2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline
2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen, the “people’s car”, has had a long history of bringing affordable cars to the masses; of delivering a product to those who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

So what does this have to do with the five-seat 2011 VW Touareg TDI Execline that lightens the billfold to the tune of $63,135 before freight and taxes?

Quite a bit if you’re in the market for a premium German SUV that goes down the road courtesy of a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine.

With a starting price of $53,190 for the well-equipped 2011 Touareg TDI Comfortline (Bluetooth, navigation, powered tailgate), VW is significantly undercutting the competition. The BMW X5 xDrive35d bows at $62,800, the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec at $63,900, and the Audi Q7 TDI, which uses the same engine, at $58,900. The midrange Touareg TDI Highline, which has leather, proximity key, heated wheel and rear seats, and panoramic sunroof lists for $58,645.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline
2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline. Click image to enlarge

The redesigned 2011 Touareg is an impressive piece, featuring a lovely interior, typical VW dynamics (read: engaging and refined), and a structure that feels as solid as the day is long. Like its sister-ship the Porsche Cayenne, this Touareg is a little longer and wider than the outgoing model yet looks more compact thanks to sleeker styling and a slightly lower roofline. Horseshoe-shaped LED running lights are a nice touch

The 2011 VW Touareg (in 3.6-litre V6 gas trim) was named Best CUV/SUV over $50,000 at the most recent AJAC TestFest. This diesel version is better.

Of course, there’s no free lunch, as the premium for 3.0L turbo-diesel V6, when taking the extra equipment into consideration, is approximately $4,000 – money you’ll likely never recoup despite the TDI’s impressive fuel economy. I observed a saintly 9.4 L/100 km during a week of largely highway driving. Official numbers are 11.9 L/100 km city and 8.0 L/100 km highway versus 12.3 and 8.8 for the 3.6-litre gasoline V6.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline
2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI engine; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

The TDI is a terrific engine, putting out 225 hp and 406 lb.-ft., the latter available from 1,750 rpm. As with all 2011 Touaregs, the transmission is a smooth eight-speed Tiptronic. It is well suited to the diesel’s relatively narrow power band, keeping it in the sweet spot of this formidable torque plateau. As such, the TDI punches ahead from almost any speed with modest throttle application. One hundred km/h comes up in 8.6 seconds and it’ll whoosh from 80 to 120 km/h in 5.8 seconds. Highway passing is effortless. At 110 km/h the engine spins at a sleepy 1,600 rpm.

Power is transferred to the ground via VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive. While there is no low-speed transfer case, turning a dial on the console from ‘On Road’ to ‘Off Road’ re-jigs the transmission mapping, traction control, stability control, braking and electronic differential lock for off-road duty.

VW has done a great job in isolating the cabin from any diesel-like sounds or vibrations, bettering both the Merc and BMW in this regard. Inside there’s little evidence you’re driving an oil-burner other than the omnipresent torque and a 5,000 rpm redline.

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