2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Introduction
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI was once a bit of an outlier on the mid-size SUV scene, a roomy people mover that featured a robust diesel drivetrain that balanced torque with efficiency in a way that was foreign to the more brutish domestics that once dominated the market. The worm has turned, however, and turbodiesel engines are joining the ranks of hybrid setups as marks of sophistication and frugality amongst the SUV set.
This places the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI in a favorable position, because now in addition to being a very good family sport-utility vehicle it’s also more than a little fashionable. This is doubly true when considering the premium feel imparted by the Touareg TDI’s typically Volkswagen passenger compartment, a characteristic that sees it challenging luxury-oriented models like the Lexus RX and the Acura MDX for well-heeled clientele. Are SUV customers willing to spend top dollar on a vehicle that doesn’t wear a glitzy badge on its front grille – especially one that is priced much closer to its corporate sibling, the Porsche Cayenne, than would seem to be comfortable? VW seems determined to play chicken with status seekers until they see the light.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg is a vehicle that can be ordered in a wide range of different configurations, and even narrowing the outlook to simply the available TDI models provides ample choice for prospective buyers. The Touareg TDI Sport (MSRP $51,035) offers HID headlights, genuine imitation leather seats with heaters for forward occupants, LED running lights up front, Bluetooth connectivity, dual automatic climate control, a power tailgate, fog lights, and cruise control, while the Touareg TDI Lux (MSRP $54,975) installs a navigation system, a rearview camera, legitimate leather upholstery, power adjustments for the front two seats (with a memory feature), 19-inch rims, and a truly enormous panoramic sunroof. The TDI R-Line (MSRP $57,615) adds sportier trim inside and out, unique badging, 20-inch rims, and a stiffer suspension system but deletes the power tailgate, while the full-bear TDI Executive trim (MSRP $60,860) comes through with a heated steering wheel, seat heaters for those riding in the rear, keyless entry and ignition, wood trim, and a louder sound system.
The model of 2014 Volkswagen Touareg that I drove for a week came in the R-Line trim, without any options, keeping the vehicle’s MSRP at $57,615.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Design
- The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI R-Line is new for the 2014 model year.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI now benefits from the same aero-swept styling that other vehicles in the company’s stable have been enjoying in the form of the R-Line trim for several years. The changes that checking the R-Line box brings with it aren’t dramatic, but they do help to further clean up the already-sleek looks of the Touareg TDI, in particular the unique rims and subtle body kit that do a good job of improving the sporty character of the large vehicle. Without being a stand-out, the Touareg TDI R-Line still has much more visual personality than a comparable Lexus RX, for example, even when the latter has the attention-grabbing F Sport package installed.
The interior trappings of the Volkswagen Touareg TDI R-Line are more understated, but what I appreciated most about the vehicle was the attention paid to detail by its designers. The rich brown leather on the SUV’s seats was matched by similarly-hued leather upholstery covering its door panels, and the plastics that ridge the top of the doors and several other key contact points throughout the Touareg’s cockpit was sufficiently soft to the touch. One surprise was the Volkswagen’s door handle, which was the only bit of plastic in the interior whose hard texture contrasted poorly against the rest of vehicle’s posh nature.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI does not introduce any new comfort or cargo features.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI – like most VWs – is able to impart the sensation of luxury while keeping the trappings of its passenger compartment very simple. Featuring sport suspension tuning that nevertheless canceled out the roughest parts of the road, and supportive seats at all five positions, turning hundreds of miles on the SUV’s odometer a day presents no real challenge to the limits of human tolerance. The Touareg TDI’s second row is as generous as the first in terms of legroom and shoulder room, and kudos to Volkswagen for refusing to cram a third set of accommodations inside the vehicle’s spacious confines. I much prefer having a wide-open cargo compartment rather than having to fold a set of jump-seats down simply to pack in my groceries.
The panoramic sunroof that came with my R-Line edition of the Touareg TDI deserves special mention, because it is simply enormous, running almost the entire length of the vehicle. Although I shudder to think about how much weight this particular feature adds to the SUV, the amount of light that it lets in is spectacular, and it adds a further feeling of spaciousness to an already-generous cabin.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI does not introduce any new features when compared against the 2013 model.
I’ve already used the word ‘simple’ at least once in this review, but again, this term best describes the philosophy guiding the design of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI’s control surfaces and features. A clean and uncluttered console offers up an automatic shifter plus the traction control on/off switch and the vehicle’s four-wheel drive dial, while the Touareg’s center stack provides a short row of climate controls nestled under the volume button for the radio and an eight-inch touchscreen. There’s another screen that’s positioned in front of the driver that can display entertainment, communications, and other information (accessed via steering wheel-mounted buttons). It’s easy enough to figure out all of the VW’s systems, and for once I was happy to see that I didn’t have to change the display language in more than one location.
There are a couple of ergonomic issues with the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, however – one that’s minor, and one that is much more glaring. Starting with the small potatoes is an additional console button that serves as the ignition start/stop, a control that I only found after I had already inserted the Volkswagens ‘keyless’ fob into the ignition switch slot on the dash to the right of the steering wheel and turned the vehicle on. Yes, that’s right – the Touareg TDI has both a traditional key-twisting start/stop as well as a push-button start/stop, in two completely different locations. It’s confusing to be sure, but doubling up on this kind of functionality must also be a more expensive proposition for VW, which begs the question as to how this kind of faux pas ever made it out of the factory in the first place.
