2011 Volkswagen Touareg Introduction

The Volkswagen Touareg is all-new for 2011. The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg features 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 2011 Touareg can tackle the most rugged of terrain yet cruise down the highway in luxurious comfort, and Volkswagen claims it's one of the safest automobiles of all time.

A new hybrid gas-electric version headlines the 2011 Touareg lineup. The 2011 Touareg V6 TSI Hybrid is the most powerful and the most expensive. The Hybrid couples a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 TSI 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.

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).

The 2011 Touareg may not look much different from the 2010 version because the styling revisions are subtle, but it has in fact been completely redesigned. The 2011 Touareg marks the beginning of the second generation. Compared to its predecessor, the 2011 Touareg is wider and has a shorter overall height, 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.

There's little by way of visual cues to distinguish the 2011 Touareg from its predecessor. A few styling lines are more rounded. Some deeper sculpting softens the side doors' expanses of sheet metal. The liftgate has a wider license plate recess. But viewed from almost any angle, the 2011 Touareg looks like a Touareg. This isn't to complain. Overall, the Touareg, for 2011 as well as previous generations, is properly proportioned, with commendably minimal, non-functional cosmetics.

Touareg seats five. No third-row seat is available. The interior has been redesigned and refined for 2011. Improved acoustics and insulation reduce cabin noise. The cabin is trimmed handsomely. A more curvaceous dash updates the appearance. The second-row seat slides fore and aft and greater legroom is available. There's a giant panoramic sunroof available.

We found the 2011 Touareg comfortable and competent underway. The Touareg Sport is the most fun to drive of the four (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 in at around two and one half tons.

The 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 2011 Touaregs give VW 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 textures and accents that people look for when trying to define luxury.

A properly equipped Touareg with the optional towing package is rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds.

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