An SUV With Luxury In Its Genes, and Maybe The Last Car You’ll Ever Own?
Volkswagen wants to sell you only one car. Maybe ever. And if you’re like a lot of people, you tend to buy a car once every eight to 10 years, invest in quality, and relish all those years without a car payment. The Volkswagen Touareg TDI may just be the car for you.
Here’s why. First off, this is a diesel engine, and diesel engines tend to last a lot longer than gas engines. While the exact comparison can be hard to make, some experts think that a typical turbo will go 100K miles before needing an overhaul, while a diesel engine could go two or three times that far. That’s a nice long life in car years. Also, diesels get better gas mileage. We got about 20 MPG in the city and 26 on the highway the week we test drove the Touareg, and while that might not seem great, it is pretty good for a turbo.
Oh, yeah. Turbo. TDI stands for turbocharged direct injection, which means when you hit the gas, the car goes. Being a diesel, you’ll get better gas mileage than a regular gas turbo (and, turbos require premium gas, which is often about the same price as diesel). So for however long you might have this car, it’ll be fun to drive and more efficient than its gassy competitors.
An Investment in What Matters: Comfort and Style
Then, there’s the stuff that really matters: The cabin. The Touareg TDI Executive model that we drove was outfitted for the long haul: the seats are covered in a soft, supple, well crafted leather with a cushy feel, more like a favorite club chair than taught car upholstery. Rear seats, which are heated (yay to making back seat passengers happy!) are just as soft, and there’s plenty of leg room; even taller passengers don’t feel cramped and front seat riders don’t have to move their seats to accommodate those in the back.
The panoramic sunroof (which takes up most of the roof) and the wide side and rear windows give the whole cabin an open and airy feeling; the interior is bright, cheery and enhances conversation (or singing, as is the case when we’re in the car). The information cluster (gauges and driver information menus) and the media console are nicely organized, easy to manage and don’t clutter the dash with too much information.
But maybe my favorite detail is the vanity mirror on the back of the sun visor. It’s something I always check when I get into a car and then wonder why; it’s never anything different or innovative, I guess I just want to know that it’s there. But this was a delightful surprise: the mirror has a soft backlight all the way around the edge which gives perhaps the most perfect, beautiful light in which to put on lipstick or apply makeup. Yeah, baby.
Planning for the Future of Tech
VWs German engineers have thought not just about state of technology, but have prepared for what comes next, and since that can be hard to predict, the car has systems that can adapt: the media console is set up for satellite radio, entertainment and phone connectivity, and can be updated when updates are released. To connect your device you can use the handsfree Bluetooth (which worked pretty easily) or connect with the MDI cable, which is installed instead of a USB port and located inside the center console. Plugging in isn’t quite as easy as popping your USB into a port, but if USB loses its popularity, you’ll be glad that VW supports you, not the device.
And, there are plenty of places to plug in: in addition to two cigarette plugs there’s a standard household plug at the back of the center console (so back seat passengers can access it, too).
The size of the Touareg is a bonus: it has plenty of cargo space, but the slope of the roof makes the car feel much more intimate than an SUV usually does; even though it’s equipped with a rear view camera, you don’t really need it because visibility is excellent and it feels smaller than it is.
Touareg’s Sweet Little Secret: Its Luxury Lineage
If you love brands that have a luxury lineage but a low profile, like Miu-Miu, which is made by Prada, or Armani’s Emporio Armani or Ralph Lauren’s Black Label, then you’ll also love this: the Touareg is the result of a joint VW/Audi/Porsche project (all brands are part of the VW family), and it’s built in the same factory as the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7. The Touareg has its own look and distinct features, but these girls are sisters, and you can feel it: attention to detail is a priority, and so is the drive; everything about this car is tight, exacting, elegant. It’s a car that makes you feel rich and smart, even if you’re just smart.
SUV For The Tough Haul
All niceties aside, an SUV has to perform or it’s just a pretty car that sits high off the ground. And what more do you ever want to hear from the other side of the dinner table than, “Honey, can I borrow your car to tow the wood splitter home?” Oh, yeah.
The week we test drove the Touareg that was just the case in our house. We have six trees that are cut and neatly stacked in our yard as a reminder of Hurricane Sandy, and my DH has been patiently awaiting the correct curing period to pass so he can split it into firewood. Plus, he needed some in-laws in town to help, too. Last week happened to be the perfect time, with both splitter help and towing capacity available. So here’s how the towing thing worked: If a truck or SUV has a tow bar, the equipment rental place just attaches a tow hitch (rented for $12) and then hooks up the thing to be towed. Back in the day, you had to have this permanently installed on your car, but with the Touareg’s tow bar, it just popped on (and just as easily, popped off).
What We Loved
Nearly every luxury was standard on this edition
Intelligent keyless entry and start (though you can insert the key in the starter, too)
Leather seating was superior
Open feel of the cabin
Adaptive headlights (they point where the wheels are pointed)
Power folding mirrors (with defrost)
Push button fold down rear seats
Off road capability
26 gallon fuel tank—600+ miles to a tank!
What You Need to Know
Fuel mileage: 20 city/29 hwy
Requires diesel fuel
Seating for 5
Price of the model we tested: $61,770
Base price of Touareg TDI, about $51,000
Base price of Touareg about $44,000
3 year/36,000 mile warranty
3 year/36,000 mile roadside assistance
2 year/24,000 mile maintenance package
Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the Touareg for my test drive; opinions are all my own.