Review: 2017 Volkswagen Touareg

The Touareg is a Volkswagen like no other, and that comes with its pluses and its minuses. Given its aspirational subtitle, the “People’s Premium SUV,” not sharing its interior parts with its economy brethren actually suits it.

For the 2017 model year, not much changes on the Touareg. With the exception of more standard driver aids, in fact, it’s almost exactly the same as the 2016 model. The big, soft 2017 Touareg, then, isn’t a terribly exciting car, but it is still a good one.

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The first thing someone like me (who drives Volkswagens almost exclusively) notices when he climbs into the driver’s seat is that almost none of the buttons, switches, or toggles are the same in the Touareg as they are in any other Volkswagen. For this premium SUV, Volkswagen has raided the parts bin of its higher end subordinates and so there are a bunch of buttons inside and they’re placed strangely.

I’m told by people who cover a wider range of vehicles than me, though, that this is very much a Porsche thing, which makes sense, given how much this car shares in common with the Cayenne. There are few Audi touches, too, like the third stalk attached to the steering column that controls the cruise control. Again, that makes sense given the Touareg’s close relation to the Q7. The buttons are clearly marked, easy to find, and close at hand. As a result, the infotainment actually works well.

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Speaking of interiors, the Touareg’s ain’t bad. With seating for five and up to 64 cu. ft. of cargo capacity with the seats down, it will easily haul big, oddly shaped things, like, say, the windshield from a 1970s Chrysler Conquerer that your buddy is restoring. And thanks to seats that fold easily, you can get them out of the way in a hurry as the person who’s helping you load/selling you the windshield holds it. That keeps you from being embarrassed as they wait for you to leave their property. Unfortunately, with the windshield in, you pretty much won’t have access to any of the passenger seats, making the ride home a little lonely. You may want to wait for the seven-seat Atlas or jump up market to the Audi Q7 if you plan on carrying around sport boat windshields a lot, but if you only plan on doing it occasionally, the Touareg is great.

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If you eventually plan on towing said Chrysler Conquerer, you shouldn’t have any problems, thanks to the Touareg’s 7,715 lbs of towing capacity (for braked trailers). Getting back up the boat launch shouldn’t be a problem either, because the Touareg has some off-road chops. It will conquer approaches and departures of up to 26 degrees, and has a breakover angle of 21 degrees. Whatever that means. I’m deeply ill equipped to report on whether or not this is a capable off-roader, and given its shiny paint, leathery seats, lofty as tested price of $65,460 I’d be surprised if many buyers were going to do honest to god off-roading with it, but it does have the feel of a capable off-roader. There’s a big chunky “Off-Road” button that teases you, calling into question your masculinity with every passing moment that it stays in on-road mode, and in the center of the dash it gives you off-roady information like your steering angle, so you can definitely impress your buddies at the dirt trail nearest your house. And for all my not taking this seriously, the Touareg does have a stable confidence when you drive down silty dirt roads.

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When you get it back on the road, its VR6 engine with 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque sounds, as ever, lovely, but doesn’t really get you moving in any particular hurry. It’s not like the Touareg can’t keep up with traffic—it certainly can—it’s just that acceleration comes in more of a lazy wave than a brutal, kick-you-into-your-seat assault. Which is okay. It kind of suits the mood, and anyway I’m so over “performance” SUVs. Vehicles carrying around that much weight (a curb weight 4,696 lbs in this particular case) should be honest about what they are. You do feel the weight at the gas station. With combined EPA fuel economy of just 19 mpg, the Touareg doesn’t exactly sip fuel. A big gas tank means that you aren’t constantly looking for gas stations, but also that when you need one it will leave a dent in your wallet.

Ultimately, this is a reasonably pretty, reasonably luxurious, and reasonably capable off-roader. Despite it’s faults I did actually come to like the Touareg for its honest lack of pretensions. It feels capable of delivering everything it promises and doing so at a competitive price.