2012 Volkswagen Touareg Introduction

The Volkswagen Touareg can tackle the most rugged of terrain yet cruise down the highway in luxurious comfort. And a properly equipped Touareg is rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds.

Touareg was redesigned and re-engineered for the 2011 model year, so changes for 2012 are limited to new equipment packages and additional features. Most significantly, navigation is no longer standard on the 2012 Touareg, but in exchange the base price has been reduced by almost $1,500. The base 2012 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 Sport comes with a new audio system.

The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg offers a choice of gas, diesel or hybrid power, an 8-speed automatic, and a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system designed to handle true off-road use or improve stability on ice.

The hybrid gas-electric version continues to headline the Touareg lineup. It's both the most powerful and the most expensive Touareg you can buy. The Hybrid couples a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine to an electric motor to give the Touareg an effective 380 horsepower, with an EPA-estimated 20/24 mpg City/Highway (21 miles per gallon in the federal government's Combined city/highway fuel economy calculations). The Hybrid requires Premium gasoline, however.

Least expensive and, in our view, most fun to drive is the Touareg VR6 FSI Sport, which uses a 280-hp V6 engine EPA-rated at 16/23 mpg City/Highway (21 mpg Combined). It runs on Premium gasoline.

The Touareg V6 TDI Clean Diesel features a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel with 225 horsepower that's EPA-rated 19/28 mpg (22 mpg Combined).

This second-generation Touareg does not look much different from earlier versions because the styling revisions are subtle, but in fact it was completely redesigned for 2011. Compared to its predecessor, the latest Touareg is longer and wider and only fractionally taller, giving it a stronger presence. A longer wheelbase provides greater stability, while a greater overall length allows more room inside the cabin. The use of new materials and other adjustments have removed nearly 450 pounds from the vehicle.

Touareg seats five, with just two rows of seating. No third-row seat is available. (If you need a third row, check out the related Audi Q7, which is longer.) The Touareg cabin is trimmed handsomely. The second-row seat slides fore and aft to balance legroom and cargo space. A giant panoramic sunroof is available.

We found the Touareg comfortable and competent underway. The Touareg Sport is the most fun to drive of the various trim levels (and the least expensive), with responsive turn-in and good balance through energetic direction changes, all whilst tempering a driver's enthusiasm with clear reminders the Touareg is, after all, an SUV weighing more than 5,000 pounds.

The Touareg Hybrid handles the added weight of the battery pack better than most hybrid SUVs, with a smooth ride and only the barest hint of a slower response to steering due to the placement of that added weight mostly behind the rear wheels.

The 2012 Touareg lineup offers a full range of options in the SUV market, from the traditional to the green. The Lux and Executive trim levels are the most plush, featuring luxurious textures and accents.

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