2016 Volkswagen Touareg
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Review of: 2016 Volkswagen Touareg 4dr V6 Sportline
2016 Volkswagen Touareg Sportline: Working ute doesn’t drive like a truck
By G. R. Whale
Aug. 1, 2016
VW’s roomy Touareg has classic SUV characteristics: Steel suspension arms for trail survival, no third row squished where none belongs, feelsome steering and an engine front to back with cylinders nearly in a row. It’s also a nice drive, offers modern safety systems and is the rare five-seat SUV rated for 3,500 kg towing. This is no lifted wagon or minivan-with-a-long-hood crossover.
Pros & Cons
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Off-road performance
- + solid build quality
- - Fuel economy
- - Conservative interior design
- - Technology
Like any non-Beetle, VW Touareg’s nose is nine-bar horizontal, only the badge and headlights employing chrome any other angle. Low fog lights and adaptive bi-xenon headlights are excellent and grilles are all functional.
Beyond its “corporate” nose and understated styling, more rounded edges and shoulders are VW distinctive. Base 18-inch wheels give good traction and ride quality regardless of surface, and with matching approach and departure angles of 26 degrees, if it goes up it’ll come down.
The (power) tailgate’s not rounded as most, so inside mirror and rear window edges align perfectly and join a broad windshield for excellent visibility. The rear is capped off by a chrome scuff plate to keep lazy porters and sloppy kids from marring bumper paint.
Only a light headliner plus swaths of gloss black and satin silver break up this black interior yet it avoids feeling clinically efficient; I’m debating if I’d prefer this or the light interior’s cooler-to-the-touch seats and more frequent cleaning.
Plenty of steering wheel travel, generous seat padding, long cushions and good support provide long-term comfort. Rear seats slide to the console, recline, fold 40/20/40 and there’s room for three adults behind six-foot-three people in front. Stowage abounds on four levels up front and cargo area is 900 litres seats-up (larger than a Q7 third-row folded) and 1,800 seats folded. No third row means no claustrophobia or boarding gymnastics and room for a spare tire and 100-litre tank.
Clear, simple 270-degree-sweep instruments are pessimistic and optimistic—the marked redline is 200-rpm short of peak power but the 280 km/h speedo is only half used. Controls are equally simple, a dearth of buttons providing simplicity rare these days yet doing all you need.
Can you say adapter? Extensive searching found one 120-VAC and four 12-VDC plugs, two SD card slots, disc drive and iPod/Phone input, but no USB port. However, this least-expensive Sportline includes nav (some competitors require higher trim to option it), rear camera, and some warning systems; active cruise control and collision mitigation braking require the Comfortline option pack and CarPlay hasn’t made it to Touareg yet. Bluetooth paired simply and did what I asked.
The hill descent control is among the quietest and smoothest I’ve driven, and the “V”6 engine’s 10.6-degree V angle (most are 60-90) looks like an inline-six with spark plugs mildly askew. All the advantages of an inline six in the space of four or five and plenty of do-it-yourself working room.
Touareg disguises its 2,150-kg mass, feeling solid and eager rather than clumsy or lumbering. Coil spring suspension keeps everything taut and planted with enough compliance for comfortable highway cruising and moderate off-highway adventures, direct hydraulic-assist steering builds effort nicely with lateral load and the brakes offer a firm pedal and progressive nature. The only negative was touchy brakes reversing out of parking spots, and I’m prepared to blame regulations.
The non-turbo six makes 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm (it pulls past 6,400, regardless of redline markings) 266 lb-ft of torque around 2,500 revs, linear power without heavy off-idle turbo punch or high-rpm character changes, and all the right noises. Proper gearing makes it jump off the line or creep along in the dirt, and the engine/eight-speed marriage is so good I resorted to sport mode only a few times—I’d welcome shift paddles too. Alas, big and solid meant 15.6 l/100km in town and 9.0 highway against rated 13.8/10.3 and I averaged 11.5.
Towing capacity is such that tongue weight will more likely be the issue, and trail performance is far more than owners will use: I’ve driven a Touareg through black-diamond trails with no bodywork or other damage, though I’d get a matching spare first.
For $51,000 there’s a decent set of features and a very capable SUV here. Possible competitors include the 4Runner, Grand Cherokee, QX70, Q5, LR4, Range Rover Sport and GLE-Class but only the first two approach Touareg’s workability and price point.
If you can rent a minivan for those twice-annual occasions the in-laws are in or you’re the designated field trip driver, and want a roomy four-door that can comfortably handle more than most mid-size SUVs, a Touareg will work. If you don’t plan on working it, a cosier Tiguan or Q5 might be more efficient.