The automobile manufacturers have gotten the message. Many American motorists will gladly trade some rugged off-road capability for a little comfort in their family vehicles.
They still want something with macho looks and command seating, room for a growing family and a generous amount of cargo space. Depending on where they live, they also want all-wheel drive. A little more fuel efficiency would be nice, too.
|Category:||$38,000 to $60,000 All-Wheel Drive Mid-Sized 5 passenger SUV.|
|Who should buy this car:||A person who wants a comfortable, high content SUV that is also a capable off-roader|
|Comparable models in this class:||Acura MDX, BMW X5, Infiniti FX35, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Mercedes Benz M-Class, Saab 9-7X, Volvo XC90|
And so the rush is on to build a new fleet of soft-roaders, car-based crossover vehicles that have SUV panache without SUV pain.
But what if you want it all? What if you want to explore the outback, tow your boat and take that family vacation without feeling as if every tar strip is a speed bump?
If you can be happy with seating for only five, perhaps you should investigate the Volkswagen Touareg.
The Touareg, a hand-shaking cousin to the Porsche Cayenne, has been around since late 2003 and it is soon to be replaced by the Touareg 2. Nevertheless, the 2007 model combines comfort and capability better than many of its rivals and it incorporates a couple of important upgrades that will be carried over to Touareg 2.
I’m talking about the new V-6 and V-8 engines, which both have been given a boost of 40 horsepower. A five-liter, V-10 turbodiesel engine, which generates 310 horsepower and a massive 553 pound-feet of torque, was reintroduced for 2007 and will again be available on the Touareg 2 in 45 states.
For this review, we will focus only on the V-6-powered Touareg, since its paucity of power was the Achilles heel in what otherwise was a desirable, least-expensive member of the luxury SUV lineup. It provides an accurate gauge of how the entry-level Touareg 2 is expected to perform when it goes on sale.
At introduction, the V-6 Touareg was powered by a 3.2-liter engine which produced a rather sluggish 220 horsepower. A couple of years later, the power was increased to 240, but that still was not enough to move the 2-ton vehicle with any greater urgency. The 0-60 mph time was clocked by VW at 9.4 seconds with both powerplants.
For 2007, VW has installed a version of the 3.6-liter, direct-injection V-6 engine found in the Passat. Like its predecessor, it features double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing.
The upgraded powerplant produces 280 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph run can now be negotiated in 8.3 seconds, passing power is improved and fuel consumption is essentially unchanged. If there is a downside, its the engines raspiness, which invades the cabin during heavy acceleration.
In a one-day, 200-mile journey of mostly highway driving I averaged nearly 19 mpg. More telling was the long-term fuel mileage calculated by the VWs trip computer. Over the previous 6,600 miles the Touareg had averaged 17.7 mpg. These figures both fall within the EPA estimate of 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway.
Oddly, though, towing capacity remains at what it was with the 3.2-liter engine, a quite respectable 7,716 pounds.
I had no reason to take the Touareg off-road during the most recent week one was in my possession and, like many SUV owners, I cannot envision any situation in the near future that would require me to wander off into the wilderness.
But I was reminded during those urban and rural highway miles that the Touareg remains a comfortable luxury cruiser that feels as up-to-date as many of the newer models. The leather seats are fatigue-free, the ride is compliant and the SUV can bend around turns without excessive body lean.
Of course, the standard interior wood accents, ambient lighting, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, trip computer and stereophonic sound system with CD player also serve to reinforce the luxury vehicle theme.
Volkswagens electronically controlled permanent all-wheel-drive system is standard. In normal driving conditions, the power is distributed equally to the front and rear wheels. When the road turns slippery, the system will automatically direct the power to the wheels with the most traction.
For those who do want to venture into the outback, the system can be switched from high range to low range for lower gearing and better management of the engines power and torque. Additional driver aids are standard hill descent control, hill climb assist, a stability control system and the manual override feature of the six-speed automatic transmission, which makes it possible to select and hold a desired gear.
On road or off, the responsive steering, strong brakes and excellent visibility make the Touareg an easy driver.
Its relatively compact dimensions make it easy to navigate in urban areas and easy to park at the suburban malls. Despite that, the Touareg has 31 feet of cargo space behind the second-row seat and 71 cubic feet when the second-row seatback is folded forward.
Base price of the 2007 V-6 Touareg is ,990. The Navigation Plus package, which combines a navigation system with a rear-view backup camera and an upgraded sound system adds ,350. However, it must be combined with the ,930 Package One, which includes leather seating, 12-way power seats for the driver and front seat passenger and a warning system which sounds if the driver is about to hit something in the front or rear of the vehicle.
Add to that Bi-Xenon headlights for 0 and a 0 destination charge and the total comes to ,840.
When the V-6-powered Touareg 2 arrives in showrooms its base price will climb by about ,400 and it will have a modest redesign and upgraded safety and convenience features. However, its engine, drivetrain and suspension will remain essentially the same.
Bargain hunters might just find that the 2007 Touareg offers everything they need.
- 3.6 liter 276 hp V6 engine
- 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission
- 17 inch alloy wheels
- 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS
- Stability control
- Traction control
- Rain sensing wipers
- Privacy Glass
- Power glass sunroof
- Dual front side mounted air bags
- Front and rear head air bags
- Leatherette upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
- Heated power mirrors
- Remote power door locks
- Power windows
- Cruise control
- Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel
- Dual zone climate controls
- AM/FM in-dash single CD player, CD-controller stereo with 10 speakers
Major Available Options
(Partial List, depends on model. Some items only available as part of an option group, see your VW dealer for details)
- Leather seats
- 12 way power front seats with 3 position memory
- Adjustable air suspension
- Bi-xenon adaptive front lighting system
- DVD-based navigation system
- 4-zone automatic climate control
- Park distance control
- 19 inch alloy wheels
- Side steps
- Rear differential lock
- Trailer hitch
- Trunk mounted CD changer