2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

VW sells more diesel passenger cars in the US than any other maker. Its 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, along with the upcoming 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI, carry the banner of affordable high mileage using modern turbocharged diesel engines.

Now the company has fitted a diesel into its Touareg sport utility, moving from diesels in the $20,000-to-$25,000 range to those around $40,000--much closer to Mercedes-Benz territory, within several thousand dollars of the Mercedes-Benz ML320 TDI.

With a new marketing push for its TDI diesels, can VW compete? Our colleagues at TheCarConnection recently drove a 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI. It's fitted with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel, a new alternative to the gasoline V6 and V8 offerings.

Their conclusion? Impressive, especially considering fuel prices that are sure to skyrocket this summer. Go drive one of these at your local VW dealer. We promise you'll come away impressed.

Like most of its ilk, the diesel generates a staggering amount of torque, in this case 407 lb-ft, meaning it pulls like a V8. The US version is tuned for low-end responsiveness; our colleagues summarized it as, Tap the accelerator, shoot forward. Great for towing, great for passing, great for squirting away from the stoplight.

And like all new "clean diesels," the Touareg TDI employs the latest injector technology to eliminate clatter or roughness. The complex emissions system uses a series of catalysts and particulate traps, making it so clean that most of what comes out the back end is inert nitrogen gas and water vapor.

And the mileage is impressive for this heavy all-wheel-drive SUV. The EPA rates it at 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highway, far better than the 12 city / 17 highway rating of the equally powerful gasoline V8 version. Diesels typically do better than EPA numbers, so the Touareg might reach as high as 30 mpg in steady cruising.

As for the rest of the Touareg, TheCarConnection said: All of the typical Touareg 2 attributes remain: a luxuriously refined yet adept chassis despite roughly 5,300 lbs. of mass, trail-conquering offroad ability, and permanent four wheel drive standard, fantastic visibility and good room for five individuals and their stuff.

Towing capacity is 7,716 lbs. from the factory, and we've no doubt this engine simply wouldn't strain with that load in tow. Alas, numb-if-accurate steering remains, and some of the interior trim (shiny faux wood bits) doesn't seem quite up to VW's legendary interior quality.

The price of the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI starts at $42,800, but the Federal Government offers an $1,150 Income Tax Credit to all buyers.

And the latest news from the evolving diesel front: Audi won't build the astounding R8 TDI, a 500-horsepower, twin-turbo V12 diesel version of its R8 supercar after all. The company said projected sales wouldn't justify the expense of modifying the R8 to take the engine, derived from the one in its R10 that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

2009 Volkswagen Touareg TDI