Simply put, the Volkswagen Touareg is wunderbar. It provides a welcomed blend of comfort and utility. You can drive in comfort with heated leather seats, automatic rain-sensing wipers and dual climate controls. But the Touareg is equally at home off road; full-time 4Motion keeps all four tires planted even when maneuvering at high speeds on gravel roads. This one also had the four-corner suspension package, which let me effortlessly toggle between sport and comfort settings.
Volkswagen seems to grasp the idea that Americans want SUVs, but don't want to use them as such. Instead of allocating unnecessary room to storage, the Touareg gives the back-seat passengers (gasp) ample legroom: It comfortably seats three adults. Should you ever need to haul furniture or river toys, the rear seats fold flat.
The six-speed automatic transmission bogs when accelerating in the normal drive mode, but this is quickly remedied by switching to S mode. It's great for shooting at gaps in traffic, but I found it a bit too aggressive for normal street driving. I found the engine whining along in third gear at 4000 rpm and refusing to shift into fourth. Another reason to avoid overusing S mode is fuel consumption. In foot-to-the-floor driving mode, I only got 15 mpg.
Another highly recommended comfort feature is the navigation system. Entering data can be a bit tiresome since it's done with a single dial instead of a touch screen. But once the data is entered, you don't even need to glance at the map. The system will audibly warn you of approaching turns with commands like: "Please prepare to turn left in 900 feet." You can also look at the mini-screen in the gauge cluster. It will note which street you're on, how long you will be on that road and if you are turning, which direction you should go. Should you deviate from the set course, the system will correct the directions to get you back on track. This is especially handy when skirting freeway traffic.
This is one car I didn't want to share. I found myself purposely taking the long way home just to drive a bit further. I made at least half a dozen unnecessary trips just to have a reason to drive it. Volkswagen says, "Drivers wanted." I say, "Driver found." -Melissa Rausch
2005 VOLKSWAGEN TOUREG V6
Price as tested: $47,385
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
3.2-liter V6, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder
Peak Power: 240 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 229 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
0-60 mph: 9.4 sec
Top Speed: 122 mph
Fuel Economy: 16 city/ 21 highway
From the hip
+ Navigation system, roomy back seat
- Fuel bill