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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
InfotainmentVW Touchscreen navigation system
Notable featuresRear-view camera w/ park distance control
Fuel economy23 city, 28 highway, 25 combined MPG