2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 – The way Volkswagen talks up the $42,800 Touareg V6 TDI, you’d think it was the ninja of SUVs: a single package with so plenty of highly developed capabilities that its gas-engined foes are annihilated and left on the side of the road with ninja shuriken lodged in their tailgates before they even recognize they have been outdone. The engine alone promises reduced fuel consumption, fewer emissions, more power, more torque, better responsiveness and calm progress. The only questions then are: Does it deliver and will somebody buy it? They took it for a spin to find out. Follow the jump for the story.
A few things change for the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2. VW has revised the navigation system (it’s now hard-drive-based) and added adaptive cruise control and lane-change assist as options. Also, the distinctive V10 diesel-fueled engine has been replaced by a more reasonably priced 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.
Carving out a niche is often seen as a good thing. But the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 occupies a niche that’s more problematic than anything else. This is a premium SUV with true off-road chops, but it’s too pricey for desert-dwelling nomads and not quite chic enough for the hedge-fund set.
When the Touareg “1” was introduced back in 2004, VW was new to the SUV game and wanted to make sure that its debut offering could hold its own against the likes of Land Rover. It was engineered on a crossover, car-based platform (like its costlier corporate sibling, the Porsche Cayenne), thereby making it an un-trucklike luxury SUV with a composed, comfortable ride. However, the combination of elevated ground clearance, a serious four-wheel-drive system and adjustable air suspension provided abundant “trail” cred for those buyers who might fantasize about fording streams and conquering rutted, rocky terrain.
But the original Touareg was never very popular, and last year’s update to “Touareg 2” was more of a refresh than an actual redesign. Buyers of midsize or large crossover SUVs are going to be more concerned with getting the triplets to ballet class than getting to the trailhead, and for these, um…volks, the lack of third-row seating is a big drawback.
Those on the fence will look at the smallish second-row seating and cargo areas as well as the considerable curb weight (all that off-road capability adds bulk) and below-average fuel economy, and favor the superior packages offered by the competition. For 2009, however, the Touareg 2 gains an attractive new V6 turbodiesel option that slots between the standard gasoline V6 and the top-of-the-line V8 in terms of price. Replacing the enormous — and enormously expensive — V10 diesel, the V6 TDI offers a superior 407 pound-feet of torque while providing laudable fuel economy of 17 mpg city and 25 highway.
Even buyers who can look past the drawbacks of the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 are probably going to have issues with the price, which continues to exceed comparably equipped luxury SUVs such as the Acura MDX, Infiniti FX35 and Lexus RX 350. The 2009 Touareg 2 approaches the lofty Teutonic realm of the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, and although it has the upscale interior appointments and overall design attitude to play in that league, ongoing lackluster sales indicate that consumers just aren’t biting.
Last year’s Touareg 2 wasn’t a true update to the first-generation Touareg, and the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 — apart from the new diesel V6, a snazzier hard-drive-based entertainment and nav system — represents a holding pattern that will continue until VW can figure out what to do with its oddball, unloved offering.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 is a midsize five-passenger SUV available in three trim levels that correspond to engine options: VR6, V6 TDI and V8. The VR6 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear parking assist, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 12-way driver and eight-way passenger power front seats with heat, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker stereo with a CD player and satellite radio. The V6 TDI shares the VR6’s equipment roster and adds a turbodiesel V6 under the hood. The Touareg 2 V8 trim level boasts a gasoline-fueled V8, 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, real wood trim, leather upholstery, a 12-way power passenger seat and driver memory functions. Most of its upgrades are available on the VR6 and V6 TDI as options.
Available on all trim levels is the Lux Plus Package, which includes keyless ignition/entry and a premium 10-speaker audio system. The Technology package adds a rearview camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system and an upgraded 11-speaker audio system. A locking rear differential is also available.
Powertrains and Performance
Whether you choose the VR6, V6 TDI or V8 Touareg 2, a six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and a low-range gear are standard. The VR6 name refers to the narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy, at 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined, is below average for a V6-powered crossover. The V6 TDI features a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 good for 221 hp and a whopping 407 lb-ft of torque at just 2,250 rpm. As is typical of diesels, fuel economy is impressive at 17 mpg city and 25 highway. The V8 is a 4.2-liter unit that produces 350 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 12/17/14 mpg with this engine. Properly equipped, the Touareg 2 can tow 7,700 pounds, more than many competitors.
Both 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 trim levels come with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, hill descent and incline roll-back control. Passive safety features include front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A newly available Safety package for both trim levels provides adaptive cruise control and lane-change assist.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Touareg a rating of five out of five stars for frontal- and side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Touareg 2 boasts an upscale, elegant cabin. Most surfaces are soft-touch, and hard surfaces (lower dash, console, doors) feel smooth and substantial. Last year’s outdated nav system has been replaced with a hard-drive-based unit. Build quality is excellent, too, while standard and optional equipment make for a genuine luxury vehicle. Unfortunately, the previously available heated rear seats and four-zone climate control have been dropped for 2009.
The 2009 Touareg 2 still skimps on space both for passengers and cargo, a serious negative. While many other midsize or large SUVs offer a third-row seat, the VW makes do without one, limiting passenger capacity to only five. And the second row is hardly commodious compared to those in many other models. Cargo capacity is 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and a mere 71 cubic feet when they’re folded. A humble Honda CR-V beats that.
Even if you never leave the pavement, the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 should satisfy. The VR6 and V8 engines, which were introduced for the 2008 model refresh, as well as the new V6 TDI, provide plenty of oomph. And you’ll need that oomph if you hope to overcome the vehicle’s considerable curb weight. For all-around performance and fuel economy, the midpriced V6 TDI would be our choice, but for shoppers on a budget, the marginally more fuel-efficient V6 should be satisfactory — and those who go whole-hog with the V8 won’t be disappointed. On the road, the Touareg’s ride is smooth and stable. The SUV is also surprisingly agile around corners when equipped with the air suspension. Taken off-road, the Touareg amazes, negotiating steep passes and deep ruts normally reserved for rough-and-tumble Land Rovers.