2015 Volkswagen Touareg [w/video]
VW Offers Up A Safety-First Facelift
Power280 HP / 266 LB-FT
Cargo32.1 / 64.0 CU-FT (max)
MPG17 CIty / 23 HWY
As Tested Price$56,580
The basics of the styling changes are pretty straightforward. The 2015 Touareg can be pretty easily spotted versus the outgoing model by way of its four-bar chrome grille, a cleaner headlight design, bigger VW badge and a completely new lower front clip. (I got one photo of the old and new models side-by-side for my Twitter followers before we rolled out on the drive.) There's also a thin strip of chrome that runs around the bodywork, standard LED taillights and a selection of three new wheel styles and five new paint colors.
Inside, I found it harder to spot the changes, old to new. The Touareg's switchgear has been updated and there's a new frame for the infotainment display, but there's no piece that stands out and says "new model year!"
Powertrains and mechanical bits all carryover from the 2014 Touareg, too. But there were a few functional changes to the vehicle, primarily in the new Driver's Assistance Package, for me to take note of as I took a lap of my favorite Ann Arbor, MI driving route.
- Let me start with the newest news then, the Driver Assistance pack. Volkswagen will sell you this suite of safety gear on either the mid-level Lux or the top-end Executive trims, for $2,500. The package included adaptive cruse cruise control, "Front Assist" for emergency braking situations, lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring.
- If the contents of that package don't strike you as revolutionary, you're not alone. Some or all of the technologies that are new to the Touareg have been around other showrooms – and other VW family products – for quite a while. Still, they're nice to have as options.
- All of the driver assistance features that I was able to test worked as advertised, too. The adaptive cruise uses cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, so it isn't likely to be impacted by inclement weather, which is nice. I also appreciate that the lane-keep assist (which offers the driver a haptic buzz to the steering wheel when straying out of the lane) can be turned off, or turned down in terms of intensity and reaction time. In fact, you can even change the brightness with which the amber lights of the blind-spot monitoring system flash, which is a welcome feature I've not seen before.
- For 2015, the Touareg is still available in three flavors of powertrain: a 3.6-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque; a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 with 240 hp and 406 lb-ft; and the 3.0-liter V6 of the gasoline-electric hybrid offering a total system output of 333 hp and 325 lb-ft. All of the engine choices are mated to an eight-speed automatic and VW's full-time all-wheel-drive 4Motion system.
- It had been a while since I'd been in a Touareg with the gasoline-fed V6, so I chose a model so equipped and got to driving. Compared to both the Hybrid and the TDI, this V6 is definitely the slowest option, but even so, this volume Touareg model hardly feels lazy. Especially when using the gearbox's sport programming, I found satisfying throttle response and a pleasantly growling engine note whenever I laid into the beast. You may not win many Stoplight Grands Prix with 280 hp and a two-ton SUV, but I succeeded in passing many a fast-moving highway fellow before giving up the keys.
- One thing VW has not revised since my last Touareg jaunt, is the feeling of solidity and sturdiness when rolling over the road. The suspension ironed out the frequent sections of bad pavement I encountered, but without too much compromise in terms of wallowy cornering. The underpinnings feel stiffer than segment-average, for sure, but I felt as though they were able to inform about the road surface without jostling overly.
- The Touareg's steering is excellent for the class, too. We're not talking about Porsche levels of road feel or anything, but it's a nice, heavy tiller at speed, with just enough feedback to keep the driver interested.
- You'll have to care a lot about that more-involving nature if you're to pull the trigger on buying a new Touareg, though, as the best of the competition is higher tech and extremely competitive on price. Volkswagen called the Acura MDX its primary competition, which feels right on to me. The MDX shades the Touareg in terms of price, equipment for equipment, and has more power, but has never quite felt so solidly built as this new VW, nor does it have this German's off-road capability. Jeep's Grand Cherokee is another SUV that would be an excellent cross-shop here; the GC offering a lot more bang for the buck, and a far better suite of infotainment features in its Uconnect system.
- I should mention that one piece of Touareg tech, the foot-activated power liftgate, didn't work very well for me when I tried it out. I shot a quick Short Cut video of it mostly working, below. It's possible that my kicking method was off, but I tried several varieties, in-out and side-to-side, with different levels of success. Your mileage may vary.
- The Touareg is still a competitive play in its midsize utility vehicle segment; helped out by the attention that this refresh will garner. While it isn't cheap, starting at $44,705 and moving quickly up to $66,995 for the range-topping hybrid (all with $920 due for delivery and destination), neither are most of the players in this quasi-luxury zone. What's more, I think the Touareg's subtle combination of driver involvement and practicality give it a tiny edge on other, similar vehicles – at least where enthusiasts are concerned.
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