Thursday, July 29, 2010

VW Touareg highlights perks of diesel driving

Sacramento, California – Volkswagen has been on a roll of sorts, and that dates back to that delightful, prosperous, giddy time before the recession.

Back in those days of grossly overvalued stocks and real estate, VW was touting the virtues of clean diesel engines, and much of the competition was laughing at the German automaker while raising the horsepower curve to sometimes ridiculous heights.

Besides, Americans were turned off by memories of noisy, stinky diesels of decades past. VW kept insisting that it could deliver quality vehicles with robust, clean diesel engines.

And here in post-bailout America, that’s exactly what you get in the 2010 Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI -- a stellar, sizable sport-utility vehicle for folks who need that sort of thing.

Over time, the Touareg’s looks have been tweaked to make it look like a more-contemporary, aerodynamic SUV, as opposed to a bulky Euro-camper vehicle. The look is just fine – not terribly different from a lot that’s already out there, but attractive nevertheless.

Best compliment I can pay to this vehicle: In no way does it feel like a turbodiesel V-6. With some 225 horses more than 400 foot-pounds of pavement-gripping torque, the Touareg V6 TDI performs like a V-8 champ. Engine noise and tailpipe emissions offer no clue that this is a diesel.

The four-wheel drive system chimed in to make the hefty Touareg light on its wheels. The sensation coming through the steering wheel was more lightweight crossover than weighty SUV.

This is what happens when German engineering excels and gets it right.

The Touareg comes off as the prototypical vacationers’ dream. Lots of room for passengers and luggage. The thing will cruise effortlessly to beach and mountain range with nary a complaint. Fuel mileage for a vehicle this size weighs in relatively well at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Standard features are numerous, a good thing for a vehicle that starts at nearly $44,000. Extra-special standard fare includes a 12-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, interior wood trim, front/rear park distance control, power glass sunroof and heated exterior mirrors. Yeah, this SUV spoils you quite a bit.

Frankly, however, I could have done without some $15,000 in premium extras that brought the sticker’s bottom line ominously close to $60,000, but some folks undoubtedly like their Touareg puffed up to something resembling Mercedes-Benz status. If you have the cash, go for it.

I know that many Americans still are not sold on diesel technology – Europe, amid pricey fuel, has thrived on it for years – but a simple test drive of this Touareg will tell you how much things have changed. Maybe the flood of electric and hybrid autos on the market ultimately will shove diesel to the rear of the pack. Who knows?

But if you want to sample clean-diesel technology at its finest in a pleasing SUV package, this 2010 Touareg deserves a look. It’ll give you something to tell your grandkids.

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