2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Review

Volkswagen, along with other European auto companies, has long proclaimed diesels as a better green strategy than hybridization. True, diesels are efficient and practical, but in the U.S., they still have a reputation of being noisy and smelly. VW has worked hard to overcome that image with cars like the Jetta TDI and Passat TDI but now are beginning to change direction (although they still like diesels) toward electrification, both hybrid and electric only.

The company’s first foray into gasoline-electric hybrids is the Touareg Hybrid, a midsize crossover sport-utility vehicle. It’s part of a three-vehicle lineup that includes two V6 models, a 280 horsepower, 3.6-liter gasoline version and a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel that makes 240 horsepower. Loaded with tons of standard premium features, the Hybrid is not exactly in the luxury segment, but clearly not entry-level, and therefore has no direct competitors.

The Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid was all new for 2011 with no significant changes for the 2012 model year. For 2013, LED taillights and rear license-plate light are new as is Vavona interior wood trim. Base price for the 2013 Touareg Hybrid is $62,055, a $60 increase from last year.

About the name: It’s pronounced TOUR-egg, and is named after an African Sahara tribe of nomads called the Touareg (pronounced TWA-regg). Volkswagen says the nomadic tribe has a hearty reputation, calling them “the ultimate off-roaders.”

Das Hybrid

The Touareg Hybrid shares its drivetrain with the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid. That means adding a 47 horsepower (35kw) electric motor to an Audi-sourced supercharged 333 horsepower V6 engine. This brings total output to 380 ponies and a peak torque of 425 pounds feet at just 1,000 rpm. The powertrain has the added bonus of a 7,700-pound towing capacity. That far exceeds other hybrid crossovers as well as most gasoline powered midsized models.

Volkswagen joins other manufacturers in the move away from the continuously variable transmission (CVT) employed by most hybrid vehicles. The eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission is not only a less costly hybrid approach, it wrings out the most power from the engine and makes the Touareg Hybrid feel more like a car than an SUV.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

The drivetrain is completed with VW’s 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system with a Torsen self-locking center differential. Biased 60 percent to the rear during normal driving conditions, if one of the wheels starts to lose grip, the differential directs torque to the axle with the most traction.

The hybrid system’s unique feature is a hydraulic clutch between the engine and motor that disengages the engine so it can shut down under light loads. The electric motor then takes up the load until the engine restarts. Volkswagen engineers call the result “sailing” – for the quiet sensation of speed using only electric power.

As in most hybrids, the electric motor also restarts the engine, and recharges the 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack fitted into the former spare-tire well. The hybrid system is tuned to give lots of electric assist at highway speeds, which silences the usual hybrid critics, who frequently gloat that most hybrid systems are useless during Interstate cruises.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

Volkswagen says the Touareg Hybrid runs up to 31 mph for around two miles in all-electric mode. More remarkably, the company also says it can run on electricity at speeds up to 99 miles per hour – though that’s slightly deceptive, since it means the engine may shut down for a while at speeds that high, leaving the electric motor to propel the car. Still, traveling on battery power at speeds higher than any legal U.S. limit is quite an accomplishment for a 5,135-pound vehicle. Additionally, with the disc-shaped electric motor placed between the engine and transmission in the parallel system, there’s no electric whine when the motor moves the Touareg alone.

As for on-road performance, the company says the hybrid Touareg posts 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds with both the electric motor and the boosted engine providing power. Top speed is 150 mph. At the same time, fuel economy ratings of 20 in the city and 24 on the highway – while not dramatically high numbers – are a big step up from the gasoline powered variant, which has city fuel economy in the mid-teens.

Euro Styling

When Volkswagen redesigned the second-generation Touareg for 2011, it dialed back the off-road-ready character of its predecessor and shed some 350 pounds in the process. Yet it’s larger inside and out, with clean, muscular styling that is more European wagon than American crossover.

Up front the Touareg Hybrid wears VW’s new corporate design. Staunch vertical lines of the grille blend into the swept back Bi-Xenon headlamps that are outlined with LED running lights. The lower grille is bolstered on either side by large air intakes that add a slightly muscular look.

Well proportioned defines the overall look. Body lines are clean with no sharp creases, while pronounced rear haunches add a touch of flair and there’s just enough chrome trim to spice things up. The only evidence of its greenness are small hybrid badges that adorn the front and rear on the exterior.

Inside, the Touareg Hybrid looks as if top interior decorators designed the cabin and grabbed materials from Audi when they weren’t looking. Leather upholstery has a nice, pronounced texture; the brushed metal and wood trim aren’t overdone. A standard panorama glass sunroof turns the cabin into a veritable Vista Dome railroad car.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

The dashboard is straightforward with clean lines and is laid out in a way that makes it easy to locate all the controls. Gauges are white with red indicators and thankfully not the bright blue and red illumination found in other Volkswagen models.

