A third option is to keep the T Rex!
It sounds as though you really like it and – I agree – finding a comparable replacement will not be easy because there isn’t anything directly comparable.
Here’s the Good News: So far, there is no legal (EPA or other) requirement that owners of the “affected” vehicles turn them in to be “fixed” or accept the buy-back. Also, so far, they are still perfectly legal to drive, including in areas that have annual Smog Check. The cars will pass the tailpipe tests. They only “cheated” the EPA’s certification tests, which are another matter. Until they pass some new fatwa decreeing that either the “affected” vehicles be fixed or turned in, you could just continue to drive and enjoy yours.
The one caveat is that your VW dealer may pressure you to have the vehicle “fixed” when you bring it in for service. But they cannot force you to agree – and you could always take it to an independent shop for service.
There may be a hit to absorb as far as depreciation, but if your intent was to drive the T Rex for many years, this is an irrelevance – or nearly so. And it is possible – very, in my opinion – that the value of these “affected” cars will actually increase over time, due to their functional desirability and their scarcity.
All that said, if you must turn in the T Rex, the Benz GLS350 BlueTec is probably the next-best thing. The diesel 3.0 six makes pretty tremendous torque (455 ft.-lbs.) and has tremendous highway legs, too (600-plus miles).
The manual GTI could help deaden the pain, too!
As a former 2013 Touareg 3.0L TDI owner, I know what you mean. I had to put mine to pasture after someone rear-ended me into a truck in front of me a few years back and the damage got into the powertrain. It was repaired, but I didn’t trust it after that.
I also happen to own a 2016 GTI and, for a while, owned a 2015 BMW X5 V8. Thus I might have some input.
The short version is that I agree with EP. Check out the Mercedes GLS 350 Bluetec. However, they aren’t selling 2017 models with the diesel (http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1104025_2017-mercedes-benz-gls-diesel-on-hold-facing-further-epa-scrutiny) because of Uncle Sam. It’s a significantly larger SUV than the Touareg and doesn’t handle as well, but has more comfort and room inside. It’s also not as reliable. And it’s more expensive. Not an ideal solution. MB is apparently no longer making their GLE (formerly M-Class) with a diesel. Shame. That was a good vehicle. The GLS350 will get similar mpg and good range, though for more money. Or better yet, get a new gas-powered Touareg.
The long version.
1. Keep the Touareg? It depends on how many miles you have on it. The engine will last forever, but the rest of the vehicle will begin to have problems around 150k miles, based on what I’ve seen/heard. Mostly the issue becomes the electrical system, and it gets VERY expensive to repair. It’s a problem because the rest of the truck will easily last 300k miles.
Then there’s the risk that you might be forced to “fix” the Touareg by the EPA or by your state. My bet is that only a small fraction of owners who choose to keep their TDI vehicles will choose to have then neutered, er, “fixed.” It will likely be so dramatic that some states (I’m looking at you, California) and possibly the feds will make such a fix mandatory. They know who owns these cars, so they can, and will, show up at your door, guns ablazing. At this point it may be past the opportunity to get the $$$ from VW (poor saps), and you may be arguing over a 200k mile vehicle that needs thousands of dollars of repairs. So much on these vehicles requires a dealership to repair because of proprietary software/hardware that no private shop has access to, that it will almost certainly end up there at some point, and they will be forced, by law, to not let it out the door without being fixed. I’d say this is a possibility, if not likely scenario eventually, but I can’t get a good feel on which way the winds are blowing. The “dieselgate” hullabaloo is pretty much over, as evidenced by the fact that the Chrysler “cheating” and Mercedes-Benz, and GM, and everyone else’s diesel cheating on emissions has not made the mainstream news. VW took the heat for everyone, while diesels are being quietly phased out.
2. BMW X5? Trust me. You won’t like it. I had a near top-of-the-line X5 V8 (not an M) and it just never lit my fire. It was dang fast in a straight line, but the V6 actually handled better (lighter nose), and it was a service and reliability nightmare. BMW has really plummeted in quality the past 10 years or so such that your average American vehicle (other than Chrysler products) is actually more reliable. Plus service costs hundreds of dollars ($400 for an oil change? You’ve got to be kidding me.), even more than the Touareg. I also haven’t checked to see if the X5 diesel is still produced. They may also be in trouble with the EPA. Several manufacturers are, currently.
3. GTI? It’s an absolute blast to drive, and it’s reasonably practical. I have the automatic (they didn’t have a manual on the lot) that I managed to get $8k off sticker b/c VW is desperate to move inventory, especially older models. I’ve had performance cars up to a Corvette Z06, and as far as fun to drive goes, the GTI is the best I’ve ever had. It’s small and tossable, even if it doesn’t have the most straight-line speed. I also get 36mpg on the highway (more than EPA rated). Compared to the Touareg, though, it’s totally different. It’s nowhere near as comfortable inside, or as roomy. Every compliment has to be qualified by the term “in its class.” It has the nicest interior* (in its class). It is one of the best performance cars* (in its class). And so forth. It also is surprisingly good for cargo volume with the rear seats down, but it’s still not huge. It’s really a great car on a tight budget, but it won’t replace the Touareg. Except when I want the performance or the fuel economy, I much prefer driving my large SUV (Land Cruiser) on a daily basis.
4. New VW Touareg gasoline? You should seriously consider this option. VW is desperate to sell vehicles right now, and you get a bonus for owner loyalty right now. Just trade the TDI in on a gas model, and you’ll have a brand new truck, very similar to your own, that merely burns gas instead of diesel. You’ll get a good deal that will more than make up for the cost of extra fuel, plus the cost of gasoline is still so low that the diesel-vs-gas argument is harder to justify on cost. You’ll have to fill up 30% more frequently, which sucks, but you won’t have to worry about DEF, which is nice. The closest thing to what you have now is simply a gasoline-powered Touareg. It’s 98% of what you’re looking for, and the inconveniences are made up for by lower cost and cheap gas. Honestly, it’s probably what I’d do at this point.
Look, I loved the TDI as much as you, for the exact same reasons, great performance and 800 mile range on a tank. But those times have passed. Uncle Sam has seen to that. All who dare question “the future” must be crushed.
Or just get a 1990 Ford F-350 Turbo Diesel and roll some coal just to prove a point.