2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI review: 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

You can move the cursor around on the map to select destinations, but it is infuriatingly slow.

In an inexplicable move, Volkswagen makes four maps available for viewing on the system: 2D, 3D, Topographic, and Traffic. Other automakers fold in the traffic data with the 2D map and the topographic contours with the 3D map. We're not sure why Volkswagen thinks we would want to look at the 2D map without traffic. And though we love having traffic reporting on a navigation system, in the Touareg TDI this feature doesn't provide automatic routing around traffic problems.

The system has a couple of plusses to its route guidance, such as text-to-speech, where it reads out the name of the next street on which to turn. It also has a lane suggestion feature, something rare on these types of navigation systems. As you approach a junction or off-ramp on a freeway, a small graphic shows the best lanes to use. But we also found some bizarre route suggestions with this system. For example, when approaching a freeway junction we wanted to use, it told us to take an off-ramp to surface streets, then take the next on-ramp to the other freeway. After we ignored that bit of guidance, it told us to use the junction to make the move to the next freeway, the more sensible move.

The audio system lets you copy tracks from MP3 CDs to the car's hard drive.

As the navigation system uses a hard drive, Volkswagen makes room available on it for music storage. We managed to copy a folder of MP3 files from a CD to the hard drive. As is typical with these systems, about 10GB is available for music. The in-dash CD player is single disc, but an optional six-disc changer is available, although it mounts in the cargo area of the Touareg TDI, not a particularly convenient solution. As part of iPod integration, there is a port in the glove box with four cables that can be plugged into it, ending in an iPod plug, a female USB port, a Mini-USB port, and a 1/8 inch port for an audio jack. The iPod integration works well, showing the library on the car's LCD, with music selectable by artist, album, and genre. The stereo also has satellite radio.

An impressive Dynaudio audio system is available for the Touareg TDI, but we had the system that comes with the navigation package. This system uses 11 speakers, including a center channel, and an eight-channel amp. It's not the most refined system, but it has enough power to give music some punch. The 11 speakers allow for an expansive sound, although clarity isn't up there with top-end systems. Overall, the audio seemed decently above average.

With a low range and locking modes for its differentials, the Touareg TDI can go off-road.

The Touareg TDI had some off-road credentials to prove, so we took it over a small course with a few rough hills. The suspension handled the differing surface heights well, keeping the car on a fairly even keel as it dropped and raised the wheels to negotiate pits, bumps, and ridges. The all-wheel-drive system did its thing as we took a steep ascent, making up for wheels that lost traction by driving the other wheels. It also did a nice job on a steep descent, keeping traction all around.

In sum
The new navigation system in the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI was not as big of an improvement over the previous system as we would have hoped. Its features make it equivalent to competitors' systems, but performance really lags. Fortunately, the music system and the availability of adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection keep its cabin tech rating from really dropping down. As for performance tech, although we want to see better economy from a diesel, we really like this car's drivability. The big torque figure and turbo charging help the Touareg TDI keep up with gasoline-engined cars. Its off-road gear also gives it a bump for performance tech. Finally, the design rating is helped by a good interface for its cabin gadgets, as we usually like the direct input afforded by a touch screen, and the overall shape of the car. The Touareg has distinct body styling that makes it instantly identifiable.

Spec box
Model 2009 Volkswagen Touareg
Trim V6 TDI
Powertrain Turbocharged 3-liter V-6 diesel engine
EPA fuel economy 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 20.6 mpg
Navigation Optional hard drive-based system with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Optional
Disc player Single in-dash CD with MP3 compatibility, optional six disc changer in cargo area
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Satellite radio, USB drive, mini-USB devices, auxiliary input
Audio system 11 speaker with 8 channel amp, optional Dynaudio
Driver aids Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, rear view camera with trajectory lines
Base price $42,800
Price as tested $46,150

What you'll pay

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