robust 7,716 pounds, which tops all of the crossovers mentioned above.

Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system is known as 4Motion, and all Touareg models are so equipped. The 4Motion system is a permanent AWD setup, with a rear limited-slip Torsen differential and adaptive torque distribution. Available engine torque is distributed 40 percent to the front wheels, 60 percent rearward. Angles of approach/breakover/departure measure 26/21/26 degrees, respectively, and it offers 7.9 inches of ground clearance.

Touareg is less hard-core than it was before, yet still far more able off-road than it needs to be for its target market. And on the pavement, VW’s big ute feels stable, if not sporty. Touareg cruises quietly and has a notably smooth ride.

All trim levels get Auto Hold as standard equipment for 2017. Basically an extension of the parking brake, this feature keeps the vehicle from rolling — without requiring the driver to keep his/her foot on the brake — until you press the accelerator again.