2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs
2014 VW Touareg Hybrid Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks
What's not to love about a diesel? Who can tell by looking if that's what you're driving. There aren't any awkward bulges, fuel caps in curious places (like the one stashed in the nose of the all-electric Nissan Leaf), or a lack of a tailpipe -- a dead giveaway if it has solely electrified green innards. Nope. No lightning bolts suggesting that something akin to the Norse god Thor was putting the thunder under this hood. Despite its green nature, you simply can't tell from the appearance there's anything different about the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel Sport Utility Vehicle.
Until you get it out on the road.
If we had to choose a single descriptor for the diesel-powered Touareg, it would have to be "sweet." During our road test it took us about a nano-second to determine this was a vehicle we could live with for the long haul. And that's not just referring to the length of an extended trip.
Paved road driving was a pleasure, with easy handling, responsive steering, authority in wending its way through rush hour traffic and all with the polish of a sophisticated pro.
Behind the wheel, the smoothness of the 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel (TDI) V6, guided by a compliant 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, was immediately apparent. Touch the accelerator and it responds with the authority of well-toned abs. Major grunt comes in the 406-lb. ft. of torque that can give the Touareg a talent that's been forgotten by an increasing number of one-time sport utility vehicles as they morph into crossover utility territory that too often feels like a tall wagon that took its morning ration of kiddie vitamins. Where many of those might have a hard time negotiating a gravel surfaced detour during summertime orange barrel construction season, the Touareg has retained its brawn, despite being disguised behind the civility of a clean-lined, yet non-combative exterior.
Volkswagen, the company that always seems to develop a complicated or unusual name when a simple one could do, has dubbed its permanent all-wheel-drive system 4Motion. But maybe better to remember it by. In this case. all four trim levels -- Sport, Lux (VW's abbreviation, not ours), Executive and newly-added R-Line (the one VW provided for our test drive) have the system as standard equipment. There's nothing space age about the Touareg's appearance. A mid-size utility vehicle for five, it hasn't abandoned the idea that a vehicle with sport in its name probably would be used beyond the limitations of finding the best parking spot in a shopping mall lot. And that even includes a foray into untamed wilderness areas long considered the exclusive haunting grounds of a couple of famed SUV names.
And so it retains the somewhat subdued yet functional lines that enhance its purpose. Don't expect this one to look dated or passé in a year or two. Same with the well-executed, luxury-touched interior that doesn't overwhelm one with garish gadgets. Here everything makes sense, is easily accessed and doesn't disturb the psyche with iPad-like imagery gone wild. Everything looks and feels quality.
We expected some fun with newly-added R-Line trim for 2014 and got it. We also got a truly luxurious Black Anthracite interior, with complete, usable but not overwhelming electronics, And we got a Cool Silver Metallic exterior, 20-inch "Mallory" aluminum alloy wheels and a first-aid kit lest anyone doubt its untamed wanderlust credentials.
And not to worry. We're not off-track in our green grading.
Pine forests and LA suburbs should appreciate the nature of the beast that keeps nature in focus. That's from the clean diesel technology designed to scrub pollutants out of exhaust before it can contaminate the atmosphere. The Touareg TDI uses only ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. Mileage isn't bad either considering its workhorse and sporting capabilities, with our R-Line earning 20-MPG city and 29-highway. For those with a need to drag something behind it, the Touareg can handle the job nicely, with a tow rating of 7,716 lbs.
Now comes the gotcha. One can't expect to buy a luxuriously outfitted clean diesel for pennies on the dollar. And they won't. The Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of our test model was $57,615, plus $910 in destination charges. Knowing diesels can last years longer than internal combustion engines, takes out some of the sting. And a loaded Touareg gasoline hybrid version that debuted last year, earning a 24-MPG highway mileage rating, has a sticker of $64,170.
Besides upmarket leather seating and special design touches our R-Line TDI pricing gave us a navigation system, panoramic sunroof, push button start, media device interface, heatable exterior mirrors with memory, 12-way power, heatable front seats, Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and fog lights.
We can think of worse ways to do our part in saving the environment.
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