Seats are pleasantly firm and hours-long comfortable, and not just in the front row. The heated rear 60/40 split bench seat is fully adjustable, sliding forward and aft enough to make room for long-legged passengers. The seats can be easily folded to expand rear cargo space from 32.1 cubic feet to a generous 64 cubic feet. A standard power tailgate quickly opens to a low load height cargo floor.

A lengthy list of standard gear begins with an eight-speaker audio system with more audio sources than most – 18GB of music storage on the hard drive; a port offering iPhone, mini-USB, standard USB, and 1/8-inch audio connectivity; Bluetooth audio streaming; satellite radio; and a CD player with two SD card slots. Curiously, the Hybrid doesn’t offer a rear cabin DVD entertainment system.

The Touareg Hybrid gets VW’s latest navigation system with hard-drive-stored maps showing 3D views of the terrain and outlines of buildings. Below the eight-inch color touch screen, buttons offer quick access to the stereo, navigation and Bluetooth phone system.

A rear view camera and park-distance control are standard, as is adaptive front lighting. This feature perceives oncoming traffic and adjusts the headlight beams to eliminate unwanted glare.

A Short Test Drive

Like all hybrids, the Touareg requires a light touch on the accelerator to operate in electric-only driving. But unlike other systems, the decoupling of the engine – the “sailing” function – operates at any speed so, even when driving in the city, the engine shuts down and the electric motor takes over long before the car comes to a stop. At 70 mph highway speeds, depending on the terrain, the Touareg sailed in silence for nearly a mile. A “Sport” mode reduces the sailing feature to speeds under 45 mph, but brings to the forefront the combined power of the gas engine and electric motor with the application of a heavy right foot.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

The ride leans towards Germanic-stiff, but won’t jar, and overall, the fully independent suspension carries it well. Weighing two-and-a-half-tons, the Hybrid can feel a tad top heavy in quick changes of direction, but nowhere near enough to be troubling. It’s electro hydraulic power steering steers with a natural linearity, while the regenerative brake system is quite touchy and takes some getting used to.

Local knowledge of a not-well-known off-road trail between downtown Seattle and SeaTac airport provided the opportunity for a taste of the Hybrid’s bark and bite. The not-quite-three-mile-loop is deeply rutted in spots with a couple of steep hills.

The Touareg Hybrid doesn’t have the chops of, say a Land Rover Discovery, but the 4Motion system can handle terrain that the typical owner will want to drive on. A console-mounted off-road mode locks all four wheels and adjusts the traction control and drivetrain programs. The suspension did a decent job of eating up potholes and the 7.9-inches of ground clearance kept the undercarriage undamaged. As advertised, the standard hill-descent control allowed us to slowly creep downward with feet off the pedals as the system kept engine revs low and automatically modulated the brakes.


Yes, the 2013 Touareg Hybrid’s MSRP of $62,055 is nearly $19,000 more than the base gasoline model, and $15,000 more than the base turbo diesel version, however, the Hybrid is luxury loaded for its price. When compared to the gas and diesel top trim levels, the price difference shrinks to $7,000 and $3,400 respectively, which is a typical variance between a hybrid and non-hybrid version of the same model.

An obvious comparison is the 2013 Lexus RX 450h AWD. Its MSRP of $47,310 is $14,745 less than the Touareg Hybrid and trumps the Volkswagen’s fuel economy with an EPA rating of 30/28/29. However, add the Lexus options that are standard on the Touareg, and the price difference shrinks $5,835. While the RX 450h is available with a rear seat entertainment system, the AWD setup is not suitable for off-road driving and the towing capacity is half the Touareg’s.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

If you need seating for seven, Toyota’s top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Highlander Hybrid LTD offers near-luxury appointments starting at $44,370. Fuel economy of 28/28/28 bests the Touareg Hybrid. But like the Lexus, off-roading is a no-no and towing is limited to just 3,500 pounds.

If you really like the Touareg and rack up a lot of highway miles, the Touareg TDI diesel registers 28 highway mpg and costs $3,400 less when comparably equipped.

The Touareg Hybrid may not be the best value for the money spent, but if you have the greenbacks to go Volkswagen green, buy it: You’ll like the performance and handling, the luxurious interior, the off-road and towing capabilities along with improved fuel economy.

Prices are manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.


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2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Review
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  • Charles

    Yet another hybrid not marketed to environmentalists.

  • Dan L

    I don’t understand your comment, Charles. Perhaps you think that environmentalists don’t have families, or friends, or luggage?
    I’m perfectly happy to drive to work every day in a little econobox. But I also like to take my family camping. The econobox is not suitable for that.

