Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Nick asks: I read you article about VW and am wondering whether it’s worth paying more more for a diesel Touareg vs. the gas-engined version – or should I skip both and buy a Nissan xTerra, another vehicle they don’t make anymore? Im not very mechanical and would appreciate any help or advice you can give me.
My reply: The diesel’s higher up front costs can be amortized over time in the form of superior mileage (and lower fuel costs) as well as greater longevity. Also, the diesel-powered version has more torque and is superior for towing. So, I would weigh those factors against how you plan to use the vehicle – and how long you intend to keep it. A diesel-powered Touareg might make better sense – or it might not. It’s a great vehicle, though – and the torque produced by the diesel is tremendous.
The Xterra is basically a Nissan Frontier with a body over the bed. I have owned two Frontiers and they are generally good little trucks, but be aware that the Xterra with the V6 is underpowered and very thirsty; the V6 is also hard to work on because of the tight engine compartment.
I’d steer you more in the direction of of a Toyota LandCruiser or 4Runner or a Honda Pilot – all of them excellent vehicles with top-shelf reputations.
If you’re open to going a little bigger, the Chevy Tahoe is a great SUV, too – especially if you go back a few years.
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As a former owner of a 2013 VW Touareg TDI, I cannot recommend them highly enough. I would still have mine if it weren’t for an unfortunate wreck. In my opinion, they are vastly superior to the gasoline models in nearly every way. They provide comparable acceleration to the V6 gas model, but the low-end acceleration, particularly off the line in stop-and-go traffic, was superb compared to the sluggish gas model. It also tended to run smoothly and quietly at speed, and 750+ miles per tank on the highway made it a superb long haul cruiser. It’s only minor deficit in actual running was that once you hit 80mph it tended to run out of kick-in-the-pants acceleration. At higher RPMs, diesels run out of breath, even turbodiesels.
Fuel costs are also worth considering. The new low-sulfur diesel tends to be a bit more expensive than gas, though it varies. Sometimes it can be cheaper than 87 octane regular gas, but typically it is closer to mid-grade 89 or even premium 91+ octane gas, especially that gas which has been adulterated with ethanol.
The only question I have is whether or not the unit you’re considering has been modified by VW so as to be emissions “fixed” vs. their original tune/programming. I haven’t heard much about the post-castration “fixed” VW TDI engines, and what I’ve heard doesn’t make any sense (no loss in performance, same or better fuel economy, if this were true, VW would have had no reason to bend the rules and risk getting caught). I think I’d prefer a pre-castration model if I could find it.
The XTerra is a nice, but small, SUV. It’s superb offroad, and the V6 actually has really good power, much like the current gen Frontier it shares some components with, as long as it’s one of the more recent models. For some reason, they never had very good reliability ratings, even after all these years of building them. The Pro4X package was their top off-road package, and some of them even came with a manual transmission. I seriously considered one of these for a while but decided against it. By the same token, the Nissan Pathfinder from the previous generation is also based on the Frontier but has more room in it and is nicer. It’s also quite capable off-road, but is more of a mid-size than a compact SUV. Neither the XTerra nor Pathfinder get very decent gas mileage. Either would be cheaper than a comparable vintage Land Cruiser or 4Runner, but neither are as reliable as the Toyotas.
Thanks for adding your 50 about the Touareg TDI – all of which I will affirm and amen.
On the Xterra: These (and the Frontier) on which it’s based have a tendency to rust. Nothing major, but around 10-12 years out, you’ll begin dealing with little things…