If you're looking for one of those clean diesel Volkswagens, then you've come to the right place. Last spotted in a white Sierra winter, a 2009 Touareg TDI took top honors in our recent diesel and hybrid luxury sport-utility vehicle shootout, where it was crowned the best all-around SUV for any season at the time. Starting at $45,150, including destination, the 2010 Volkswagen Touareg TDI that recently rolled into our garage arrived with a fittingly pristine Campenella White paintjob and a generous slathering of chrome trim. The 2010 model is the current-generation Touareg's final year, and, finding it deserving of an encore, we brought it in for another round of flogging and testing.

The original plan was to take an adventurous romp to a local campground over the July 4th holiday weekend. But the kibosh was put on that proposition due to a lack of vacant sites brought on by some poor advance planning. Rather than subject the spacious VW to several days of humdrum suburban duty, a road trip was proposed to flex the Touareg TDI's muscle in a favorable diesel environment: the long, open highway. Final destination? Denver, Colorado. Despite being some 1000 miles and change away from L.A., it was pinned to be a suitable venue to really wring out the German SUV and its oil-burning powerplant. Fuel tank filled with Diesel No. 2, and compadres safely buckled up, we set off for higher ground.

First, the equipment. Aside from a highly caffeinated driver (a no-cost option), our Touareg TDI was fitted with the best Volkswagen has to offer: Premium Technology Package, Lux Limited Package, 4-Corner Air Suspension with Continuous Damping Control, and a trailer hitch. In all, the options tacked on an extra $14,700 to the base MSRP, making this particular example one of the most expensive Volkswagens you can purchase at the local dealer. Noted new additions complements of the new kit include touch-screen navigation (a requisite for any impromptu trip), keyless ignition, 20-inch alloy wheels, and the air suspension.

Related Articles:
Diesel and Hybrid SUV Comparison: 2009 BMW X5 xDrive 35d vs 2010 Lexus RX 450h vs 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC vs 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
Forget Clattering Clouds of Blue Smoke, Today's Modern Diesels Burn Strong and Clean. But Do They Have What it Takes to Pull Away From Hybrid Technology?

On the road, as with any diesel-powered vehicle, you immediately notice the low-end torque and the short rev range. Motivating the midsize bruiser is a 3.0-liter V-6 producing 225 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, and the pulling power comes early. Climbing the Rocky Mountains means dealing with steep gradients and air-thinning elevations, and while our urban California-raised bodies needed time to acclimate, the Touareg TDI didn't. Matched to the six-speed automatic transmission and 4Motion four-wheel drive, our tester cruised up the slopes and inclines with ease, reaching summits as high as 10,600 feet before descending toward Denver.

As the TDI diesel scoffed at the high-altitude challenge, the cabin's occupants explored their surroundings. The interior has all the hallmarks of a luxury SUV, from the affluent-sounding Latte Macchiatto/St. Tropez leather interior to the wood trim and recessed ash tray and lighter. Everything is powered, standard, and the intuitive cruise-control system proved a welcome companion on especially long stretches of deserted roadway. The smooth, wood center console has all the properly placed controls: push-button start, side mirror adjuster, gearing range, six-way ride height, and three-setting suspension damping dials. It's all there.

When you're trapped for 16 hours on the road, you start noticing foibles in your makeshift office, just before the human senses begin to drift listlessly. Clear away the empty snack packs and drained hydration bottles and you see there is a dearth of usable storage up front. The lone open pockets lie atop the dashboard, constantly exposed to the open sun and not in the most convenient location for reaching in haste. The doors' side map pockets went unused for the duration of the excursion, and the retractable cup holders in the center armrest of the rear seat allow condensation to drip all over the leather. The rear seats proved to be mildly uncomfortable and a bit too stiff and vertical for the long haul -- lying flat across the bench proved a more appealing alternative at times. Amusingly, the standard key ignition remains functional, peacefully coexisting with the keyless start button.

Weekend wearing on, a passing thunderstorm revealed the passenger-side windshield wiper was out of operation, likely the result of an electrical disturbance. When the sun was out in force, the bright chrome trim often proved blinding. Light rays bounced off the polished surfaces on the exterior body moldings, gauge cluster rings, and trim around the gear shifter gate, forcing us to avert our eyes at times. The chrome along the rear fascia around the tailgate edge also has the potential to sear retinas.

The biggest change to the diesel scene in recent years has been the increased use of selective catalytic reduction technology and urea-based diesel exhaust fluid, which the Touareg employs to achieve 50-state emissions compliancy. VW's fluid is branded AdBlue. Should the fluid in the tank run dry, the Touareg TDI will refuse to start. Around 5000 miles, a service interval reminder lit up in the cluster's multi-function display, indicating the fluid level was due for a top-off. According to Volkswagen, the 4.5-gallon AdBlue tank beneath the spare is capable of scrubbing 6000-10,000 miles worth of nitrous oxides under normal driving conditions. After the initial service reminder, a series of AdBlue-related countdowns will continue to urge the driver to refill, although we never made it past the first reminder even after cresting 7000 miles. Economical driving lends to economical AdBlue usage, but it can be unnerving to realize range is not only limited by the amount of diesel in the fuel tank, but by the amount of AdBlue as well -- which isn't exactly a widely consumed commodity available at every filling station.

The Touareg TDI once again proved its mettle during our roughly 2500-mile jaunt, delivering consistent performance while returning an impressive 24.3 combined mpg for the trip. We also went more than 500 miles on a single tank during one leg - take that, range anxiety. You'd be hard-pressed to achieve that sort of mileage and range from the majority of offerings in the mid- and full-size SUV segments, gas-powered or otherwise. While there's an uncertain road ahead in the U.S. market for larger SUVs like the Touareg (and diesel engines in general), our journey to the Rocky Mountains proved to us that the soon-to-arrive 2011 model at the very least has a strong base to build upon.

2010 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
Base price $44,350
Price as tested $59,850
Vehicle layout Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.0L/225-hp/406-lb-ft turbocharged diesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 5429 lb (53/47%)
Wheelbase 112.4 in
Length x width x height 187.2 x 75.9 x 68.0 in
0-60 mph 7.9 sec
Quarter mile 16.0 sec @ 83.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 122 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.81 g (avg)
MT figure eight 27.6 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 18/25 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.08 g/mile

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article