    Having a more fuel-efficient option in every class of car helps those of us who care about the environment, but also care about other things as well.

  • Michael E

    No more diesel V10? That makes me sad, that was one hell of a stump-pulling engine! Had Ferdinand Piech written all over it.

  • Mr. Fusion

    Low 20’s hybrid eh?

    An alternative to the Lexus RX450h?

    Volkswagen needs to change their name to:

    I miss my ’84 GTI. Simple, affordable and fun.

  • Mr.Bear

    A VW hybrid? Why do I think a diesel Jetta owner’s head just exploded?

  • Peanut butter and chocolate.

    Where’s the diesel hybrid? C’mon, falling off a log can’t be that hard.

  • Neil D.

    VW is also improving the MPG of its 2011 Touraeg diesel by about 6.5 MPG overall. I understand a part of this is because the new version is 460 lbs lighter than the old version.

    Right now, the VW Touraeg diesel is neck-and-neck with several Merc. diesel SUVs and the BMW X5 diesel in terms of MPG. With the new version, they will definitely be ahead of the pack.

    It is good all around to see better efficiency options both on a new year of the same model, and in the diesel SUV segment overall!

  • Charles

    I think that most environmentalists would pick a vehicle that meets their needs most of the time. When you need/want to tow a boat, or take a family vacation, rent a larger vehicle. For the 97% of the time when all you need is a seat per person with some cargo space buy a vehicle that fits the everyday need. Get twice the MPG in a Prius and 50% better in a Fusion Hybrid. According to VW’s web site the Touareg has 99 cubic feet of passenger volume. The EPA lists the Fusion at 101 and the Prius at 94. So with the Fusion you should no have to worry about passenger space. If you drive 15000 miles a year and gas is $3.00/gallon, the Fusion would cost you about $1154/year, the Touareg about $1800. I can rent a standard SUV for about $450 a week or a minivan for about $480. So buying the Fusion save me money, keeps CO2 out of the environment and lets me pick the best vehicle for those special needs that come up one in a while.

  • Scott Z

    Mid 20s??? Really? I get that with my V6 Honda Odyssey thanks to its ability to turn off 3 cylinders. Come on VW get wake up! I have a Prius to get to the office and a minivan for when the whole family heads out.

    I also agree with you Charles. I will never understand why people buy a car/truck/SUV based on 3% of their needs. If you need a work vehicle that makes sense. If you by a gas guzzler for that yearly mulch trip but also continue with your 15 MPG every day to the office well you are just plain (add favorite term here).

    Now if VW can get this thing up to the mid 30s I would be interested. I think it is pretty good looking.



  • Keel

    Why is anyone mad about a new Audi designed hybrid-drive system…???? If you need a 0 emissions vehicle today, ride a bicycle… If you need a platform with 380 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque that can operate in full electric or hybrid mode, VW and Porsche are providing that in a Cayenne or Touareg now. Congrats to Bosch and Audi for great leaps in R&D!!!

    Poco a Poco:-)

  • PaulRivers

    This is fantastic. My parents are looking for something they can tow the boat with, throw bikes inside and carry, haul all their stuff on trips, and also is reliable and gets good mileage. I guess we’ll see about how reliable recent Volkswagons are, but this is very promising.

    I wonder if Toyota will actually come out with a hybrid RAV4 like they said they would?

    It’s cute to say that someone can just rent something to tow their boat, but have you ever tried renting something? You can’t even specify which vehicle you’ll get – you want something that will fit 4 people and tow a boat, and you show up to find you can only get a pickup truck or something without the towing capacity or a hitch.

  • used Volkswagen engines

    VW has announced a Hybrid version of the Touareg, and even though I obviously prefer the V8 Diesel, I’m sure the VW engineers will do great in turning this Hybrid into something agile and fun-to-drive.

  • calvin

    I agree with Charles. And you don’t need an SUV just to drive your kids around. Unless you have a ton of kids, a large sedan is usually enough. If you have more than 3 kids, then get a van. An SUV is supposed to be used for off-roading and towing–things which require more horsepower. You don’t need that if you’re a suburban soccer mom.

    Likewise, it’s actually a lot cheaper to rent an SUV for the occasional camping trip than to drive one around everyday.

  • David

    I’m certainly looking for a Hybrid SUV. Like the parents above, we want to tow a larger boat. I drive 40K per year, mostly business. I could always get a pickup truck on the side, but if (when) we have a long trip towing, the Touareg would sure be more pleasant to drive. I have the TDI Jetta Sport wagon now, and the thought of getting a Honda Pilot to get 23 mpg, just does not move me. I have been told that the mileage is 30MPG+ for the Hybrid. That is certainly higher than what is discussed above). We will see. If it is only in the 20’s I’ll be content to get the new Touareg TDI with 30 MPG highway if it gets that. If not and it stays at the 25 MPG range, I might have to look at the Pilot with lower gas vs diesel prices….. or get a used pickup truck for vehicle number thee.

