Used ​Vehicle Review: Volkswagen Touareg, 2011-2016

Vehicle Type

The largest utility vehicle in the VW lineup, Touareg was a flagship model of sorts, and came priced and equipped accordingly.

Crossover SUV


Volkswagen’s second-generation Touareg came online for model year 2011, offering handsome looks, a striking cabin and numerous options and packages for shoppers after a luxurious German sports ute. The largest utility vehicle in the VW lineup, Touareg was a flagship model of sorts, and came priced and equipped accordingly.

Key competitors included the Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano, Kia Sorento, Toyota 4Runner, and others. Feature content included xenon lighting, premium audio systems, an optional Sport package with 20-inch wheels and extra body cladding, navigation, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, parking assist, full multimedia connectivity and plenty more. Consider it alongside the aforementioned competitors, as well as higher-priced luxury-branded sports ute models.

A variety of safety systems and an effective crash structure helped Touareg earn a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS in 2011. Standard with advanced anti-lock brakes, stability control and a full slew of advanced airbags, every Touareg model from this generation backs owners and their families with technologies designed to help prevent accidents, and protect those on board should one prove inevitable.


Gasoline or diesel power is available in the used Touareg marketplace. The gasoline-fired 3.6L 280 horsepower V6 is well suited to all-around driving, performance, mileage and some towing duty, when required. Fuel consumption was rated at 12.3 L/100km in the city, and 8.8 on the highway.

The 3.0 TDI powerplant – a turbodiesel V6 with over 400 lb-ft of torque – slashed fuel consumption to 10.8/6.7 L/100km, city/highway. You might consider this engine option for its high-efficiency torque output if you frequently tow, travel long distances, or prefer an even thriftier and more powerful alternative to the standard powerplant.

Just one tiny little problem: the Touareg’s 3.0L TDI engine is affected by an emissions testing cheat issue related to, but separate from, the 2.0L TDI found the Golf and Passat. Shoppers should avoid the diesel engine until the issue is resolved. However, for the sake of completeness, the TDI engine option will be discussed in the sections below.

All models feature the Volkswagen 4Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for seamless, automatic and decision-free traction on any surface. By monitoring and reacting to road conditions, terrain and numerous other factors, the brains behind this advanced AWD system work on a wheel-by-wheel basis to optimize power delivery and keep drivers moving with confidence over, through or across anything that comes their way. Low-range gearing from the first-generation Touareg is not available in the second-generation unit.

What Owners Like

Handsome styling, a high-quality interior, good ride quality and stability, seamless all-weather traction and a commanding driving position were all highly rated by Touareg owners. Performance is said to be adequate or better, with the TDI engine offering pleasing torque output from very low revs and fantastic mileage. An easy-to-use navigation system and an overall feeling of safety and confidence round out the package. Notably, many owners mention the smoothness of the Touareg’s transmission as a positive, too.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for better fuel mileage from the gasoline engine, a more modern navigation system, and a softer ride on models with the up-sized wheels. Some owners note higher-than-expected levels of highway road noise, too.

Here’s a look at some VW Touareg owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Start by reading this forum thread, but be aware that not all information is relevant to the North American market. The gist? The Touareg is a premium model with many advanced features and systems, and can be pricey to maintain. It’s a top-of-the-line utility vehicle, and maintenance and parts costs as the vehicle ages can reflect this. Note that models with up-sized wheels will require pricier tires when it comes time to replace them, and that TDI-powered models tend to have pricier ongoing maintenance, in the form of more expensive oil changes. If the model you’re considering has xenon lighting, be aware that replacement bulbs are pricier than conventional halogen, too.

If you decide on a TDI-powered model, despite its uncertain future, be sure to have a VW technician scan the electronics system for signs of trouble, bad sensors, or other issues. Early on in this model’s life, many owners reported issues with electronics, and dealers who were unable to quickly and effectively fix the problems. Any detected issues with powertrain electronics on the Touareg TDI, or any Touareg in general, should be addressed before your purchase.

