Overall: Volkswagen still has a gaping hole in its sport-utility lineup for a vehicle with three rows of seats, which should arrive soon. For now, the five-passenger Touareg carries on with small changes, but at prices starting at about $2,000 less; hybrid quietly dropped for 2016.
Drivetrain: Choose from gasoline power or turbo-diesel motivation; all-wheel-drive is standard with either, as is an eight-speed automatic transmission.
While every automaker is scrambling to offer a greater range of tall wagons of nearly every size and shape, Volkswagen continues with only two. The larger one, the Touareg (pronounced “Twah-regg”), uses a similar platform as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q5 (Porsche and Audi are part of the VW family). For 2015, VW spruced up the Touareg’s looks by installing a more prominent grille, bi-xenon (high- and low-beam) headlights, new fog lights and lower air intake in front, along with a new rear bumper and exhaust outlet. The interior was also been updated with a revised control-panel layout and other tweaks. These changes made an already good-looking rig a bit more handsome. Powertrain availability remains the base 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and the 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel (optional on all trim levels), however the range-topping gasoline-electric hybrid model is gone for 2016. The Touareg boasts a 7,700-pound towing capacity with either engine. An eight-speed automatic transmission — standard on all Touareg powerplants — directs torque to all four wheels. 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 2016, aside from a near-$2,000 price reduction across the board, Lux and Executive trim levels get extra features such as 14-way ventilated seats and different 21-inch wheel options. Executive models also gain a power steering column and a suite of active safety systems.