Wednesday, August 14, 2013

VW's Touareg is not your typical hybrid

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – I remember driving one of the first Volkswagen Touareg models to arrive in the United States about 10 years back, and here’s what I remember most about that experience: Boy, this thing drives like a big ol’ brute.

Heck of a thing to say about a sport-utility vehicle that won Motor Trend magazine’s 2004 SUV of the Year award, right?  But that’s what I remember.

That was not how I felt about the recently tested 2013 VW Touareg Hybrid.  With a 3-liter, six-cylinder engine working with an electric motor to dish up a combined 380 horsepower and 428 foot-pounds of torque at low rpms, the tester stood up in the saddle and moved out with authority.

I’m talking about sport sedan-like authority, with a nicely tweaked suspension keeping the five-passenger SUV rock-solid in the turns, straight and true on speedy straight-line runs.  Passengers who had plenty of room to spread out agreed with my assessment; they were not being rocked around the interior cabin despite my best efforts on sharp turns.

But you must remember that “hybrid” in this case does not translate to 40 miles-per-gallon runs.  Even with the electric assist, the advertised gas mileage is 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.  Not great.

And there’s this: a starting price of $62,575 on the Touareg Hybrid.  That’s a significantly hefty sticker and translates to: You’d better make sure you absolutely want and love this SUV before you sign the check in the dealer’s finance office.

Thankfully, for that price, you do get plentiful perks and luxury touches, plus a long list of safety features.

Over-the-top standard features include 12-way power/heated  front seats with memory, rearview camera with parking distance control, a power panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, power adjustable heated exterior mirrors with memory, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and silver roof rails.

Oh, in my view, it also looks more sporty than Touaregs of years ago, with the help of 19-inch alloy wheels shod with all-season tires.

Big brute gets better?  Yeah, I’d say so.  But again, this is a vehicle that invites extremely careful buyer consideration, given its lofty starting price.  If you have the dough and the Touareg makes you happy, not much else to say.

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