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Big, Bold And Beautiful
2009 Volkswagen Touareg VR6
Road Test And Photography By

2008 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 Road Test
Our test vehicle dressed in striking Cranberry metallic. Click on images for larger views.

— VOLKSWATCH ROAD TEST —
2009 VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG VR6

Highs: VR6 engine up to most tasks, gorgeous style, gorgeous Cranberry
paint, gorgeous wheels

Lows: Heavy vehicle, heavy liftgate, chrome exhaust pipes would be nice

Volkswagens used to be compact cars with thrifty little four-cylinders. Then, in 1991, the automaker shoehorned a narrow-angle VR6 into the engine bays of the Passat and Corrado. And, today — with the advent of the Phaeton luxury sedan and Touareg SUV — the very definition of the people's car has changed dramatically.

This has placed VW into new market segments, some argue for the worse. What is indisputable is that when Volkswagen brings a new vehicle to market, it gives 100 percent. It employs all its engineering and design prowess. It doesn't cut corners. This has resulted in a very capable, stylish and luxurious Touareg sport-ute.

We tested a VR6 model and discovered that the Touareg is big, bold and beautiful.

Everything is big about the Touareg — or at least bigger. Bigger than any other VW, which makes for interesting comparisons.

The mirrors, the 19-inch wheels and the VW logos fore and aft are all on the large side. As they should be, to match the Touareg's proportions and intentions.

Likewise inside, knobs and buttons are oversized. The metallic rotary climate controls, in particular, are large, and, with their rubber insets, extremely easy to operate with driving gloves on.

Even the large round turn signal stalks are bigger than those found in any other Volkswagen.

2008 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 Road Test
The taillamps are darkened to good effect. Chrome exhaust pipes would be nice.

But big can still be beautiful. The Touareg features a smooth but muscular exterior — no sharp creases and few straight lines — and a commanding stance on the road.

Our test vehicle came with gorgeous Cranberry Red metallic paint and 19-inch Terra alloy wheels, which are optional in the USA on the VR6, standard on the V8, and part of the sport package in Canada.

2008 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 Road Test

— VEHICLE VITALS —
2009 VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG VR6

Vehicle Type Sport-utility vehicle,
four-wheel-drive
Price Range* $39,300 to $54,030 (US),
$44,975 to $68,600 (CDN)

Engine V6, 3.6-liter, 24-valve
Horsepower 280 at 6,200 RPM
Torque 265 pound-feet at
2,500 to 5,000 RPM
Curb Weight 5,086 pounds
Weight Per Horsepower 18.2 pounds
Transmission Six-speed automatic
with manumatic shifting
0-to-60 MPH 8.3 seconds
EPA Mileage 14 MPG (city),
20 MPG (highway)
VolksWatch
Mileage
18 MPG (city),
25 MPG (highway)
*Prices are for the model trim tested and exclude VW's destination fee.

The wheels are both elegant and sporty.

Big usually means heavy and in the Touareg's case, this is exactly what it means, tipping the scale at a portly 5,086 pounds. Ouch! Weight affects a car in so many ways — from acceleration to braking, from cornering to fuel economy, and more — so we praise the mighty VR6 engine because it never felt like we were hurdling around in that much metal and plastic.

The VR6 generates 280 horsepower at 6,200 RPM and 265 pound-feet of torque from 2,500 to 5,000 RPM, accelerating the Touareg from zero to 60 MPH in a reasonable 8.3 seconds. (For comparison, the V8 has 70 more horsepower, weighs 214 more pounds and achieves 60 MPH in 7.6 seconds.)

The VR6's power never feels lacking — and we prefer the six's better mileage over the eight's extra power.

The EPA rates the VR6 at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. We surprised ourselves and achieved 18 in the city, 25 on the highway. Even at a steady 80 MPH, the Touareg returned 22 MPG.

The engine is quiet and well behaved until called upon for more serious duty, which is when the VR6's burble becomes a growl — just to let you know exactly what is under the big hood. And to uphold the VR6 legacy.

The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission works well with the engine, responding quickly to driver inputs and with very little hunting for gears.

Power is routed to the ground through VW's 4XMotion four-wheel drive. This system is standard. Unlike other SUVs, there is no two-wheel-drive Touareg.

Other features to aid in inclement or off-road conditions include generous angles for approach, ascent, break-over and departure; up to 11.8 inches of ground clearance; 19.7 inches of water-fording depth; Anti-Slip Regulation; plus hill-climb and hill-descent assists. Towing capacity is 7,716 pounds.

Overall the Touareg is a calm cruiser with a quiet, upscale and therefore very pleasant interior. The seats are extremely comfortable.

In living with the sport-ute for a while, our only major complaint is that the liftgate is quite heavy. Closing it could be a challenge for some. Perhaps a power liftgate is in order. Or make the liftgate out of lighter aluminum. Or how about a power aluminum liftgate?

While the Touareg's reliability has generated grumbings on Internet forums, our tester showed no signs of bad behaviour and didn't exhibit even one rattle or squeak. With several thousand miles already clocked on the odometer, it still felt solid as a tank.

The Touareg is due for a makeover soon — it will be interesting to see how Volkswagen improves upon the big bold beauty of this first generation.

One piece of advice: Lighten up!

Also see:
Touareg Photos

        

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