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Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

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2012 Volkswagen Touareg

Nine litres per 100 kilometres…

That may not seem like such a great fuel consumption number in its own right, but the 2012 Volkswagen Touarag TDI diesel is a full-size, 2,137-kg SUV, and 9.0 L/100 km is impressive, indeed. For a bit of perspective, I got 13.9 in an Acura MDX (2,109 kg), 13.6 in a Ford Explorer V6 (2,146 kg) and 12.9 in a Mazda CX-9 (2,068 kg) recently. And if anything, I drove the Touareg more aggressively. If that’s not shocking enough, I got 9.4 L/100 km in a Ford Focus, a 1,327-kg compact car.

Yeah, if you haven’t figured it out yet, diesel engines are efficient.

But this one isn’t just a fuel miser. It’s also a strong power plant that moves this truck with the authority and sensory stimuli of a V8. This 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel makes an unremarkable 225 hp at 3,500–4,000 rpm, but boasts a monstrous reserve of torque — up to 406 lb-ft at 1,750–2,250 rpm. Its official fuel consumption ratings are 11.2 L/100 km city and 6.8 L/100 km highway on the Canadian cycle (12.4 and 8.4 as per the US EPA’s testing).

2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
2012 Volkswagen Touareg TDI. Click image to enlarge

An eight-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine in the sweet spot and manages gear changes quickly and smoothly. Its responsiveness is particularly notable when passing on the highway. The transmission also offers a sport mode for when you’re feeling frisky and a manual mode that would be especially useful if pulling anything up to the Touareg’s 3,500-kg towing capacity.

Beyond its truck-like credentials (and off-road abilities), the Touareg demonstrated civilized behavior in and around town. With all that torque going down to all four wheels as dictated by the 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the Touareg can pick up speed effectively. The fully independent suspension carries the weight smoothly, dispersing road imperfections with little drama, but also keeping everything surprisingly stable through corners at speeds that would have some SUVs and crossovers leaning over awkwardly. Paired with light but consistent steering, it’s a rig that will invite enthusiastic driving when roads open up.

Some might call the Touareg too conservative in its design, but it is also quietly handsome in its own way. With sharp angles for the headlights and crisp fender definition but soft corners and sculpted door panels, it won’t likely offend anyone, and many will find its balanced proportions appealing. Its five-seat configuration means VW has not had to make any design compromises to stretch the platform for accommodations.

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