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2011 Volkswagen Touareg Preview

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
2011 Volkswagen Touareg HybridCritical Knowledge:
  • Completely redesigned for 2011
  • Lighter and more fuel efficient
  • Longer wheelbase increases interior room
  • Gasoline, diesel and hybrid powerplants (market specific)
  • New all-wheel-drive (AWD) system
  • New automatic headlight dimming
  • New "area view" camera system
  • New front-and-side-assist radar system
  • New 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Optional "Terrain Tech" off-road package
Introduction
Introduced for the 2004 model year, the Touareg was the first SUV from Volkswagen. Designed in conjunction with the Porsche Cayenne, the 5-passenger Touareg delivered "a blend of car-like handling and off-road prowess," according to the manufacturer.

Loaded with technology, and a sophisticated full-time all-wheel-drive system, the German luxury SUV was complex and heavy (but that didn't stop the original model from eventually selling more than 500,000 units worldwide).

The Touareg received a significant update for 2007-often considered its second-generation debut. The updates initiated a name change from the automaker to differentiate the model from the prior years (it was now the "Touareg 2").

Volkswagen reintroduced the diesel powerplant in 2009 (after a short-lived 48-state V-10 diesel in 2007) in the form of a smaller 3.0-liter V-6 "TDI Clean Diesel." The new engine met stringent emissions standards and was 50-state compliant.

The 2010 model year marked the last run of the original platform. By then, the V-8 powerplant had been dropped in favor of two 6-cylinder models (one gasoline, the other diesel) and the once-long options list had been significantly shortened.

Volkswagen rolled out its all-new 2011 Touareg at the Geneva Motor Show in early 2010. Completely redesigned, the new Touareg is lighter, has more safety features, and is more aerodynamic and more fuel efficient than its predecessors ever were. In addition, Volkswagen is introducing its first hybrid variant ("V6 TSI plus E-motor")-unlike the diesel variant, it is expected to arrive in the States later this year to accompany its gasoline siblings.

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2011 Volkswagen Touareg HybridDesign
Volkswagen worked hard to reduce weight in its all-new Touareg by focusing on structural design and materials. The engineers also took a look at the capable-but heavy-all-wheel-drive system used in the previous models. Both were extensively reworked, and when the new model hit the scales it was more than 400 pounds lighter than its predecessor-yet the body had 5 percent greater torsional rigidity (which leads to better ride and handling qualities). Sleek new sheetmetal lowered the drag coefficient to .35 (from .38), improving aerodynamic efficiency and fuel economy even further.

Hardware
Volkswagen is rolling out the new 2011 Touareg with several powertrain options-but only two are coming to the U.S. marketplace initially, the company says. The standard engine will be a 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6, reworked to provide more power and less fuel consumption than its predecessor. European markets will be offered a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI diesel, and a new 4.2-liter V-8 TDI diesel, but those will not be offered in the States (for now).

The big news comes in the form of a hybrid powerplant-Volkswagen's first-mating a 3.0-liter V-6 to an electric motor. According to the automaker, the Touareg "V6 TSI plus E-motor" is capable of operating in pure electric mode up to 30 mph. All of the engines are mated to an all-new 8-speed ZF automatic transmission-the world's first in an SUV, says Volkswagen-promising smoother shifts and more efficient driving.

Realizing that most consumers didn't need the rugged go-anywhere all-wheel-drive system of the original Touareg, Volkswagen simplified the AWD system for the new model while still offering its top-range system as an option for those who want or need it. The standard AWD system is the familiar 4MOTION, complete with a Torsen limited-slip differential and an "off-road driving program" that tunes the ABS, EDS, and ASR for off-road duty.

For those desiring even more off-road capability, the Touareg may be ordered with the "Terrain Tech Packet" that substitutes the Torsen differential for a rugged transfer case. This system, called 4XMOTION, includes reduction gearing and center and rear differentials with locking capabilities. Within the cabin of 4XMOTION-equipped vehicles is a five-position rotary switch allowing the driver to adapt the vehicle to specific driving conditions.


2011 Volkswagen Touareg HybridTechnology
The previous-generation Touareg models were hardly unsophisticated, but Volkswagen has loaded its all-new flagship SUV with a dollop of new technology designed to improve safety and efficiency. Electronic systems replace the cable in the parking brake (now a pushbutton); the rod in the traditional oil dipstick (now an electronic sensor); and the manual rear tailgate mechanism (now power-operated).

Four cameras are part of the new "area view" monitor-keeping an eye on all four corners of the vehicle during parking maneuvers. Radar systems warn of vehicles approaching on the side ("side assist") and while cruising ("adaptive cruise control") and can even brake the SUV to an emergency stop ("front assist"), if needed.

According to Volkswagen, the new Touareg "sees" oncoming traffic and automatically adapts the high beam to eliminate glare. While other automakers have introduced similar systems, Volkswagen's "dynamic light assist" adjusts the lighting module individually for each headlight.

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