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2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline Road Test

by Adam Allen

VW’s large SUV is even better the second time around.

The 2011 Touareg is pretty easy on the eyes. It's a nice evolution from the previous generation with compact overhangs and a purposeful stance (all photos by the author)

The last time I drove a Touareg Diesel, it had an enormous 5.0 litre V10 under the hood making 310 horsepower and 553 lbs-ft of torque. For 2011, things have been restrained considerably. The engine now displaces a more modest 3.0 litres and generates 225 hp and 406 lbs-ft of torque. Less power, yes, but efficiency is significantly improved; and for those who like quoting 0-100 km/h times of two-ton-plus SUV’s, 6.9 seconds for the 3.0 litre versus 7.5 ticks for the old behemoth should brighten your day. It gets even better: the cost, at a shade over $65,000 is by no means peanuts, but it trumps the $100,000 VW would have asked you for in 2004 if you specified the TDI, not to mention other current high priced diesel powered competitors like the BMW X5 xDrive35d and the Audi Q7 TDI.

You won’t see any soot coming out the back of the Touareg, ever; nor will you smell any acrid fumes

The old TDI (or any Touareg for that matter) never lacked in the luxury department. In fact, when you first get in and look around, touch all the surfaces and smell all the delicious leather you can’t help but feel like you’re in some sort of stateroom befitting of a luxury ocean liner. Everything is rich and substantial, and no surface or detail has been spared of the interior designers polish. It has distanced itself from the Phaeton operating gear that you used to find in the Touareg cockpit to a more unique setup that’s just as intuitive as it is comfortable and still as nice.

And comfortable it is. I can’t tell you how many times I feel comfortable at the helm of a car for a short while, until I find some small design characteristic that drives me mad with discomfort. That’s not a problem in the Touareg, because it’s endowed with some of the most comfortable and supportive thrones I can remember sitting in. And they’re finished in a pleasing chocolate colour that feels as good as it looks.

Beautifully crafted wood and leather help give the Touareg the feel of a luxury stateroom

Accommodations are generous; chocolate colored leather seats are wonderfully supportive. They're heated, too

Of course, being the Execline trim level, the Touareg that Carpages evaluated had all the niceties you’d expect from a luxury SUV from Volkswagen. A huge panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, and a staggering 620-watt Dynoaudio stereo system all help drivers enjoy their stay in the Touareg.

And with the fuel economy it is capable of, you will be spending more time in it; when I picked it up from Volkswagen HQ, it was telling me I had 900km to travel before I’d need to fill the tank. Amazing.

Its not just the inside that helps make the Touareg such a pleasing vehicle to drive. Co-developed alongside the Porsche Cayenne, you can feel in the first few minutes of driving it that the engineers had a big say in how this truck would feel. They have given the Touareg a firm chassis with suspension that soaks up imperfections yet clings with tenacity, all in the name of making a huge, heavy SUV handle way better than it has any business handling. The only demerit is some head-toss for passengers over really rough and undulating roads.

Has it all worked?

In a word, yes.

It’s almost shocking how you can summon such high cornering speeds so effortlessly, even more shocking when you consider that the Touareg is no shrinking violet offroad- in fact it’s really quite capable, being a perennial mainstay on the podium in the grueling Dakar Rally. Still, looking at our slick Deep Black Pearl example, all blinged up with its 20” Pikes Peak wheels, I’d feel guilty taking this thing on the trails. It would be like taking Louis Vuitton luggage on a canoe trip; it would do the job, but it might raise a few eyebrows while doing so.

As with anything else out on the road, the Touareg isn’t perfect. The touch screen unit in our tester would sometimes be slow to respond, and unless the driver was absolutely precise it would muddle commands.

The 3.0 mill is a marvel of refinement and power yet doesn't consume much diesel. Its so good that many people had to be told there was actually an oil burner under the hood

An imprecise video screen is something I think drivers would get used to, but a mushy brake pedal, as is found here, is tougher to forgive. This affliction isn’t relegated to the Touareg alone; rather, it’s proliferated throughout the VW lineup.

Speaking of VW’s lineup, there are 2 other flavors of Touareg you can specify. Starting out the model range is a V6 model that produces 280 horses and 265 lbs-ft of torque. Next is the diesel you see here, and topping out the range is the Hybrid that you won’t find in dealerships locally at this juncture. The Hybrid model is the Grand Poobah of the Touareg range, outfitted with every option available and a 3.0 litre supercharged V6 coupled to an electric drive system. Together they churn out a convincing 380 hp and a robust 428 lbs-ft of torque, and while it makes more oomph than the diesel its fuel economy numbers are only slightly worse. And that’s the point of the range topping hybrid; having your cake and eating it too.

With all of these strains of Touareg, VW will probably reach more customers than the previous generation. The fact that it costs what it does probably means it won’t appeal to the SUV buying market en masse, but I’m not sure that was ever an issue. If you are in the market for a bigger luxury SUV, you must drive the Touareg. Just make ours the diesel.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline Specifications

Price as tested: $65,420

Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger SUV

Powertrain Layout: Front engine/4-wheel drive

Engine:  3.0-litre diesel V6, DOHC, 24 valves

Horsepower: 225 @ 3,500 rpm

Torque (lb-ft): 406 @ 1,750 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Curb weight: 2,256 kg (4,974 lb)

Fuel consumption: City: 11.1L/100 km (21 MPG)

Highway: 7L/100 km (34 MPG)

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