Is This $4K, 15-Year-Old Volkswagen Touareg Really Better Than The Brand New $50K Atlas?

We run through the differences

Fifteen years separate these two Volkswagens, but is the old Touareg still a contender against the new Atlas? Both are big, family hauling SUVs and set out to be the flagships of the Volkswagen lineup at the time they were introduced. In this video, Tommy does a point-for-point comparison of our long-term 2004 Volkswagen Touareg to the brand new 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium. While our Touareg was $4,600 all-in when we bought it in July 2019, the Volkswagen Atlas costs over $48,000 in today’s money.

2004 Volkswagen Touareg
Our long-term Volkswagen Touareg.

First up, let’s start with some of the numbers. Yes, the 2004 Touareg was cheap to buy today, but it cost a massive $53,805 to buy. That sounds comparable to the Atlas, but after accounting for inflation that price balloons to around $73,000 in 2019 money. Mind you, this particular Touareg has a few features that are not part of the lineup for the new Atlas.

Under the hood, the Touareg has a 4.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine with 310 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque. That engine came mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, though later versions did get an eight-speed instead. The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas, made to replace the Touareg in the U.S. market, gets by with a 3.6-liter narrow-angle VR6 engine, making 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. All Atlas models come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and this top-spec SEL Premium has 4Motion all-wheel drive.

In the 0-60 sprint, the lighter Atlas just manages to beat the Touareg with an 11.19-second time. The older, heavier SUV managed 11.5 seconds in the 0-60 run.

Volkswagen's 2017 Sales Rebound - 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
The new Volkswagen Atlas. [Photo: Volkswagen]

Feature comparison

For a 15-year-old SUV, the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg is remarkably robust. It’s over-engineered, and a plus side with that is some of the features that the modern Atlas just doesn’t have. From a power-adjustable steering column to memory seats and seat belts, the Touareg was luxurious back in its day. The Atlas does a have memory, power-adjustable driver’s seat, but it’s not quite as comprehensive as the Touareg.

On the flip side, the Atlas does have new features the Touareg could only dream about at the time. The SEL Premium model does feature Volkswagen’s new Digital Cockpit digital instrument cluster. It also has a wide array of driver assist features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and so on. But again, the Touareg does beat the Atlas in its off-road capability, thanks in no small part to its locking rear differential and adjustable ride height.

Our $4,600 Volkswagen Touareg packs a lot of features for its time, but is it really better than the modern 2019 Volkswagen Atlas?


Sticking with capability, there are areas where the Atlas loses out to its older sibling. While Volkswagen’s new large SUV can tow 5,000 pounds, the old Touareg was rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds. Even though towing standards may have shifted in the past decade, that is quite a bit more capability out of the box. The Atlas does manage better fuel economy however, with an EPA combined rating of 19 mpg, to the Touareg’s 14 mpg rating.

Ultimately, it comes down to a question of creature comforts against sheer capability with these two. If you’re looking for something that can tow and go off-road, the old Touareg manages well. If you’re looking for more modern technology — and most customers are — then the Atlas is naturally a better bet.