Maybe you’ve noticed the updated Volkswagen Touareg. Scratch that, it’s a safer bet you haven’t seen one of these premium crossovers. Enhanced for 2015 the vehicle gains a variety of features that are sure to please drivers, even if they have a hard time seeing them.
Engine: 3.0-liter diesel V6 with 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: We averaged 25 MPG in real-world testing
Pricing: Starts at $45,615 including $910 in delivery fees
As far as automotive refreshes go this is about as subtle as they come. The Touareg has always been a paragon of buttoned-down Germanic conservatism, handsome and upscale if a trifle boring. None of that changes this go around and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Front and center the 2015 Touareg’s face is graced with a reworked grille. Like a colony of bacteria thriving in a Petri dish the horizontal slats have doubled, increasing from just two in the outgoing version to four. Additionally the lower valance has been reworked, the fog lights are a new shape and its headlight assemblies now house standard bi-xenon units.
Around back the changes are just as subtle. There’s a new chrome strip on the bumper, the aft valance has been redone as well and all Touaregs come dressed up with standard LED taillights. Finally, one thing that’s shared between both ends of the vehicle is a subtly tweaked rendition of the iconic Volkswagen logo, though once again you probably won’t notice a difference.
Of course designers didn’t forget about wheels and the 2015 Touareg offers three new choices. Eighteen-inch 10-spoke rims are standard with both 19s and 20s available on higher-trim models. Five new exterior colors are also offered; though don’t expect to get a Touareg in lavender or pearlescent pink. Remember, Germanic conservatism.
Moving inside it’s essentially the same story; this vehicle’s cabin has been updated in several ways, none of which are groundbreaking. The change log includes new chrome trim, updated switchgear and revised ambient lighting with white LEDs instead of red ones. In addition to all of this two new wood trims are offered: Sapelli Mahogany and Engineered Ebony. The former is available in Lux models while the latter is reserved for higher-end Executive and Hybrid variants.
Overall the Touareg’s interior is a nice place to spend some time and sometimes lots of time if the time is right at that given time. The leather trim has a premium feel, the plastics are squishy-soft as well as attractively grained and the controls operate with fluid refinement. Nothing seems frail or otherwise cheap.
The front seats are quite comfortable and fortunately so are the rears. A pair of gangly adults shouldn’t have any complaints being held captive back there for hours at a stretch. Fold the aft bench down and there’s a maximum of 64 cubic feet of cargo space.
If there’s one major gripe about the cabin it’s the sun visors. When swiveled to the side they don’t slide back at all to provide additional coverage of the door glass. This means taller drivers, like me, are partially blinded when the sun is out in full force. This is one major annoyance.
Tech This Out!
Visually not a lot has changed with the 2015 Touareg but the biggest area where Volkswagen engineers spent their time and budget is in the field of driver-assistance technology. The vehicle gains a host of helpful aids that can take much of the stress out of motoring.
And one of those signature features is adaptive cruise control. Its bundled with several other items in the $2,500 driver-assistance package. In addition to this ever-helpful technology the vehicle offers lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking should you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
For a vehicle with an entry-level price tag of $45,615 including $910 in destination charges it’s surprising Volkswagen took so long to add these amenities. The Lux trim TDI version we evaluated was even pricier than that, rolling off the line with a sticker of $60,080! At least the Touareg is catching up to the pack for 2015.
Three Cheers for Choice
Keeping things simple while still offering drivers some choice, three different powertrains are available in this vehicle. There’s a base gasoline V6, a mid-range clean diesel and a hybrid.
The entry-level engine delivers 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque from 3.6-liters’ worth of displacement. On the economy front it can muster up to 23 miles per gallon highway.
Stepping up a rung on the powertrain ladder Volkswagen’s next offering is a 3.0-liter TDI. This compression-ignition V6 puts out a rather modest 240 horses but it really shines in the torque department. It cranks out 406 lb-ft at just 2,000 RPM. Thanks to a super strong compacted graphite iron block this engine is about 55 lbs lighter than its predecessor, something that certainly helps improve efficiency.
Lastly there’s the Touareg Hybrid. It’s built around a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that delivers 333 hp on its own. Naturally this internal-combustion unit is matched to an electric motor; here it provides an additional 47 horses. Total system output measures 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of twist. A 1.7 kWh nickel metal-hydride battery stores extra electrons. Touareg Hybrids should deliver 24 miles per gallon on the highway.
The company’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system is standard in all versions of the Touareg. Additionally every model is rated to tow more than 7,000 pounds.
Not surprisingly for a large, versatile crossover the Touareg seems quite heavy. Fortunately all that mass is not entirely a hindrance. A little extra bulk ensures this vehicle feels more robust than the foundation of Wolfsburg Castle. It stays remarkably composed over a wide variety of surfaces, from eroded asphalt, to dirt roads, to freshly paved super-slabs.
Naturally the final tally varies greatly from one powertrain to another but it’s safe to say the Touareg weighs right around 5,000 pounds, a little less with the gasoline engine, a touch more in hybrid trim. Of course this means the TDI model is about 700 pounds porkier than an all-wheel drive Acura MDX, though its mass is right in line with rival countrymen like the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and BMW X5. Good thing you don’t have to pay by the pound.
Aside from those hallowed competitors Volkswagen Product planners also think the Touareg is a good foil for vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volvo XC90 and Lexus GX 460, heady opponents for a so-called “people’s car.”
The 3.0-liter turbo-diesel bent-six I evaluated is quite smooth for a compression-ignition engine, though small amounts of vibration do breach the Touareg’s NVH defenses, though it’s hardly anything to write home about (even if I just did).
The only transmission offered in the Touareg is an eight-speed automatic. The lack of choice is at first blush disappointing however the results are anything but. This gearbox works seamlessly, delivering creamy-smooth up-shifts and promptly serving lower ratios when requested. Batman’s butler Alfred Pennyworth should be so attentive.
Overall this drivetrain combination is a winner and if you can spare the extra $3,500 it’s a nice step up from the base gasoline engine. The TDI delivers oodles of torque and impressive consumption scores. According to Uncle Sam it should deliver 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 29 on the interstate. Driven aggressively on a 50-plus mile test circuit I averaged more than 25 MPG.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Expedition Review
So, VW engineers nailed the Touareg’s powertrain and structure, what about its chassis? You can put a check mark in the win category for this vehicle attribute as well. Overall it drives a lot like a portly, high-riding GTI. It’s sturdy, responsive and the body motions are well controlled, even while navigating curving roads at speed. Likewise the steering is firm and precise.
With a nicely trimmed cabin, impressive on-road manners, generous interior room and newly available features the 2015 Volkswagen Touareg is a strong player in the high-end utility-vehicle segment. And of course its diesel engine is a real winner – refined, torquey and efficient.
Downsides are impressively few. The damnable visors are inexcusable in a bargain-basement hatchback let alone a vehicle of this caliber, its exterior styling is regrettably bland and it lacks the brand cachet of “true” luxury rivals from Acura, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Still, the new Touareg is a vehicle without egregious faults and perhaps that’s what’s most impressive of all.
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