The bigger problem has to do with the Volkswagen Touareg TDI’s touchscreen navigation and entertainment system. In the past I have complained about the long system start times associated with Volkswagen touchscreens, an issue that I had hoped would be improved with time. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case, as the 2014 Touareg TDI features the most incredibly long lag between vehicle start and satellite radio boot-up that I have ever experience. Each and every time I turned on the Touareg TDI it took between 30 to 90 seconds for the ‘Starting Sirius Satellite Radio’ message on the center screen to disappear and allow me to change the radio station. Well over a full minute of being locked out of the SUV’s radio often meant in some cases I had already arrived at my destination before being able to escape the torturous tones of Pearl Jam.
On occasion the system would allow me to move to the nav screen, or the Bluetooth interface screen while the satellite radio was still doing whatever intense computational tasks were happening behind the scenes, but sometimes it wouldn’t, which was even more frustrating. There is no other automaker that asks its owners to wait such a ridiculous amount of time before being able to do something as simple as change radio stations after turning the key (you can’t even do it with the steering wheel buttons), and I can’t think of a compelling reason as to why this is still a problem for Volkswagen.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI introduces no new safety equipment.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI offers dual forward airbags, seat-mounted side airbags that protect front passengers, and a pair of side curtain airbags that deploy along the entire length of the passenger compartment in the event of a collision. The vehicle can also be had with adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning feature, a blind spot monitor, and a camera system that can provide a view of the area immediately surrounding the SUV, which is quite useful when parking.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Crash Test Ratings: Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have released updated crash test safety ratings for the 2014 edition of the Volkswagen Touareg TDI.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI maintains the same turbodiesel engine than was available the year before.
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI features a 3.0-liter, turbocharged diesel V-6 engine matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This mill provides 240 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque, a prodigious amount of power that is quite class-competitive. Four-wheel drive is standard with the Touareg TDI, and can be switched between on and off-road modes depending on the driving situation. Fuel mileage for the vehicle checks in at 20-mpg in city driving and 29-mpg on the highway, which are strong numbers for an SUV of the VW’s size. I saw 17.5-mpg after considerable city touring.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Driving Impressions
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is one of the quickest turbodiesel SUVs I have had the pleasure to drive. Yes, the vehicle’s 3.0-liter V-6 sees its power delivery hampered somewhat by noticeable lag between flooring the accelerator and an increase in forward momentum – at all speeds, not just off of the line – but aside from this occasionally frustrating wait time for turbo spool, the VW is one quick SUV. I found that by brake-boosting the vehicle’s four-wheel drive system I could hit 60-mph in under seven seconds from a standing start, which is a shocking achievement for such a heavy, non-performance SUV. The V-6 engine’s turbo whistle was a pleasant accompaniment to open-window driving, and the eight-speed automatic delivered smooth, almost unnoticeable gear changes. The paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel were completely superfluous, however – there is no joy to be had in flipping the Touareg TDI’s ratios by hand.
With a tow rating of 7,700 lbs, the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is a legitimate option for those who need to haul a heavy load but who don’t want to step into a traditional, body-on-frame SUV. It’s also more frugal than most of its gas-powered competitors, especially on the highway. I spent a lot of time waltzing around town behind the wheel of the Touareg TDI, and as such my own recorded fuel mileage skewed towards the lower end of the scale, but each highway jaunt visibly raise the efficiency figures calculated by the Volkswagen’s on-board computer. As a long-distance cruiser, the 650-plus mile range that the Touareg TDI has to offer is difficult to match outside the world of turbodiesels, and it compares well to the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC.
Handling is not the primary focus of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, but the big SUV's sportier R-Line suspension puts in a commendable effort in this area nonetheless. Not at all floaty in the same sense as other, less precise SUVs like the Lexus RX or the Nissan Pathfinder, the Touareg TDI’s steering feels connected and immediate enough even at lower speeds (where over-boosting often does the most damage to a vehicle’s road feel).
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is the perfect example of the German brand’s recent, stealthier approach to penetrating the luxury market. The SUV stands in start contrast to the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the failed Volkswagen Phaeton, a very expensive full-size sedan that had potential customers scratching their heads and heading to Audi dealerships in droves. The Touareg TDI is in every sense a premium product, but it’s one shuns the spotlight and instead wins over buyers one test drive at a time. Turbodiesel SUVs might only now be coming into vogue, but let’s not forget that Volkswagen has been traveling down this particular road longer than most other manufacturers, and its hard-earned experience has helped it to create a luxury family mover that feels as competent behind the wheel as it is inexpensive to operate.
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review: Pros and Cons
- R-Line add-ons improve the SUV’s sporty character
- Turbodiesel engine is both powerful and efficient
- Interior looks and feels luxurious
- Standard all-wheel drive helps in slippery weather
- Very comfortable for five passengers, good cargo room
- Not an inexpensive vehicle, even in base trim
- Outdated and slow touchscreen entertainment system
Volkswagen Canada supplied the vehicle for this review
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