Mixing electric and gas for awesome mileage.
We generally receive cars from manufacturers for the weekend to test drive and form our opinions and that’s exactly how it started with the VW Touareg Hybrid that I’m looking at today. I went to their offices and collected the car on Wednesday evening with the intention of returning it on Sunday morning. However, I had to contact VW on Sunday for an extension and I had a very valid reason.
In the 2-4 days that a car is with us, we tend to drive it a reasonable amount- using it as our primary car to get a good feel on the performance, drive and technology. In that time we rack up 400+ kms or so and the full tank of gas that we receive the car in is usually depleted. The Touareg Hybrid was also driver close to 400 kms but the fuel gauge was only showing the tank at a little under half. I needed to drive it a lot more to see how much mileage I get out of a full tank of gas and it was going to be a long journey. Welcome to the world of Hybrids.
Looks-wise, the 2013 Touareg doesn’t deviate a lot from it’s predecessors however, there are some nice additions. Starting off, LED daytime lights surround the headlights and tail lights which not only enable the car to be seen better during daytime but also add a touch of style. I received the Touareg in Night blue and beige interior with wood trimmings and it looked fantastic. When I was walking back from a meeting, a colleague of mine mistook the Touareg for a Porsche Cayenne- I’m not sure if VW will take that as a compliment or an insult.
When testing the tech side of things, the model I received was similar to the one from last year- except for the Hybrid part on which I’ll touch upon in just a moment. On the center console you have a large touch screen that acts as your primary method of interacting with the car. Actual buttons below the screen allow you to switch between Media, Radio, Telephone, Setup and Climate. Unfortunately navigation was not an option on my model although I have seen it on older Touaregs so it’s probably just a missing option.
I had no issues connecting my iPhone 5 to the Touareg with device pairing up with ease. Besides setting it up as a phone, the Touareg also automatically set it up as an iPod with music streaming capabilities using Bluetooth. You have the option of using an SD card filled with media or connecting a device through AUX in case your media player doesn’t support an A2DP Bluetooth profile. The audio system on the review car was premium and sounded quite good although the automatic volume control would unexpectedly raise the volume for no reason.
On the steering wheel, you have the usual bunch of buttons for controlling volume levels and skipping tracks or radio stations as well as showing up what is displays on the screen on the dashboard such as the distance driven, fuel range, telephone calls etc.
Coming to the safety aspect, the Touareg was the first car I had tested with a 360 view camera and that continues to be present on this year’s model. Like most cars, lines get superimposed on the screen when you’re backing up to show you the space and direction. The car also has a lot of sensors for detecting things like lane changes and blind spots through visual, audible as well as steering vibrations. One one particular occasion, the car detected that I was accelerating towards a stationary car in front and immediately started sounding an alarm and showing a rather large red icon on the screen. Systems like these are excellent and should hopefully help reducing the number of accidents.
The most interesting aspect of this Touareg is the Hybrid aspect. The 3.0-liter V6 is helped by a 47-hp electric motor for a combined power output of 380-hp. When the accelerator is released, the Touareg’s engine shuts-off and a special clutch disengages the transmission from the engine, allowing it to “coast” forward without electric or combustion power to aid in fuel savings. There is an E-Mode button on the Touareg which lets you drive the SUV up to 50km/h on pure electric power, however this isn’t meant to be a primary mode of driving as you can only drive 3kms before the battery runs out.
There is no need to “charge” the Touareg as the regenerative braking helps recharge the battery while the automatic start-stop system that we’ve seen Audi’s conserves fuel when the vehicle is stopped at a light or in traffic. Using all that the Touareg had to offer, I was at nearly 400kms before the tank reached half way. I pushed and revved the car considerably when testing the second half of the tank and still managed to get over 350kms giving me a total of 750kms on a full tank.
A nice touch is that the screen on the center provides you some good information on the hybrid aspect of the car. Through different colors it shows whether the car is running on fuel or battery or even both. Even the recharging of the battery is shown with a different color that usually comes on when you brake.
The ride on the Touareg is quite comfortable and noise levels low. There are some nice touches such as the full panoramic roof and the adjustable lighting on the leg area that add to the luxury element. Although I must say that the Touareg looks a bit larger than it is and fitting in more than five can prove to be a bit tight. Even the boot is not necessarily as spacious as some of the other sedans we’ve tested- such as the VW Passat.
Unfortunately, VW is not planning on bringing the Touareg Hybrid to the region in 2013 which is a bit of a shame as it’s a pretty awesome car with excellent mileage and impressive technology. So if you’re looking to get one, you choice is to either import one or wait for 2014 which might be the year we see this Hybrid on the streets of UAE.