  • Ed Wilbert

    I’m particularly fond of these new hybrid SUV’s.
    They’re practical, economical, and efficient.
    I’m looking forward to the upcoming development of these vehicles.

  • Ed Wilbert

    I’m particularly fond of these new hybrid SUV’s.
    They’re practical, economical, and efficient.
    I’m looking forward to the upcoming development of these vehicles.

  • Sam Awsen

    Today, this brand of the machine is ideal for me! I am here going to make a map of the desires and put there some Volkswagen_Touareg_(2010)_Wallpapers . Of course this is not the only thing that I’m going to do to implement their dreams, but it will be the beginning!

  • shweta007

    Thanks for sharing the great information of the car. I am searching the details of this car which i found through your thread.

  • doug

    gotta change with the times… but a $61,000 VW? Out of my and the average person’s reach. Does it really cost that more to make a hybrid or do all manufacturers just charge more because they can?

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  • Xuesier

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  • MrEnergyCzar

    There should be some weight cap to call a vehicle a hybrid. Otherwise people will keep buying these large cars that aren’t really needed. Yes, SUV’s didn’t exist 30 years ago and we all got by fine…


  • Turdenomics

    there are all kinds of cars for all kinds of people. this one is for people that tithe to their church the night after they cruised the strip clubs. Hypocrites!

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  • TouaregHybridowner

    I own a 2012 Touareg Hybrid. In short, it is AMAZING. Anyone who slams this vehicle is either a jealous hater or ignorant – or both. I also own a BMW M3, and if I had to choose between the two I would go with the Touareg without blinking.

  • Katherine Martin

    luxury SUV gives me the comfort I need on a busy day of tending farms. It makes my whole day a lot easier.

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  • William

    Good discounts for 2012s and 0/60 financing has me going to the VW dealership tomorrow. How Amazing is the hybrid? Did you consider the diesel?

  • FamilyGuy

    When I read $62,000, the rest of the article had little meaning to me. Too rich for me.

  • John D.

    Had a 1979 Rabbit Diesel. Drove it over 200,000 miles and got a rock solid 48mpg, long before the “green” days. When I went to replace it, they no longer had anything in the lineup that was even close, so they lost a faithful customer. Every time I hear about VW and Hybrid, I quickly take a look hoping that they finally came out with something like my old Rabbit. Yes, an SUV is a different thing and due to weight and size, it’s not going to compete. Still, had to look!
    Just got a new car (Prius) and probably won’t be in the market for a number of years. When the time comes, I will give them another look and hope that they came up with something so high tech, that it will compete with my old (RIP) 1979 rabbit!

  • Anonymous

    An 8 speed transmission, hybrid assist on the highway and it manages only 24 mpg?!? Most non-hybrid crossovers do better than that with fewer gears. In fact VWs own Toureg Diesel has a better fuel economy rating for thousands less.

  • john iv

    I think we all missed the most important part of the article:

    “It’s pronounced TOUR-egg, and is named after an African Sahara tribe of nomads called the Touareg (pronounced TWA-regg).”

    If it is named after a tribe in Africa, why isn’t it pronounced the same? It is spelled the exactly the same way.

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  • Bracha

    My neighbors have this car in a bright white color. I regularly ask my father to buy me a car like that for my next birthday. I wish my dream will come true.

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  • elboww

    Seems everyone is missing the whole point of this vehicle. If you are looking for a high end performance SUV at a bargain price, that also happens to get much better acceleration and fuel economy performance than say – your ML500, Touareg V8, Cayenne S or X50i, then you buy this. For those of you that have owned one or more of these vehicles, then this 380HP/426tq high performance high end SUV is spectacular, you get all the performance and nearly DOUBLE the fuel mileage than you’d expect out of a V8.

    The V10TDI seemed to make no sense to some because diesels are supposed to be frugal and ecnomical…well guess what, it WAS frugal and economical compared to any other uber performance SUV (ie: ML63).

    This is a high end high performance SUV…sure nobody needs it but so what…nobody needs an 80″ tv on their wall and nobody needs a 4000sq foot home.

    Comparing this to a prius or camry hybrid makes about as much sense as comparing a locomotive to a ship, sure they both run on diesel but…Just because its a hybrid doesn’t mean it needs to get the most mileage of any vehicle out there…hybrid is just another technology and VW has done well in getting the same fuel economy out of this 380HP machine as others do out of something that has half the power.