Volkswagen’s Touareg Hybrid model won’t return for 2016

The number of hybrids available in the U.S. will drop by one for the 2016 model year, with the discontinuation of Volkswagen’s Touareg Hybrid.

VW announced that it would drop the hybrid version of its biggest SUV in a list of 2016-model-year changes. The rest of the Touareg lineup continues essentially unchanged, having received a facelift for the 2015 model year.

The Touareg Hybrid was one of many models that seem to have been created more for profiling purposes than to actually put a dent in fuel consumption. Its powertrain consisted of a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission, teamed with an electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system was standard.

VW claimed a total system output of 380 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than either of the other two powertrains offered in the Touareg, but the hybrid’s EPA-rated 21 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway) wasn’t very impressive.

At $66,995 (before destination), the Touareg Hybrid also had the highest base price of any model in the 2015 Touareg lineup. That made it even less likely that buyers would realize any savings from choosing the hybrid over a conventional model. The V6 hybrid powertrain also lacked the prestige a nearly-$70k price tag would seem to demand.

Adding an electric motor to a smaller internal-combustion engine is a trick used by some carmakers to boost the output of a powertrain without investing in a totally new, low-volume engine for prestige models. However, more often than not, when consumers hear the word “hybrid,” they seem to want fuel efficiency at least as much as they want power, if not more.

Touareg buyers still get to choose from a 3.6-liter gasoline V6, with 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.0-liter turbocharged TDI diesel V6, with 240 hp and 406 lb-ft. At an EPA-rated 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway), the diesel is actually more fuel efficient than the hybrid.

The other models get a handful of changes for 2016, including newly-available electronic aids like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.

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