While Volkswagen recently moved to make two of its best-sellers — the new Jetta and Passat — more affordable by spending less on interior refinements, it's going the opposite direction with its redesigned Touareg SUV.
The Touareg's powerful base engine, standard high-tech features and comfortable ride endeared it to me.
It's a near-luxury machine — and starting around $45,000, it had better be. Because 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.
I can't say enough about the V-6 engine powering the base Touareg. There's a turbocharged diesel TDI model — somewhat more expensive, at $47,950 — and a Touareg Hybrid, which is much more expensive at $60,565, though that price includes a host of options. I tested the gas Touareg and the hybrid, and there's no question I'd choose the standard V-6, no matter the size of my bank account.
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.
It's not V-8 power, but it's as good as I've tested from a V-6 SUV, and I've driven them all, with the exception of the most recent BMW X5. Rest assured, no Lexus RX, Lincoln MKX, Acura MDX or Mercedes ML350 driver will be able to scoff at a new Touareg owner at a cocktail party. Plus, if they're fixated on nameplates, just tell them it's the same power plant you'll find under the hood of a Porsche Cayenne.