The Touareg is an all-new SUV from Volkswagen and it is based heavily on the Porsche Cayenne--indeed, the chassis were developed together, and Volkswagen builds the bodies for both. But under the hood are two different engine options, consisting of a 3.2L V-6 and a 4.2L V-8. Our Touareg came equipped with the larger V-8. This is sourced from the Audi A8 and produces 310 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. Mated to it is the same excellent six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that is found in the Cayenne--though this transmission seems to receive different electronic instructions than the Porsche's.
Other similarities include the optional air suspension that was found on our tester. It features six different selectable heights and the shocks also feature three different dampening settings from which the driver may select. The Touareg also employs the same steering system as the Cayenne, but does use a different braking system with slightly larger brakes. While the similarities between the Cayenne and the Touareg are many, the VW does use a completely different interior.
What We Liked
While the V-8 of the Touareg was not quite as powerful of that of the Porsche, it is still a great engine that provides plenty of power. We also loved the Touareg's transmission.
Just like the Porsche, the Touareg delivers amazing handling. Its cornering prowess is simply amazing, as it tracks around corners completely flat and with a ton of grip. The Touareg's steering and brakes also received lots of praise.
Where the Touareg made a departure from the Porsche, however, was on the trail. While the Porsche was miserable on the trail, the VW was quite effective. Most of this difference revolved around the fact that its traction control system worked much more effectively than the Porsche's did, transferring power quickly, quietly and smoothly to the appropriate wheel. While the Touareg uses much the same traction control hardware as the Porsche, the computers that control it seemed to have received different programming. Our Touareg also featured an electric rear locker, which helped when the going got rough. But even without that, the Touareg worked well on the trail.
What We Didn't Like
While the Touareg was much more effective on the trail than its German sibling, all was still not smiles and sunshine in the dirt. The Touareg's suspension delivers a very firm ride on the trail that can rattle your fillings out. Its suspension also yields little flex, especially when at full ride-height, a situation that leaves at least one wheel off the ground most of the time.
The Touareg has excellent highway manners and a very strong mechanical foundation. It's also a decent performer on the trail, and all of these aspects let it rack enough points for a strong Second Place finish--and almost a win.
Check It Out If:
You want a Teutonic driving experience without mortgaging your house.
Avoid It If:
The thought of a steep learning curve for the heater and air-conditioning controls gives you pause.
The Short Version
In every way, the Touareg is the best of the German SUVs. And it's the most attractively styled of the pair, as well.