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2012 Volkswagen Touareg Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg was new.


Performance: 7.7

Reviewers say the 2012 VW Touareg performs well for a luxury midsize SUV, especially when equipped with the optional diesel engine. It’s still a big, heavy SUV, and its ride is tuned for comfort, but the Touareg manages to handle decently when test drivers want to have a little fun. Unlike previous generations, this Volkswagen is no off-road boulder-crusher, but most auto journalists say the trade-off between smooth handling and true backwoods capability is worth it.

  • "We laud Volkswagen for offering a full breadth of engine options, including diesel and hybrid powertrains. We especially like the diesel. It's so smooth, quiet, and refined that we would pass up the conventional gas version entirely.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "It's sporty and nimble for a rather healthy-size SUV.” -- AutoWeek
  • "If you're shopping this class, you're likely to shop for similarly priced models from Mercedes and BMW, let alone Acura, Lincoln and Lexus. That's stiff competition. And the thing is, the Touareg almost outdrives all of them.” -- Cars.com
  • "Refined sure, but a little dull.” -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The Volkswagen Touareg comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower, with an option to upgrade to a 3.0-liter TDI diesel V6 that makes 225 horsepower. A hybrid model is also offered, and is reviewed separately. All models come standard with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport mode.

According to the EPA, the gas-powered Touareg gets 16/23 mpg city/highway, which is about average for a luxury midsize SUV with all-wheel drive. The TDI diesel model gets 19/28 mpg city/highway, which is near the top of its class. Because Volkswagen recommends premium fuel for the base engine, opting for the diesel model will save buyers about $300 per year in fuel costs, according to EPA estimates.

Reviewers overwhelmingly recommend the diesel model over the base model for everyone but the most cost-conscious shoppers. Not only does it have a lower annual fuel cost when compared with the premium gasoline-powered base model, but test drivers say it feels more authoritative off the line, thanks to its whopping 406 pound-feet of torque. The diesel model costs substantially more than the base model, but most auto writers feel that the improved performance makes the greater initial outlay worthwhile.

  • "Conventional V6 Touaregs have only slightly better-than-adequate acceleration. The TDI is stronger in any situation. The diesel is powerful, smooth, and projected to be the most fuel efficient. Only those looking for the absolute least-expensive Touareg need look at the base V6.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "The available diesel is a torque-rich beast that returns excellent fuel economy.” -- Car and Driver
  • "The 280-horsepower V-6 is a smooth operator. That's due in part to an eight-speed automatic transmission, but the revs come on in a delicate fashion, and the cabin is so quiet it feels like this rather large SUV is gliding over the pavement.” -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the Volkswagen Touareg’s driving dynamics are a bit dull, but what it doesn’t offer in fun it makes up for with a comfortable ride and smooth handling. A few reviewers note that they wish the brakes felt stronger.

  • "Unlike its Porsche Cayenne sibling, Touareg is no excitement machine. It handles competently, with good steering feel, and well-controlled body lean in fast corners.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Though marginally lighter than the original, the Touareg is still a beefy SUV. Quiet, supple, and lavishly appointed, the Touareg puts luxury ahead of sportiness. ” -- Car and Driver
  • "Though nicely weighted, the meaty steering wheel offers very little detail on the goings-on of the front tires. And while there's no dead spot on center, the steering feels a bit slow and the turning radius isn't anything to write home about.” -- Motor Trend

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