I recently had the opportunity to test drive a VW Touareg so I could share my thoughts on how it compared to other vehicles I drive or have considered buying. The nice folks at Fowler VW in Norman, OK gave me the keys and only one instruction: Write whatever you want, whatever you feel, like or dislike. Easy enough, here we go…

VW Touareg VS. Chevy Extended Cab Pickup

I currently drive a 2011 Extended cab, 4 door Chevrolet Silverado with a fuel-injected V8 and automatic transmission. It’s a “works hard, plays hard” type vehicle. I like it because of the payload, headroom and horsepower. It’s a workhorse that’s nice enough for valet parking on weekends.

The Touareg is more luxury and less work than my truck. First, it looks really great, very European in design (which I like). The ride height is much higher than a car, but not near that of the truck (which my wife really liked) or other big SUV’s like a Tahoe or Suburban. The VW is also easier to see out of, with less blind spots. One big drawback is the size of the mirrors. They are too short (don’t extend out from the door enough) and create a little bit of anxiety when entering the interstate via a short on-ramp.

Let’s Talk Performance

The Touareg is clearly designed for highway driving. The ride is smooth and quite, with a “floating on air” feeling at high-speed. On the highway, the Touareg has good power for passing, accelerates well and is a real pleasure to drive. The problem is 0-40 mph. The Touareg does not have great low-end torque, shifts through the first three gears way to quickly and is overall sluggish under 40 mph. The model I drove had a built-in receiver hitch, but I can’t see this being a good vehicle for towing. Might be best to mount your bike rack in the receiver.

The VW is the clear winner in smooth ride and overall comfort. I didn’t realize how much until I starting driving my truck again, which now feels like a tank. I received a few compliments while driving it, as it looks a whole lot like more expensive Porshe and Volvo SUV’s.

Interior Features

The first thing you notice upon entering the Touareg is the dash and console. This model had the center mounted command center with the navigation, stereo and comfort controls all based in a single touchscreen. The GPS system is easy to use once you understand that “300 yards ahead” is really 300 feet ahead. The stereo unit has several options for traditional radio, satellite radio and MP3 player input. The speakers have a nice sound quality, but lack a little in overall volume and bass frequencies.

There is a lot of information displayed on the dash and control panel. Great for trips, but can be sensory overload during your daily commute. The Touareg dash can be a little intimidating.

The power controls for the seats and mirror make it easy for a driver to find a comfortable position. I have a bad back, so seat position is key for me. There is also plenty of headroom, even for a 6’1″ person with a hat on. As expected, the back seat of the four door Touareg are much more comfortable than the back bench of the cab-and-a-half Chevy truck.

Cool Factor

The Touareg wouldn’t be a VW without a few cool features. The ignition key is not really a key at all. More of a pod with the controls for the alarm and keyless entry.

You push it into a “Dock” like  a normal key, push the brake pedal and turn to start the motor. After turning off the engine, push the VW logo and pull to release. Much better than scratching your dash with a metal key, but it does take a little getting used to inserting/removing.

Overall, the VW Touareg is a very nice ride. It’s comfortable, well equipped and gets good gas mileage (16 town/23 highway vs. 14 town/19 highway for the my truck). The Touareg has more cab room and is easier to see out (less blind spots) than my Silverado. I had considered a Land Rover Sport in the past, but heard too many stories of quality and maintenance issues. The VW reputation is very solid as a dependable vehicle. Not to mention that the Land Rover is 8-10 thousand dollars more. The GMC Yukon/Chevrolet Suburban cost around 4-5 thousand dollars more while getting less mpg.

My recommendation: If you are looking for a luxury SUV that gets good gas milage, comfortable ride and overall style then the VW Touareg is a nice choice. The Touareg is designed for highway driving. If you do most of your driving in town, you might want to pass.

I do have a vehicle that gets better gas mileage than the Touareg, but without the comfort or capacity: 2011 Harley Davidson Super Glide. The VW is economical, but does not get the super gas mileage (34 town/63 highway) that the Harley does. The Touareg is well designed, but much more luxury than badass. The Harley is super cool, but not good for family vactions, picking up the kids from school or rainy days like the Touareg.

I give the VW Touareg 4 stars out 5. A very nice small SUV with good gas mileage, highway performance and comfort.