Mid-size diesel SUVs aren’t exactly common in this part of the world, so if you’ve been thinking about one, the Volkswagen Touareg is probably a familiar option.
But starting in 2014, it has new competition: the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Both crossovers are available with 3.0-liter V6 diesel engines that offer similar output. In the Jeep, you’re looking at 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque joined with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a four-wheel drive system. According to Chrysler, it can pull up to 7,200 lbs.
Horsepower in the Touareg TDI is the same as the Grand Cherokee, but it makes 406 lb-ft of torque. That power is directed to an eight-speed automatic transmission and VW’s 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system. It – according to Volkswagen – is able to tow up to 7,716 lbs.
As you can probably guess, both are fuel efficient relative to their gasoline-burning siblings. In the Jeep, you should expect an average of 24 MPG or 23 with the Touareg. Both vehicles roughly lived up to their advertised fuel economy.
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The R-Line trim is new to the Touareg for 2014 and adds 20-inch alloy wheels along with oval shaped exhaust tips. You also get special side skirts, LED tail lights and R-Line badges.
Volkswagen vehicles tend to come with a subdued style that tends not to take risks. Still, it’s hard to argue with how clean the Touareg looks.
Same goes for the Jeep. It’s handsome without looking garish and admittedly more rugged than the Volkswagen.
Even though the Touareg can pull heavier objects, , you’re arguably getting a more capable package with the Jeep because it is available with an air suspension to offer variable ride height.
The R-Line Touareg, on the other hand, has a “sport-tuned” suspension that ends up giving it more car-like characteristics. Steering seems tighter and more direct in the Touareg and by comparison, the Jeep suspension feels soft.
Both vehicles will isolate you from road noise and their chattering diesel powertrains provided you keep the windows up. Similarly, they feel smooth and comfortable while cruising along at highway speeds and neither of them are left wanting for more power.
As you probably expect, Volkswagen does a better job of building a premium interior than Jeep. Both cars have hard plastic surfaces, but the Touareg’s cabin still feels better built. VW pitches the Touareg as an attainable luxury SUV and while it might be a stretch to spin it as a luxury product, the interior difference between it and the Jeep are palpable.
For example, the knobs and buttons offer satisfying feedback when you press or turn them. Small details like that are where the Jeep’s interior quality starts to feel flimsy. The climate control dials wiggle if you push on them and in the Grand Cherokee just feels hastily assembled beside its German competition.
From a macro perspective, both of them are pretty good. The leather upholstery is actually softer in the Jeep than the Touareg despite the seats having a less stylish design. It also offers more rear-seat headroom, legroom and overall cargo space. Both offer panoramic sunroofs.
I find that the Touareg is easier to see out of and offered a better view of where the front corners were. At least from where I sit, judging that in the Jeep isn’t impossible, but it’s more challenging.
If it weren’t for pricing and equipment package restrictions, the differences between the Grand Cherokee and Touareg would really boil down to whether you prefer more passenger space or a nicer cabin.
|Vehicle||2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel||Advantage||2014 VW Touareg TDI R-Line|
|Engine||3.0-liter V6||–||3.0-liter V6|
|Transmission||eight-speed automatic||–||eight-speed automatic|
|Rear seat legroom||38.6 inches||Jeep||36.9 inches|
|Rear seat headroom||39.2 inches||Jeep||38.9 inches|
|Cargo space||36.3 cubic feet||Jeep||32.1 cubic feet|
|Towing capacity||7,200 lbs||VW||7,710 lbs|
Trouble is, there’s more to it than that. The least expensive diesel-powered Grand Cherokee starts at (about) $40,000. For that price, you get a two wheel drive model while the Summit version we borrowed for this comparison came generously loaded and included four-wheel drive for about $58,000. At that price it also included adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring.
Meanwhile, the diesel Touareg costs $52,520 to start. That price includes all-wheel drive capability, but it’s still a big jump from the Jeep’s entry point. The R-Line model pictured here will set you back $59,100, but even at that price you aren’t getting a fully-loaded model. That’s the “Executive” trim and it costs $62,345, or roughly $3,000 above a loaded Gran Cherokee.
There’s no question that Volkswagen builds the nicer product, but I’m not convinced that the upgrades in quality are worth that price. If the payments were mine to make, I would probably suffer the slightly less attractive interior and sign for the Jeep.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 EcoDiesel
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI R-Line