AUTOMOTIVE AMY:  Lady in the Fast Lane 3

The Ultimate Road Trip Experience

Anyone who has taken a road trip, whether long-planned or spur-of the-moment, knows that the right vehicle makes all the difference. If you take off in a sports coupe, comfort may be compromised but performance and handling enhanced; a well-appointed sedan or minivan may limit usable passenger or cargo space, while an SUV can throw off your budget in fuel consumption.

So, what is the optimal road trip machine? What combines exceptional fuel economy, performance, handling, climate control, driver’s features, comfort, navigation and entertainment versatility, and sleek and streamlined styling?

The 2015 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport meets all of these criteria with a mastery that both impresses and rewards.

On an unplanned road trip to Beloit, Kansas, in the heat of Midwestern July, the Touareg was hands-down an ideal choice. Averaging 75 MPH for the 436 miles to our destination, the Touareg’s 3.0 L V6 Turbo Diesel engine logged an impressive 30.2 MPG, well above the estimated 29 highway MPG on the sticker.

The return trip, primarily driven on country roads, saw an average fuel consumption of 28.7 MPG, still substantially above estimated non-highway fuel economy. Highlights of the return trip included a detour to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, KS (yes, it really does exist and is all it is rumored to be), as well as stopping at five roadside historical markers along the way to appreciate our country’s rich history.

Dual visors on driver and passenger headliners were a great added benefit and used frequently. Heated and cooled seats that fully recline allowed for incredibly comfortable cross-country shuteye for the lucky front passenger.

The cruise control was extremely user-friendly, adjusted with a simple flick of the control stalk on the steering column–no uncomfortable leg cramping or tired ankle to maintain a steady speed for those long, straight stretches of road.

GPS displays the miles to destination, progressive miles traveled, miles to next turn with the name of the new road, often available amenities ahead and the estimated time of arrival at destination point–all very clear, very informative and very accurate. Another display showed total miles traveled for the trip or any individual section of the total trip, driving time elapsed, average MPG and average speed.

With CD-quality satellite radio available, you never lose stations or hit “dead zones” for music. Volume and station selection were easily controlled from the steering column without having to take your eyes off the road, providing both safety and variety for a long trip, particularly through the Midwest where radio towers can be sparse.

With an MSRP of $53,155, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport Diesel made an unexpected road trip a comfortable and surprisingly fuel-efficient pleasure cruise. No question that we collected our share of Kansas bugs on the road, but the driver was able to relax, had great visibility, entertainment and helpful information, while the passenger was able to comfortably snooze for a solid four hours through the night, an almost unprecedented feat in road trip history.

Amy Smith is a long-time auto enthusiast with a 20-year professional history in the automotive industry. She can be reached at amy@carconnections.us with any questions, comments or review requests.