The 2015 Volkswagen Touareg is offered in four different trims -- Sport, Lux, new R-Line and Executive -- and each of these trims is offered in either V6 or TDI form. An X Special Edition is also offered, to celebrate the model's tenth anniversary; it is largely equipped as a TDI Lux, with Moonlight Blue exterior paint and unique interior and exterior accents. V6 models have a narrow-angle "VR6" engine under the hood, making 280 horsepower, while TDI models get a 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 engine with 225 horsepower and 406 ft-lb of torque.
Both engines incorporate direct injection and are hooked up to a wide-ratio 8-speed automatic transmission, but otherwise these two engines are quite different in character. The V6 is quiet, refined and high-revving, with good passing response, while the diesel is a heavy puller, at its best in the low-to-mid revs, which makes it a good choice for towing -- up to 7,716 pounds when properly equipped. The TDI engine is also much more refined than diesel engines of the past and it achieves an excellent EPA highway rating of 29 mpg.
Standing separately, at the top of the lineup price-wise, is the Touareg Hybrid. Combining a 333-horsepower, 3.0L supercharged V6 engine with an electric motor system, and a 288-volt, 1.7-kWh battery pack housed beneath the cargo area, the Touareg Hybrid's powertrain can deliver up to 380 hp and 428 ft-lb of torque, and it can cruise at up to 30 mph on electric power alone or coast at much higher speeds by temporarily stopping the engine and disengaging the transmission. Regenerative braking recovers energy when braking. Together, the system yields estimated mileage of 20 mpg city, 24 highway.
The Touareg is built with a stout uni-body construction and a tough 4Motion all-wheel-drive system with rear limited-slip Torsen differential (which sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels most of the time) is standard on all Touareg models. The suspension and steering layout, which comprises front and rear control arms, coil springs and variable-ratio power steering, are tuned mostly toward on-the-road responsiveness, with a nod to occasional trail use. With either engine, the transmission has a Sport mode, as well as manual gear control if the driver chooses.
Inside, the Touareg impresses as more of a luxury vehicle than it might appear to be on the outside -- or than the VW badge might suggest. While the design might look familiar compared to a Jetta or Passat, the materials are a step up, with walnut wood accents and available Vienna leather in Black Anthracite, Cornsilk Beige or Saddle Brown. Lux, Executive and Hybrid models include a panoramic sunroof that covers more of the roof and lets a lot of sun shine in.
The Touareg can seat five comfortably. There's plenty of legroom and headroom front and back, as well as seats that are very supportive and sized for adults. The rear seat reclines and slides fore and aft 6.3 inches, as well as fold forward to provide up to 64 cubic feet of cargo space.
Touareg Sport models are the most attractively priced, although they come equipped pretty much as luxury vehicles, with bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, cornering lights, Bluetooth hands-free calling, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, a touch-screen radio with eight speakers, power heated front seats, a 115-volt outlet, cruise control, a HomeLink garage-door opener and silver roof rails.
A navigation system with a high-definition 3D view and 60GB hard drive with 15GB of music storage can be added separately to the Sport. The Lux includes that system as well as a panoramic sunroof, heated side mirrors, walnut wood trim, soft Vienna leather, 12-way power front seats with driver memory settings, an electric rear-seat release, keyless access with push-button start and "easy open" rear lift gate. The new R-Line includes Lux equipment plus special interior and exterior styling details, as well as a sport suspension with 20-inch alloy wheels. Executive models add LED taillights, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, Park Distance Control, 20-inch alloy wheels and Dynaudio premium sound with ten speakers and a 620-watt amplifier.
Hybrid models include many of the same features as the Executive, but with 19-inch wheels.
All models also include side-curtain airbags that cover front and rear occupants, plus front and side-thorax bags for those in the front seats, as well as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and an Intelligent Crash Response system.