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2007 VW Touareg V6

James Bond with a German Accent

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2007 VW Touareg V6

Pronounced wheel wells, wide tires and a planted road stance that combine to give the Touareg a somewhat menacing presence.

Photo © Jeff James
Bringing a decidedly Teutonic approach to the SUV, the VW Touareg is a slick, technically impressive vehicle that competes in the mid-level luxury segment of the market. It's an impressive vehicle, but is it worth the price of entry? The 2007 Touareg V6 has a base price of $37,990 ($49,710 as tested), and comes with VW's 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway. Let's take a spin in this upscale SUV and see if it delivers the goods.

First Glance: Brains, Brawn and Beauty

Over the last decade or two Volkswagen has done a remarkable job of shedding it's once folksy, Beetle-esque corporate image. Although there still is a Beetle in the VW stable, the VW vehicles of today tend to be more well-known for technical sophistication and first-rate interior design. Such is the case with the Touareg, which launched in late 2003 as VW's first entry into the luxury SUV market.

My test vehicle was a 2007 Touareg V6 loaded with a fair number of options, including adjustable air suspension, navigation system and comfort seating upgrades. This vehicle was an early 2007 model -- VW plans to roll out a late-2007 update.

Even without the late-year makeover the exterior styling is handsome, with pronounced wheel wells, wide tires and a planted road stance that combine to give the Touareg a somewhat menacing presence. This beauty definitely isn't just skin-deep, as the heart of an off-roading monster beats under the stylish exterior.

I test drove the Touareg on a variety of roads, including some extensive driving on unpaved, rutted and partially-finished roads. My time with the Touareg convinced me that when it comes to onroad luxury and off-road capability, you can have the best of both worlds.

Continued Below...

In the Driver's Seat: The Lap of Luxury

The dash is constructed with high-quality materials, while panels, gauges and buttons are assembled with commendable fit and finish.

Photo © Jeff James
Sliding into the Touareg's interior is easy, thanks to an accessible step-in height (and the smooth leather seats in my test vehicle). The dash is constructed with high-quality materials, while panels, gauges and buttons are assembled with commendable fit and finish.

The interior design stumbles a bit when it comes to the number and variety of knobs and switches, particularly the unlabeled buttonsaround the nav display. On-screen labels identify their functions, but this context-sensitive menu system results in each button being used for many different actions. A touch-screen would have helped.

One impressive safety feature was the collision sensor and rear-view camera, included as options on my tester. The former notifies with audio cues and color-coded lights when any corner of the vehicle gets too close to an obstacle, while the later gives you an unobstructed view to the rear when the transmission is thrown into reverse.

The second row seats use the LATCH system for child safety car seats, but the anchors are difficult to access, being buried deeper in the well between the seat cushions than most of the other vehicles I've tested. Second row seating is comfortable for most adults, although a tad cramped for taller passengers.

On the Road: Born to Perform

Touareg boasts some impressive on and off-road performance. I found handling to be smooth and predictable on nearly all road surfaces, with the spirited driving through the twisty bits exhibiting a minimum of body roll. The Touareg is no sports car, but it likely handles better than many of the SUVs on the road today.

I've recently driven a 2007 Hyundai Sante Fe and a 2006 Nissan Xterra, and the Touareg ably absorbed bumps, ruts and other road irregularities more readily than either of these vehicles. To be fair, the extra $20,000 for the Touareg will get you a well-tuned air suspension ($3600) and a chassis co-developed with the Porsche Cayenne, but it's impressive nonetheless.

The 276hp 3.6 liter V6 (new for 2007) does an adequate job in most instances, and shifts happen smoothly thanks to the 6-speed tiptronic automatic transmission. The Touareg was a bit sluggish when fully-loaded, so if you're looking for more performance you can choose a more powerful V8 engine option or the impressive V10 TDI turbo diesel, which generates a stump-pulling 550+ ft-lbs. of torque. (Note: The updated V8 and V10 TDI will be available in late 2007.)

Journey's End: Rich and Beautiful

The Touareg is an impressive mix of high-tech gadgetry and subdued sophistication, essentially the equivalent of James Bond wearing hiking boots and sporting a German accent.

Photo © Jeff James
The Touareg is an impressive mix of high-tech gadgetry and subdued sophistication, essentially the equivalent of James Bond wearing hiking boots and sporting a German accent. All of these gadgets and options do come at a cost: at the as-tested price of just under $50,000, the Touareg is starting to compete in the rarefied atmosphere of luxury SUVs from Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac. The gas mileage -- 16 city/ 20 highway -- is poor, although it does compare respectably in its vehicle segment. Of more concern is the Touareg's somewhat spotty repair history, as reported by some JD Power research.

These gripes won't dissuade many people who need an SUV, and they add up to little against a fine vehicle. Although showing its age in some areas, the Touareg is still an impressive, polished and pleasant vehicle well-worth a spot on the test drive list of any luxury SUV shopper.

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