Calling a $45,000-plus crossover SUV a "bargain" is usually a stretch, but not if we're talking about the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg. Underneath, the Touareg features a platform that was jointly engineered with Audi and Porsche, who use it for the Q7 and Cayenne, respectively. In other words, the Touareg gives you a truly world-class foundation, and it does so for many thousands less than those premium brands.

Sibling rivalry aside, the 2014 Touareg is just an immensely satisfying vehicle to drive. It's equally at home on freeway slabs and washboard roads, traversing the terrain of your choice with supreme confidence. And with the backseat's elevated bench and copious knee and headroom, the Touareg also happens to be one of the best vehicles we can think of for covering long distances with four adults. Throw in the Touareg's exclusive (for Volkswagen) 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and you're looking at a crossover without compromise.

What's New for 2014?

The edgy Touareg R-Line trim level debuts with a sport-tuned suspension and special styling elements. Also, all trims except Sport and R-Line receive an Easy Open liftgate with a foot sensor in the bumper for hands-free opening.

What We Like

Strong and efficient turbodiesel V6; spacious, upscale interior; responsive handling; exclusive 10-year powertrain warranty

What We Don't

Firm ride; limited cargo space for a midsize SUV

How Much?

$44,905 to $65,080

Fuel Economy

All Touareg models come with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. The mainstream models offer a choice of two engines.

The 3.6-liter gasoline V6 is rated at 280 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy checks in at an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 17 miles per gallon city/23 mpg highway.

The Touareg TDI features a 3-liter turbodiesel V6 rated at 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy, an impressive achievement for such a heavy crossover.

As for the limited-circulation Touareg Hybrid, it rolls with a 3-liter supercharged V6 that's paired with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output is a whopping 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. Being a proper dual-mode hybrid, the Touareg Hybrid can technically accelerate to 30 miles per hour solely on electric power and its gas engine shuts off automatically during light throttle applications. However, the Hybrid's 20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy rating makes us wonder why anyone would choose it over the cheaper, more frugal TDI.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg is offered in four trim levels: Sport, Lux, R-Line and Executive. These trims apply to both available engine choices (VR6 and TDI). There's also a separate, limited-production Hybrid model.

The entry-level Sport ($44,905) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, xenon headlights with LED accents, fog lights, a power tailgate, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with tilt/telescopic adjustability, 8-way power heated front seats, a sliding and reclining backseat, leatherette upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control and an 8-speaker audio system with a touchscreen interface, a 6-CD changer, iPod integration, an SD-card reader and satellite radio. Optional on Sport is a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage and an 8-in display; this option also includes parking sensors and keyless entry/ignition.


The Lux ($52,385) starts with the navigation-equipped Sport's features and adds 19-in alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, heated exterior mirrors, wood-grain interior trim, 12-way power front seats with adjustable lumbar and driver-memory functions, leather upholstery and power-folding rear seats.

The R-Line ($55,025) adds a sport suspension, 20-in alloy wheels, R-Line badging, LED taillights, sportier front and rear bumpers, side skirts, brushed-aluminum interior trim, stainless-steel pedals, a black headliner, an R-badged steering wheel and unique doorsill kickplates.

The Executive ($58,270) declines the R-Line's sporty add-ons (except the LED taillights) but boasts different 20-in alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, an extended area-view parking camera and a 620-watt Dynaudio sound system.

The Hybrid ($65,080) mostly shares the Lux's equipment roster but borrows the area-view camera and special Vavona wood trim from the Executive.

The 32.1-cu ft cargo area behind the Touareg's backseat is competitive, but most vehicles this large can do better than 64 maximum cu ft with the rear seat-backs folded. At least the folding process is a breeze thanks to conveniently located power switches on the sides of the cargo bay.

Safety

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side, and full-length side-curtain).

The government hasn't crash tested this Touareg, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Touareg its highest rating of Good in every testing category.

Behind the Wheel

The Touareg's interior is typical Volkswagen: simple, no-nonsense and full of high-quality materials. Some rivals may have a more luxurious feel inside, but we're charmed by the Touareg's excellent ergonomics and unpretentious character. The emphasis here is on functionality; for example, the driver's seat doesn't look like much, but it offers an amazing range of height adjustability and the bottom cushion tilts independently. We do appreciate the available panoramic sunroof, though, for bringing some welcome light and warmth to this rather austere cabin.

The Touareg's backseat is one of the best in the business. It offers 6.3 inches of fore/aft travel, first of all, and the seat-backs recline to help tired passengers catch a few Zs. What's more, its bottom cushion is nice and high, so thigh support is superb, and there's plenty of foot room under the front seats.

On the road, there's not a midsize crossover that we enjoy driving more than the Touareg, except perhaps the related Cayenne. The Touareg's driving position is brilliant, providing great visibility all around and a perfectly placed footrest. The compact 3-spoke steering wheel controls possibly the most responsive steering in any SUV, which is unsurprising given the Touareg's Porsche DNA. This VW loves high-speed cruising, but it's equally at home on the dirt, where its long-travel suspension eats up whoop-de-dos like a Baja off-road racer. The only potential demerit involves its firm ride, which is basically the opposite of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class model's sofa-like experience. The previous Touareg had an available air suspension that smoothed things out, but that option has been discontinued.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X5 -- The X5 is redesigned for 2014, and while it doesn't come cheap, it's a state-of-the-art crossover in all respects.

Infiniti QX70 -- Formerly known as the FX, the QX70 is a hoot to drive and it offers an available V8 with serious speed.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class -- The M doesn't look that special, but it has a creamy-soft ride and a much-improved diesel drivetrain.

AutoTrader's Advice

The TDI is easily our favorite Touareg motor because of its combination of torque and efficiency. As for trim levels, the Lux is our favorite because of its standard panoramic sunroof. But truth be told, you can't really go wrong with any 2014 Touareg.

AutoTrader

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