2017 Volkswagen Touareg Execline V6 Review and Road Test

2017 Volkswagen Touareg Execline V6

VW’s range-topper still delights, but for how long?

Words by: Adam Allen

Are the Touareg’s days numbered?

Volkswagen has never said anything about the Touareg suddenly finding itself on the road to extinction. That’s a relief to us, because we have always had a soft spot for it- we’d rather have one in our driveway instead of a base Porsche Cayenne, an SUV it shares a platform with. However, with the newer and bigger (and much cheaper) Atlas SUV arriving on dealer lots by the time you read this, the Touareg finds itself in a precarious position. More worryingly, our full zoot tester rang in at $65,460 which is several thousand dollars more than some of its similarly equipped competition like the Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Nissan Murano. In most other cases, we would say so long to a car that finds itself in a similar position. The problem with the Touareg is that even after seven years on the market in its current guise, it is still a very rewarding choice and quite enjoyable to drive.

It’s aged well, hasn’t it?

To our eyes, the Touareg’s design aesthetic is still relevant and as pleasing as it was after receiving a nip here and a tuck there back in 2011. The polished wheels are mounted on generously sized tires that fill out the wheel wells nicely. The body panels are devoid of sharp creases and off-putting scythes, instead looking like they were sculpted by a gentle wind. Inside it’s a similar story- Volkswagen uses materials that are put together so proficiently that it feels more Audi or Porsche than it does VW. The doors close with a satisfying whump and every single inch of the thing feels quality and of substance. Our example was furnished in Titan Black and Terracotta Vienna Leather appointments and the combination was very pleasing to the eye.

With its impressive lineage, it must be a treat to drive.

Sharing its bones with the previous generation Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg’s dynamic capabilities have a strong foundation. The prevailing mandate of the Volkswagen Group’s engineering target was to build a vehicle that is equally at home on pavement as it is when that pavement gives way to an off-road trail. Not only is the platform at home traversing some pretty gnarly terrain but it’s also extremely polished on-road and drives way better than it ought to- two assets that used to be mutually exclusive in an SUV. The steering has a feeling of precision even if it lacks somewhat in the feel department, but it has a great sense of straight ahead and locks onto the horizon for long highway slogs. The suspension is amazingly able to offer a towing capacity of 3,500 kilos but coddles and cossets occupants on cobbled tarmac admirably. The driving experience has a palpable sense of quality, and you get the sense that it was wholly overengineered, and we mean that as a compliment. We wished that it was powered by the formerly excellent 3.0 litre V6 diesel, but since VW isn’t selling oil burners any longer the only choice is a 3.6 litre naturally aspirated V6 hitched up to an 8-speed transmission that do their job without calling attention to themselves and move the Touareg around easily, even if the drivetrain lacks character slightly.

What might go wrong?

Staying on the topic of the oily bits, we’d like to see some changes in the engine room for the Touareg’s next generation. The 3.6 is starting to sound a bit gruff in its old age, and 280 horsepower is below the class average. We wouldn’t mind the 3.0 litre V6 found under the hood of current Q7 and Cayenne models, and even the option of a high-output version of VW’s ubiquitous 2.0 litre turbo four-cylinder engines would be a welcome addition. Our next gripe stems from the interior. Everything else is so well built and finished that the infotainment system’s faults are even more glaring. The graphics are low resolution and look like the programmers simply mailed it in, but even worse is that there are times where it simply refuses to respond to commands. This can get infuriating when you just want to switch radio stations and you must take your eyes off the road to repeatedly jab the part of the screen needed. There’s little doubt that Volkswagen will turf this unit in favor of something more modern and vastly better in terms of user-friendliness. Lastly, there’s the price- at $65,460 its price of entry is in some cases considerably more than the competition.

Should I buy a Touareg?

While the Touareg does have competitors, we see it as more of a niche vehicle. Viewed through that lens, we think the Touareg offers the right mix of kit, capability and driving experience that will satisfy. If you need a luxuriously appointed tow vehicle but don’t want to step up to one of the large body-on-frame SUV’s or even a pickup, your choices are few. We have always liked the Touareg because it excels admirably both off-road and on while pampering driver and passenger with polished dynamics and excellent interior appointments. Volkswagen has already unveiled its new Tiguan, and the Atlas will be transporting families to and fro shortly. If you like the Touareg as it is now, act fast- the release of its fully revamped successor isn’t too far away.

 

2017 Volkswagen Touareg Execline V6 – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $65,460
  • Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower: 280 @ 6,200 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 266 @ 2,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,220 kg (4,895 lbs.)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 12.5L/100 km (19 mpg)