NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Now entering its last year before an all-new replacement arrives, the Volkswagen Touareg has aged well. For some reason, many of the other German SUVs don't look particularly good, with many gimmicky angles and overly busy styling.
The Touareg is essentially the same car as the Porsche Cayenne, and the Audi Q7 was the closest of cousins until the all-new Audi Q7 arrived in Europe earlier this year (U.S. gets it in January 2016). The Volkswagen version looks best, with its restrained design details. It is often featured in brown metallic and a soft brown/beige two-tone interior. Very classy.
In the Fall of 2014, the VW Touareg received a small refresh, with a refined front and rear lights, plus some assisted driving technology. It is offered in gasoline and diesel versions.
Writing about the VW Touareg is boring because the drive is so friction-free. The size and interior space of the car also feel just right.
The gas-powered Touareg tested for this article was exceptional, but it was missing some of the character of a diesel engine. The diesel engine yields much better fuel economy, plus a more pleasing torque that reduces the transmission's propensity for downshifting.
The gas model gets 16 miles per gallon in city driving, 22 miles per gallon on the highway. The diesel is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway, while delivering superior torque and fewer downshifts. Get the diesel.
The other downside is that this is one of the few Volkswagens that don't get Google's (GOOG) - Get Report (GOOGL) - Get Report Android Auto or Apple's (AAPL) - Get ReportCarPlay. The Touareg will get this technology in the version that will appear in dealerships possibly one year from now. That said, the screen is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, except for the navigation system. The navigation system is as difficult as for almost any car lacking Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
The interior color scheme is pleasing, but the quality of some of the plastics are cheaper than they look, particularly on the dashboard.
The user-friendly controls and instrumentation are typical Volkswagen -- some of the best in the industry. On the other hand, they are slightly less intuitive than the best from Fiat-Chrysler (FCAU) - Get Report (including Jeep and Dodge), Hyundai/Kia, Mazda, Toyota and Nissan. The eventual availability of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay should help put the next-gen Touareg on par with the very best.
Gasoline Touaregs start at just over $43,000 and can be optioned to over $60,000. Diesels go from $51,000 to over $64,000. As with most of these kinds of cars, you can often negotiate a 15% discount from your dealer, or sometimes more, if the car is already on the lot.
There is no reason to not recommend against the VW Touareg, except the poor fuel economy of the gasoline version, and the lack of availability of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. If those caveats don't apply to you, the VW Touareg is a top pick in its class. The new version will have much to live up to.
This Toureg is a well-balanced, great-looking, mid-size SUV with a design that has aged well.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and GOOG. Volkswagen provided the car for review.