Saturday, May 5, 2012

2012 Volkswagen Touareg: Now They're Cookin' with Gas AND Diesel

The 2012 VW Touareg is a fun, powerful SUV with none of the quirkiness of associated with the brand. I took a tour of Marin County in a TDI Clean Diesel and truly forgot that I was driving a Volkswagen. It's nicely appointed inside and out, and has those cool LED daytime running lights in the front that I love. It's time for luxury SUV drivers to consider a stop at the VW dealer to check out the latest Touareg. Plus you get to choose your fuel fav: gasoline, diesel, or a supercharged hybrid.


  • Power+++
  • All three models are available with a V6 powered by gasoline or clean diesel, or a supercharged hybrid packed with bling
  • All models are extremely quiet inside
  • All models have standard all-wheel drive system called 4MOTION
  • Available keyless entry & push-button start
  • Bluetooth system standard on all models
  • Safety features upon safety features
  • 40/20/40 split backseat
  • Seating for 5 with LATCH in the backseat
  • 115V power outlet is standard on all models (just like your house)
  • Huge towing capacity: 7,700 pounds (the most in it's class)

40/20/40 Split Backseat
115V Power Outlet

T.C.'s Island Hopper Vanagon
I have always been a Volkswagen fan. I liked the quirky designs of the 1950's and '60's (like the Karmann Ghia** and the iconic Beetle). And even though I still make fun of it constantly, I liked the simultaneous practicality and total impracticality of our 1980's era Vanagon. (The Vanagon was made more tolerable because it had a manual transmission and tons of leg room, but it was still a bitch to drive in the wind.)

As I was saying, I've been a solid VW fan since I was 4-ish, but then I drove the VW Routan minivan for a review and I started to worry about the company's future. it was a major mistake for Volkswagen to put their name on that ugly thing. Just thinking about it makes me mad. Therefore, I approached my Touareg** test drive with some trepidation. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

The Touareg was conceived alongside the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7 in Germany and all three are based on the same platform with upgrades to interior and exterior design. I'm very familiar with the Audi Q7, and I knew of the shared platform, but I still expected the Touareg to be less fancy inside. It felt very much like my Q7 inside, as well as it's responsive handling. Unlike the Q7, however, the Touareg does not have a third-row, they call the all-wheel drive system "4MOTION," and the audio system has a stupid name, "Dynaudio" which makes me think of Dynastar skis.

Here is a quick list of some interior features that I liked: 
  • The backseat moves forward and back, so you can enhance either legroom or cargo space;
  • the front and rear seats are very comfortable;
  • heated front seats are standard, while heated rear seats are only available on the Exec model;
  • there is plenty of cargo space with the back seat up; tons with the back seat folded;
  • large, panoramic sunroof;
  • good quality rear view camera with turning guides;
  • the hybrid model has a standard front passenger seat with memory. (All vehicles should have both front seats with memory.)

I wasn't too keen on the touch-screen media interface with my first visit, but I know it just takes some time to get accustomed to those features. My main confusion was about when to use buttons and when to touch the screen.

I chose to drive the TDI clean diesel because (1) I love diesels, and (2) because some people have complained about the price of the TDI Touareg. It ain't cheap, I'll give you that, but it's powerful and has a higher resale value when compared to the gas-powered equivalent. The VW Touareg TDI's start at $46,875 for the Sport model and go over $58,595 for the Exec model. I drove a Lux model that had a sticker price of around $53,200.
Compare this with the Audi Q7 TDI Premium, which starts at $51,450, but quickly climbs close to $60k when you add options; the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BluTec  (diesel) starts at $50,490; and the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BluTec (with 3 rows) starts around $61,500.

If diesel isn't your thing, the gasoline-powered Touareg's start at $43,375 and go up to $55,000+ for the Exec model.

As for fuel consumption, the Touareg TDI gets 19 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec is said to return 20 MPG in the city, and 27 MPG on the highway, so it's a close contender with a potentially lower price (redesigned body coming for 2013).
The Audi Q7 TDI gets MPG of 17 city/25 highway, while the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BluTec shows 17 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Keep in mind that the Audi and bigger Benz are heavier and longer. If you require a third-row in a luxury diesel, then the VW is out of contention and you'll have to look at the Q7 and GL350 BluTec. If a third-row isn't necessary, then you should check out the VW Touareg TDI models. 
Depending on your age and where you've traveled, you may associate diesel engines with pollution and stink, but that isn't the case with newer diesel engines. The diesel engines in these vehicles are clean-burning, and therefore don't have that black exhaust or wonderful diesel smell, although some do have a bit of a growl -- which I think is rather sexy. In early VW TDI models, people complained about poor performance and not enough power to pass. Those aren't problems anymore. Getting speeding tickets may be the new problem with this SUV.

As is often the case when it comes to opinions about vehicles, hotels, cities or shoes, you need to test them out for yourself before you make any judgements. Let's say you had a Jetta in 1993 that is now held together with duct tape, or a 2006 Touareg TDI V10 that wasn't very efficient and can't visit the state of California due to poor emissions. You may have a sour taste in your mouth when I say "VW!" But I encourage you to not base all of your VW and diesel opinions on those two vehicles. VW, and their technology, has evolved in the last few years. (Except for that stupid Routan.)

**The names of most VW's need some explanation (and a spell checker). In this case, Touareg is an alternate spelling for the Tuareg, a mostly nomadic people who live in the Sahara Desert regions of North Africa.

**Karmann Ghia came from the merge of two component maker's names: bodywork by the German company Karmann, and styling by the Italian company, Ghia.

Photos from VW, and the photo of the Magnum P.I. model Vanagon came from

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Good review. I think it's hilarious that you mention the 93 Jetta and older Touareg. I had that Jetta and I was repairing it ALL THE TIME. My friend had the Touareg and he traded it in within a year. Good to know things are changing.

    1. Thanks, Hegstad1! My brother drives that older Jetta that is held together with duct tape. I think VW has turned things around now. My Dad has a new-ish Beetle and it's been a great car: zippy, reliable and good in the snow. Thanks for reading & commenting!

  2. I also know someone whose Jetta is held together by duct tape and good intentions. Its nice to see that VW has finally made the Toureg luxurious without trying to beat up Audi.

    1. Every time I see this comment, I crack up at the phrase "held together with duct tape and good intentions." Really gets to the point that most VW owners go to great lengths to keep their VW's running. Thanks for the continued laughs, flyingwithtigers.

  3. It will redesigned in 2013 ?

    1. It looks like a few interior tweaks, but not a full redesign for 2013. The diesel horsepower does get bumped to 240 from 225.