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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Volkswagen Touareg TDI

Volkswagen submitted the most expensive vehicle to Mudfest's family class, its Touareg TDI Executive ringing in at $61,000 (as the rest of the field ducked in under $40,000). This put the Touareg at an immediate disadvantage. Nevertheless, this is one attractive crossover. We like the understated German styling. It doesn't stand out, but it flows smoothly. And of course, the LED running lights are sharp-looking, too.

Sitting down inside of the Touareg, you're greeted with the interior of a luxury vehicle. The infotainment system consists of a touchscreen display and a couple of physical controls beneath. Its navigation component offers 3D maps, which are cool. However, we found much of the system display to be disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with the visual design per se, but the output isn't as sharp as some of the other less-expensive contenders. Kudos to VW for integrating an LCD gauge cluster display that ties in with tie infotainment system, though, enabling the driver to access those features independent of the main screen.

Our HTC Droid DNA paired fine with the Touareg, but it did not support any extra features, such as Bluetooth MAP, unfortunately. Also, we were unable to connect our fourth-gen iPad, since VW employs proprietary cables. The car had a 30-pin dock interface, but we didn't have an adapter on-hand to test it with the newer Lightning connector.

The Touareg was the only diesel at Mudfest; it features a 3.0-liter V6 motor positioned toward fuel economy. If you were hoping to get your hands on the previous-gen's big V10 diesel or the Europe-only V8 diesel, you'll be disappointed that the V6 is the only TDI option North America gets. VW bolts the TDI motor to an eight-speed automatic transmission that puts power to all four wheels through a 4Motion AWD system. 4Motion operates full-time, distributing power 40:60 for better driving dynamics.

Driving the Touareg TDI was disappointing, especially after spending time in the Touareg Hybrid. We’re usually fans of diesel engines, but the Touareg TDI suffered very noticeable turbo lag, lazy steering, and sloppy handling. It was equally competent on dirt and pavement, but there just wasn't much feedback.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
Trim levelExecutive
Engine3.0 L TDI clean diesel V6
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
Drivetrain4Motion
InfotainmentVW Touchscreen navigation system
Notable featuresRear-view camera w/ park distance control
Fuel economy23 city, 28 highway, 25 combined MPG
MSRP$60,840
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply