For 2014, Volkswagen's Touareg gains a sporty R-Line trim — one of almost a dozen models — as the automaker tries to "pump up the swagger" of the now venerable midsize SUV.
Appearance: We've always thought of the Touareg as a more subtle Porsche Cayenne. The resemblance is fitting because the Touareg shares the same platform as its curvy corporate cousin. Now, in its R-Line finery, the Touareg gains 20-inch Mallory alloy wheels, a body kit with lower bumper extensions and side skirts, LED taillights, chrome accent trim and chrome exhaust tips. The overall effect is one of tasteful sportiness. The R-Line trim, however, does not include the hands-free easy-open liftgate found on other Touaregs.
Performance: The R-Line doesn't come with more sportiness under the hood. It shares a 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 with other Touareg models (those that aren't diesel or hybrid), which isn't necessarily a bad thing because the engine produces consistent power. (Still, we'd like to try the diesel with its supercharged V-6 and superior mpg.) The transmission is a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic. VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system keeps the Touareg planted and there is minimal body lean. The R-Line's sport-tuned suspension makes for a taut but agile ride. We both particularly noticed the Touareg's responsive steering. A real plus: The SUV has an impressive 7,700-pound towing capacity.
Interior: The R-Line trim adds mostly cosmetic improvements, such as brushed aluminum trim, stainless steel pedals, door-sill kick plates and black headliner. The fit and finish are mostly top-notch, and it has a luxury feel, which is how VW clearly views the Touareg. As with other VWs, the cabin, gauges and controls are minimalistic compared with the tech-heavy design in other SUVs. The seats are comfortable. The second row is elevated, which adds legroom. Our tester's panoramic sunroof does take away some headroom. The rear seats fold flat, which makes for spacious cargo room (32.1 cubic feet when up, 64 cubic feet when flat). We did have a problem with our tester's second row, however. The seat behind the driver got stuck in the folded position, and we couldn't get the latch to release. We both tried, as did a service manager at our local VW dealer, without any luck. He summoned a mechanic who released it instantly. Another nit: The rear tonneau cover has two levels: higher latch for when you're accessing the back, lower to keep the cover flat. But it's manually adjusted, so if you forget to lower the tonneau, your rear visibility is greatly reduced. Most hatchbacks with cover have those that retract or open and lower with the door, which is far more convenient.
Our 3 favorites
R-Line: The trim gives the Touareg, which is starting to show its age, a more contemporary presence.
Wheels: The dual-spoke alloys stand out.
Dashboard: I've always liked the minimalist VW gauge design.
Cargo strap: The elastic band secures items, such as a small bag or a water bottle.
Second row: The elevated seats, which can recline, are well-cushioned and comfortable.
Power liftgate: Standard feature for all trims.
The bottom line: The Volkswagen Touareg is an enjoyable-to-drive and comfortable SUV with a trim level and powertrain for just about every taste. Just be aware: Even the price tag of our mid-level R-Line trim started at $54,115.