While you're at the dealership, also ensure the VW mechanic clears the fuel delivery system, coolant system and engine management computer and sensor network with a clean bill of health. Be sure to check and keep on top of oil levels before and during your ownership, noting that some owners have reported oil consumption concerns with the TDI engine.

A full check of the Touareg’s cooling system is ideal for maximum peace of mind, too, in light of a handful of owners who have reported coolant loss and overheating issues. Though rare, overheating problems could be a sign of anything from a bad coolant temperature sensor to a cracked cylinder head, so be sure to have the model investigated, just to be safe.

If the model you’re considering has the 3.6L V6, you’ll want to have it scanned by a mechanic too. Note that stored trouble codes which reference an engine misfire are typically a sign that the engine is in need of one or more replacement ignition coil packs, a fairly well known issue with numerous VW and Audi engines. Keeping on top of spark plug maintenance intervals, and ensuring the Touareg you’re choosing isn’t running spark plugs overdue for replacement, can help to achieve maximum life from the coil packs and other components. Determine where the spark plugs sit within their lifespan, and budget to have them changed if you’re unsure.

Confirm that the sunroof works as expected, and is riding properly in its tracks. Any failure to open or close, quickly and smoothly, could be a sign of trouble. Grinding or scraping noises during sunroof movement require further investigation, but sometimes a little lubrication is all that’s needed. Further, confirm that the carpeting in the footwell areas is dry too. If that’s not the case, a sunroof drainage system leak may be to blame. Here’s some more reading on potential sunroof-related issues.

If the model you’re considering is fitted with the powered tailgate, be sure to open and close it several times over the course of your test drive, confirming proper operation. Issues with functionality could be caused by anything from a misaligned latch plate to a bad module to a tailgate motor that’s on its way out. Have any issues addressed before you agree to purchase, or negotiate a lower price, as applicable.

Engage and disengage the cruise control system several times on your test drive too, confirming proper operation that’s free of errors and warning messages. Though this issue isn’t necessarily Touareg-specific, some VW owners have reported wonky cruise control operation, caused by a sporadically functional brake pedal switch. This can cause numerous problems with other systems too, but isn’t a pricey or complicated fix – more reading here.

Be on the lookout for wonky electronics of any sort – including warning messages, funky operation from things like locks and window switches, non-functional lights, hesitation in starting the engine and more. If any of these are present, begin diagnostics starting with the battery and charging system. The Touareg is yet another example of the growing list of complicated vehicles that suffer battery drain issues as it ages, meaning that having a healthy and fully charged battery is highly important. This vehicle is a good candidate for trickle charging when it’s going to be sitting for extended periods. Here’s some more information on dead battery issues. Note further that all lock, window and tailgate release switches should be triple-checked ahead of purchase, confirming that each works as expected. Numerous owners have reported failed switches as the Touareg ages.

A few more notes: First, many owners recommend waiting until the brake pad wear sensors alert you that the pads are running low before replacing them, noting that some shops will advise owners to change brake parts before they’re finished their useful life. Here’s some more reading. Note that numerous owners have saved hundreds of dollars by having maintenance work like this carried out at a private shop, as opposed to a dealer service centre.

Next, if the rear wiper arm on the Touareg you’re considering is leaking washer fluid, the solution may be to replace the arm and install a check-valve. More information about leaky wipers can be found here.

The Verdict

As it tends to go with German luxury vehicles, the Touareg’s driving experience and comfort, not its running and maintenance costs, are the main draws to a used copy. Note that the sample size of owners studied for this used car review is relatively small, as Touareg wasn’t a big seller. This information should serve as a solid starting point for the used Touareg shopper, and those set on a model from this generation are advised to budget for a full check-up at a VW dealer for maximum peace of mind.

Shoppers are strongly advised to opt for the regular gasoline edition as the TDI is subject to an uncertain future – and even a road-going ban – depending on the outcome of Dieselgate.

Just one recall to be aware of, in addition to the TDI issue which may be subject to its own future recall.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick

Touareg loved for styling, capability and thrifty TDI power 11/24/2016 6:28:00 AM