Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
Following a full redesign for 2011, the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg features one of the roomiest and upscale cabins in the segment along with a set of unique engine choices. Among the latter are a torque-rich turbodiesel engine and an industry exclusive supercharged hybrid powertrain.
You'll Like The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg If...
If an on-road dynamic is more important than off-road capability, today’s Volkswagen Touareg is one of the better choices in the marketplace. A rigid structure and all-independent suspension provide the composure, while a trio of available drivetrains provides both fun and functionality.
You May Not Like The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg If...
If, in selecting an SUV or crossover, your emphasis is on cubic volume or the ability to clear fallen timber, this isn’t your cup of SUV. For you, there’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee or 4WD Chevy Tahoe. The Touareg takes proper care of passengers and cargo, but not excessive care.
When introduced to the U.S. for the 2004 model year, the VW Touareg aspired to be a do-everything SUV. In its newest iteration, the Touareg has shed 300+ pounds (which included dumping a lo-range transfer case) and is now tailored for on-road, all-season comfort and composure. Rarely will you find a better balance of virtues in something characterized as an SUV.
No mud should be slung within the interior environs of the 2012 Touareg. But should you sling it, the V-Tex leatherette (the people’s seating surface) is a cinch to clean – and it’s standard in both Sport and Sport w/Nav trim levels. Opt for the Lux or Executive levels, and the interior furnishings are covered in "Vienna" leather and walnut, with metallic trim surrounds. Regardless of the trim package you opt for, the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg is a viable mix of credible comfort, expansive visibility and upscale appointment. The front seats are supportive, and the rear bench splits 40/20/40.
In a process Volkswagen describes as “redesign, re-engineer (and) re-imagine,” the 2012 VW Touareg sheds both substantive weight and visual heft. The end result is sheet metal that appears both trim and urbane. The current Touareg occupies a footprint that is both (slightly) wider and longer when compared to its first-generation. The end result tilts toward the station "wagen" end of the SUV/crossover spectrum, embodying both established VW design cues and a healthy dose of athleticism.
With three responsive powertrains connected to Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive and 8-speed automatic transmissions, all variants of the 2012 Touareg provide a level of driving engagement rare in the SUV/crossover category. Given that the Touareg platform was developed in partnership with Audi and Porsche that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but there’s no evidence of dumbing down the Touareg to reflect its more modest window sticker. We enjoyed the light, more "flickable" feel of the standard 3.6-liter VR6. With the 3.6 as a baseline, the flexibility offered by the diesel, and the "rush" (there’s no other descriptive) of the hybrid are truly addictive. All Touareg variants enjoy communicative steering, a supple (albeit controlled) ride and positive braking response. With the possible exception of Porsche’s Cayenne we can’t remember a more positive driving experience in a vehicle marketed under the SUV descriptive.
With a well-equipped base price of under $45,000, the 2012 Touareg is fully appropriate to VW’s increased emphasis on value. Notably, the TDI Clean Diesel requires but a $3,500 surcharge. Climb up the option ladder, however, and you can quickly move from VW’s humble origins to BMW and Mercedes-Benz zip codes. In mid-level lux form, the standard V6 Touareg is closer to $50K, while the fully-laden Hybrid is over $60K. Of course, one can spend well over $80K for mid-sized SUVs from BMW (X5) or Stuttgart (M-B M-Class), but those higher prices are supported by elevated resale levels. To its credit, the Touareg TDI is projected to fully hold its own from a resale standpoint, while Touareg’s gas V6 and hybrid models are a few percentage points below the segment average over three to four years.
All 2012 Touaregs feature VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. With a center-mounted Torsen limited-slip differential, the power to the front/rear wheels is split 40/60, providing both optimal stability and enhanced handling. On a series of rain-dampened roadways in Northern California, we found the Touareg both planted and nimble. And given its global mission, we’d give a nod to dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power heated front seats and SiriusXM satellite radio.
Performance enthusiasts can enjoy the 2012 VW Touareg in one of three ways. And while the standard 3.6-liter DOHC VR6 is entertaining, those wishing to combine their fun with efficiency can embrace either the 3.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel or supercharged hybrid. The diesel delivers 225 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, along with a combined EPA estimate of 22 miles per gallon. The hybrid, introduced in 2011, is one part Audi (3.0-liter V6) and one part Prius, providing a combined 380 horsepower, 425 lb-ft of torque and an EPA estimate of 21 miles per gallon. With prodigious torque, both the diesel and hybrid Touaregs provide a grin in stop-and-go driving that, frankly, never stops.
PANORAMIC POWER SUNROOFNorth Africa’s Tuareg tribesmen must enjoy expansive skies and vistas. Why else would Volkswagen equip their vehicular namesake with a "sky window" allowing roughly triple the amount of light found in more pedestrian sunroofs? The sunroof (standard on both Lux and Executive trims, as well as the Hybrid) provides driver and passengers with an almost fishbowl environment. The light show would be difficult to duplicate in any vehicle save (perhaps) Volkswagen’s Deluxe Microbus or a Greyhound Scenicruiser.10-YEAR/100,000 MILE POWERTRAIN WARRANTYVolkswagen has considerable ground to make up in the area of quality, reliability and customer satisfaction. It appears – based on consumer-satisfaction surveys – the company is making significant headway in all three, and nothing injects more confidence into consideration than a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. As Volkswagen’s literature puts it (in the large print), if “something goes wrong with the engine, the transmission or the 4Motion all-wheel drive system, VW has you covered.”
Under the Hood
The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg’s underlying proposition is to provide a sense of balance in environments rarely offering it. Those vehicles intended for urban duties often fall woefully short when venturing out onto the open road, while family cruisers often seem clumsy when running the in-town errands. VW’s Touareg, in any of its three drivetrain configurations, can take on whatever the daily grind – or annual road trip – is prepared to dish out, and does it in a relaxed, confident and (surprisingly) efficient manner.Touareg V63.6-liter VR6280 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm265 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-5,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23Touareg TDI3.0-liter turbodiesel V6225 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm406 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,250 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28Touareg Hybrid3.0-liter supercharged V6 + electric motor380 horsepower (combined) @ 5,500-6,500 rpm425 lb-ft of torque (combined) @ 3,000-5,250 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/24
If a buyer can move beyond this SUV’s moniker (derived from the North African Tuareg tribe) he or she is 90 percent of the way there. Behind the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg’s badging is one of the more compelling packages in today’s 5-door, all-wheel-drive menu. With its rigid body structure, supple suspension, careful assembly and tasteful appointments, VW’s Touareg provides an offering similar to that provided by Porsche’s Cayenne, but in (perhaps) a 911 vs. 911 Turbo context. VW’s package emphasizes competence and (relative) affordability, without diminishing quality or efficiency.