Volkswagen Touareg
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Overall

Its entirely possible that Volkswagen would sell more of these vehicles in North America if only its name was more easily pronounceable.

Drivetrain

Choose from gas only, gas-electric hybrid or turbo-diesel motivation; all-wheel-drive is present on each, as is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

If you want to know what $45,000 will buy you in a Volkswagen, here it is. The Touareg (pronounced “Twah-regg”) offers similar luxury and powertrains as its Porsche Cayenne cousin (understandable, since VW controls Porsche), but for a lot less money. The powertrian sharing includes the base 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, the 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel (optional on all trim levels) and a gasoline-electric hybrid model that kicks out an impressive 375 horsepower. The Hybrid also provides the Touareg with a 7,700-pound towing capacity, which is equal to the rest of the lineup’s capacities. An eight-speed automatic transmission — standard on all Touareg powerplants — directs the hybrid’s torque to all four wheels. It’s good for 20 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, compared with 17/23 for the base 3.6 and 20/29 for the turbo-diesel. At this point your assumption is correct that the Touareg is not a jacked-up wagon wearing oversized tires. It has actually been specifically designed for off-road duty and is classified as a light truck. The permanent four-wheel-drive system works to pull you out of rough situations by sending power equally to the front and rear wheels. Torque can also be redirected if wheel slip is detected. All Touaregs come well equipped with many standard features of the air/power/tilt/cruise variety as well as a power sunroof, power liftgate, heated front seats, electronic parking assistance to fit into tight spots and rain-sensing wipers. For 2014 the Touareg gets a new and loaded-up R-Line trim that contains nearly as much equipment as the top-level Executive, but at $55,000 is less expensive by about $3,000.

Base price (incl. destination): $44,900; $65,100 (Hybrid)
Type: Four-door sport utility vehicle
Base engine (hp): 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (280)
Optional engine (hp): 3.0-liter DOHC V6 turbo-diesel (240); 3.0-liter DOHC V6, supercharged, with electric motor (hybrid, 375)
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel-drive
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
MPG (city/hwy): 17/23 (3.6); 20/29 (3.0); 20/29 (Hybrid)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 4,710