2011 Volkswagen Touareg
2011 Volkswagen Touareg
2011 Volkswagen Touareg. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2011 Volkswagen Touareg

Banff, Alberta – Last Monday night, the temperature in Banff dipped to minus 34 Celsius. Early Tuesday morning, with a hint of surprise in his voice, VW Canada PR Manager, Thomas Tetzlaff, announced to the assembled auto writers that all the 2011 Touaregs that were parked outside overnight, both gas and TDI diesel models, started with no problems, even without block heaters (which apparently are optional).

Though some of us were grumbling that is was just too damn cold, we quickly realized that the bone-chilling temperatures, and slippery ice-covered roads and trails surrounding the Banff area were the perfect opportunity to test just how well VW’s redesigned mid-sized SUV stood up to the rigours of a Canadian winter. We had previously tested the new Touareg last spring in the comparatively idyllic environs of Tuscany, but here in the Great White North, we began to appreciate some of the features we hadn’t used in Tuscany.

Starting with its revised lightweight 4Motion all-wheel drive system with a Torsen limited slip centre differential which normally splits torque 40/60 front/rear but can vary this as conditions demand; driver-selectable “On Road” and low range “Off Road” AWD settings; standard traction and stability control; four disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist; Hill Descent Assist, Hill Climb Assist (in low range); a generous 22 cm of ground clearance; and a 26 degree front-end off-road angle.

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

Touareg Comfortline models come with standard 18-inch all-season tires, while Highline and Execline models have 19-inch all-season tires, or optional 20-inch depending on the model. However, our test vehicles were shod with snow-biting 20-inch Pirelli Scorpion winter tires provided by Pirelli Canada just for this test.

To keep the driver and passengers warm and comfortable, the 2011 Touareg Comfortline comes with standard leatherette upholstery (leather in Highline and Execline) with three-step seat heaters (optional rear seat heaters), dual-zone automatic climate control with defogger button, heated windshield washer jets, heated outside mirrors, rear defroster, rear wiper with intermittent wipe setting, and rear washer. A heated steering wheel is available on Execline models.

We also appreciated the 2011 Touareg’s roomier cabin. With its longer wheelbase and a wider body, the new Touareg seats four or five adults in comfort – front and rear legroom and headroom is generous – and the split rear reclining seats slide forwards and backwards independently to increase legroom or cargo room. Shorter adults will find the step-in height is a bit high, but once inside, the standard eight-way power driver and passenger seats (with manual lumbar adjusters) are very comfortable, and the surroundings are luxurious. The quality and appearance of the interior materials is excellent but I would not recommend the light beige seats and carpets as they will be hard to keep clean.

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

Just so you don’t get lost and/or bored in the wilderness, all Canadian Touaregs come with a standard navigation system and an eight-inch colour touch-screen with a 3D screen view, a 60-GB hard drive, SD card input, a single CD/MP3/DVD player, and eight speakers. The system includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, Sirius satellite radio (free three-month subscription), and iPod interface. Accessory cables for USB and auxiliary inputs are also available. There are also four 12-volt outlets, and a single 115V outlet.  The centre screen can also display climate control functions, and vehicle information such as a compass and altimeter. A separate, smaller screen between the tachometer and speedometer displays vehicle info such as average fuel consumption, distance to empty, radio station, outside temperature, compass and tire pressure.

The carpeted cargo area, accessible by a lift up hatch with a power opening and closing feature, is very roomy – cargo space behind the rear seats has increased by 25 litres to 660 litres, and with both seatbacks folded down, cargo space reaches 1,642 litres. The liftover height is high, though.

Motivation comes from a revised 280-hp 3.6-litre 24-valve V6 gas engine with direct injection, or a 225-hp 24-valve 3.0-litre TDI (turbocharged direct injection) diesel engine both mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous six-speed. The new eight-speed tranny features Sport mode for more aggressive shifts and Tiptronic mode for manual shifting. According to VW, fuel economy has improved by more than 16 per cent in gas models, now 12.3/8.8 L/100 km city/hwy – and by almost nine per cent in diesel models, now 11.1/7.0 city/hwy, due to improved engine technology, a reduction in vehicle weight, and the new transmission. The TDI can travel up to 1,200 km on a single tank.

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