“Dude, your Touareg is faster than my tater-tot!” – – Some shirtless guy who chatted me up at a 7-11 after I dusted his Mazda RX8 at a light. I have NO idea why he calls his car, “tater-tot.” He smelled funny too.
Let’s not mix words here. SUVs and big crossovers are inefficiently powered. There is no reason any vehicle that weighs near 5,000 lbs shouldn’t get up to 25 mpg in combined driving. No, I’m not talking about the General Motor’s hybrid trucks either – I refer to something faster, better handling and more capable.
The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI has a 225 horsepower turbo-diesel that makes an incredible 406 lbs-feet of torque. Not too shabby for only three liters. The only transmission available is an all new, eight-speed automatic transmission that weighs about 400 lbs less than the old transmission.
Yes, a loaded model will easily pass the $50,000 mark, but few will complain given its excellent road manners. Even with the removal of the full off road system, this lighter Touareg is very capable off road. Switch the rotary knob to its off-road position and simply use the accelerator judiciously.
There are no locking differentials or low gear settings, everything is electronic and the hill decent control comes on automatically. It’s an excellent setup that will satisfy most customers who only occasionally venture off road. I’ll miss the old Touareg’s off road capability, but after seeing a grown man cry when his Touareg mated with a boulder in Moab, Utah – I see Volkswagen’s logic.
The TDI V6 is remarkably efficient and deceptively fast. I was traveling 0 to 60 mph in about 7-seconds at over 6,000 feet elevation. Power surges right up to 100 mph with plenty of punch leftover. The thing about turbo-diesel power is that it flows in waves, almost unannounced. It hums along almost innocuously until summoned. The overall sound is unimpressive and internal combustion lovers will be unimpressed.
Shifts are very smooth and the eight-speed transmission is rarely caught off guard. If you’re coasting and suddenly need a new gear for passing, sometimes a metallic “clunk” can be felt. The same goes from shifting from reverse to drive – but it’s nothing alarming. There is a manual shift mode, but like most units, it’s more of a toy. It works well for grabbing that perfect gear for cornering.
Handling is, without a doubt, one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI. Cornering through the twisties was fun and grip was very impressive. It humbles most crossovers and all SUVs. Steering feel was acceptable for a run of the mill crossover, but with such excellent reflexes, it’s a pity Volkswagen couldn’t dial in a bit more.
A ridiculously attractive woman told me that my Touareg was handsome. So, based on her testimony alone – it’s a winner. I like it too – a lot. It’s one of the better executed translations of VW’s new, angular design language. It looks good dirty; so do I.
The interior is all business with some of the most comfortable seats in the bracket. I was pleased that there was more useable space for cargo too. The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg feels more useful than the former despite the mid size length of 188.8 inches.
I was a little underwhelmed by some of the interior components as a few plastics felt cheap. The folding mirrors, while being a welcomed addition, were a bit troublesome in function. I also found the stereo controls to be a bit challenging.
I highly recommend the expensive, expansive sun roof. It covers a high percentage of the roof. It definitely woke up the conservative interior design and was a blast to use on a recent snow day.
Speaking of snow, I deliberately drove through some good sized drifts, mud, slush and off road. It never broke a sweat. In fact, when you watch our silly video (we don’t take ourselves too seriously – ever) you’ll see it go up trails that only a few crossovers could hope to traverse.
Off road, the most notable drawback was the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg’s mediocre suspension articulation. Then again, very few vehicles with fully independent suspension are boulder crushers. With so much torque, the Touareg does very well powering up steep inclines.
I keep coming back to that lovely power and economy the diesel provided. I averaged just under 24 mpg while driving like a hooligan. No kidding, I deliberately drove the big VW aggressively and rarely let up. The same alpine route that earned me seven mpg in a Range Rover Sport Supercharged – returned 19 mpg in the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI. That’s impressive.
Gas WILL move up in price. We will need it for years to come no matter what the commercials or politicians say. Why not have your cake and lick it too? Diesel may not sound as sweet as a thumpin’ V8 – but it will out pull, out pace and out eco just about everything, including some hybrids.
Volkswagen is one of the best in the business when it comes to diesel power. Volkswagen’s Touareg is one of the best diesels in its class. In fact, I would go so far to say that the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is one of the best crossover/SUVs in its class.
On our TFLcar recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
– Forget it
I’m giving it a…
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE.
Here’s some video of us screwing around with a 2011 Volkswagen TDI, along with some other, interesting crossovers.