Despite a marvelous powertrain, good fuel economy, and extraordinary interior comfort, the $46,875 2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport is overburdened by one glaring flaw: Weight. Tipping the scales at a portly 4,974 lbs, this excess heft sours the driving experience of an otherwise excellent SUV.
The styling of the gorgeous 2012 Touareg TDI is typical Deutsche-conservative. Subtly muscular contours give a candid wink at the grizzly persona that lies within. Dazzling U-shaped LED accent lights grace the adaptive bi-xenon headlamps in front, while tasteful L-shaped markers flank the tail lamps at the rear.
The 2012 Touareg TDI Sport’s interior provides excellent ergonomics, and a premium ambiance. The Touareg Sport’s V-Tex upholstery, however, is about as aesthetically-pleasing as industrial-grade vinyl. On the plus side, V-Tex is rugged enough to withstand a nuclear explosion. Or, perhaps more realistically, a protruding tab on the posterior of one’s blue jeans.
Functionally, each secondary infotainment control falls perfectly at hand, and provides a substantial feel. I have absolutely no trouble quickly pairing my phone, and listening to Pandora internet radio through our Touareg’s standard RNS850 touch-screen infotainment system. The muddied sound quality from the eight standard speakers, however, leaves me pondering a costly upgrade to the $58,595 TDI Executive model’s 620-watt Dynaudio system.
On the road, the six-cylinder diesel works in perfect harmony with continuous all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Burying the go-pedal summons a nearly lag-free 225 HP and 406 lbs/ft of torque, accompanied by a symphony of turbo whoosh and induction noise. The seamless, eight-speed, Japanese-built Tiptronic automatic transmission is telepathically unobtrusive, always finding the right gear for the job.
Even despite its power-sapping full-time transfer case and hefty curb weight, I am able to manage a miserly 28.1 MPG in the Touareg over several hundred miles of mountainous driving. Assuming I was to maintain this average through all of the Touareg TDI’s 26.4 gallons, I’d be rewarded with a remarkable 700+ mile range. This bonus allows for a slight relief at the pump, given the grotesque $103 cost to fill the tank to the brim, at our current $4.09/gal.
Under normal driving, the 2012 Touareg TDI’s modern double-wishbone front suspension setup allows for a feeling of security and poise, regardless of velocity.
Likewise, the Touareg’s light-effort steering is quite precise, and does a great job of inspiring confidence and giving a solid, well-defined on-center feel.
When it comes to uneven high-speed sweepers, however, the Touareg TDI’s multi-link rear suspension is overcome by weight transfer. The resulting transitional “side-step” motion violently kicks out the rear end, oftentimes causing the nervous stability control (ESP) to intervene.
I bemoan the new Touareg’s lack of true off-road ability as well, a trait that gave the last-gen model a competitive edge.
There does remain a dial-selectable “off-road” mode, which modifies several driveline parameters for appropriate heavy-duty work. The absence of low-range gearing, however, prevents the new Touareg from tackling any obstacle of significant proportions.
With excellent powertrain performance, good fuel economy, and extraordinary interior comfort, the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport seems a compelling option in the mid-size luxury SUV segment.
Daniel Buxbaum has had a life-long passion for all things automotive. Dan’s passion for automotive journalism recently secured him a position as customer service director and contributing writer for Parts & People, a multi-region automotive trade publication. Dan also writes for Examiner.com, maintains his own blog (straightlineconcepts.wordpress.com), and is an active member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP).