You might think of the 2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI as just an SUV with a funny name, but this is a pretty serious machine. Based on the same platform as the superstar Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg punches well above its price. And when you add the TDI diesel engine to the mix, you get one of the best midsize SUVs we've driven. Here are five reasons to give the Touareg TDI a shot.

1. Amazing Fuel Economy

You probably know that diesels get better fuel economy, but still, the Touareg TDI weighs almost 5,000 pounds. How efficient could it be, right? Well, check this out: The TDI is rated at an incredible 20 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway by the Environmental Protection Agency. That's even better than the Volkswagen Passat V6 family sedan, which returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. Plus, with its 26-gallon fuel tank, the Touareg TDI can go more than 700 miles between fill-ups.

2. Great Turbodiesel Performance

The Touareg TDI is a lot more than just a fuel-sipper. The 3-liter turbodiesel V6 engine is rated at 240 horsepower and an epic 406 lb-ft of torque, whisking you from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 7 seconds. The diesel-drinking Touareg can also tow up to 7,700 pounds, which is more than almost any other midsize SUV. Forget those old stereotypes about slow, weak-kneed diesels, because this one delivers the goods.

3. The Driver's SUV

Remember when VW's tagline was "Drivers Wanted?" The Touareg TDI keeps the legend alive. Volkswagen's SUV really does share its platform with the Porsche Cayenne, and you can feel it: The steering is very precise and the Touareg feels much more responsive at the helm than a 2.5-ton SUV should. No matter the scenario, the Touareg TDI's sure-footed handling gives the driver confidence.

4. Lots of Standard Equipment

If you're worried that the Touareg lacks features, don't be. A ton of cool stuff comes standard, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tailgate and even an awesome panoramic sunroof on the Lux model. You also get an 8-speaker stereo with a touchscreen interface, all without checking a single option box. VW definitely doesn't nickel-and-dime you here.

5. Off-Road Ready

The Touareg TDI's natural habitat is civilization, but if you want to get dirty, don't hold back -- this is a real SUV. The TDI's standard all-wheel-drive system and long-travel suspension make quick work of just about any terrain. So if you're tempted to turn down that dusty desert road and see where it leads, go right ahead. The Touareg's up for it if you are.

The Verdict: At almost $50,000 to start, the 2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI doesn't come cheap, but don't think of it as an expensive VW; think of it as a bargain Porsche. Midsize SUVs don't get much better than this.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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