We drove the FWD VW Taos several months ago and found it had solid driving manners, impressive fuel economy, and a ton of interior space. We were definitely looking forward to getting our hands on an AWD  model, unfortunately, the AWD version’s powertrain was subject to a recall due to a faulty control unit. VW pressed on with the front-wheel drive versions on the road until the problem was fixed.


So what are the differences between the two, well the FWD model rides on a twist-beam rear suspension and utilizes an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission, whereas the Taos AWD gets an independent suspension system for the rear axle and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.


Viewed from the outside, the Taos is a good-looking car and has better proportions than the Tiguan. It may be a sub-compact crossover but it’s one of the largest players in this class with a wheelbase is 105.6 inches for the all-wheel-drive variant or 105.9 inches for the front driver.

The design of the 2023 VW Taos is modern and eye-catching and features a distinctive grille, sleek LED headlights, and bold character lines that give it a sporty and aggressive look. Overall, the Taos has a well-balanced design that appeals to both style-conscious buyers and those looking for practicality.

At the rear, it gets a full-width running light bar like the one on the new ID 4 electric and the model badge sits in the middle of the rear tailgate, which is fast becoming a trend.

The only negatives I can see are the fake exhaust outlets at the rear, instead, VW chose to hide the real outlets under the bumper.

Under the hood

Powering the Taos is a new 1.5-liter version of the turbocharged inline-four, it gets a variable-geometry turbocharger and produces a respectable, 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque from just 1750 rpm. 0-60 takes 7.5 seconds which is 0.2 seconds less than its front wheel drive sibling.

Fuel economy does take a hit if you opt for the AWD system due to the added weight, expect highway mpg to be 32 versus 36 for a front driver.


Here’s where things get a little negative since I’m surprised to find that VW chose to offer a Dual Clutch transmission in this car since they are usually reserved for their sportier offerings like the Golf GTI.
In the Taos AWD, those sporty intentions just don’t work, since the unit seems to have a complete lack of refinement or it’s just not programmed well. Mash the go pedal for a stop, there’s a little bit of lag then it seems to start off in second gear then abruptly drops a cog to first causing considerable jerkiness, especially around town.

There’s better news at higher speeds, the transmission changes up quickly and drops down when you need more go, it actually feels pretty quick and can be hustled along back rounds carrying a fair amount of speed. The brakes and steering are good too and inspire confidence when pressing on, it makes me wonder how much better this car would have been with the conventional 8-speed.

Off-Road Excellence

VW says the name Taos refers to the rugged, picturesque town in New Mexico so of course, since it has AWD we should test it off-road without getting too crazy. We were pleasantly surprised at how well the Taos AWD’s suspension coped really well with rutted truck trails and the well-bolted-together cabin showed no signs o rattling or squeaking even over washboard surfaces.

For obvious reasons, we didn’t do any rock crawling due to the Taos having limited ground clearance and no underbody protection but we do test most light off-roaders on a couple of technical sections.

The first is a short incline that tests departure and approach angles and the all-wheel drive system. The little Taos romped up with ease so we went back down using the Hill Descent control which is activated when you select the Off-road Auto mode via the center console dial. Expectations were exceeded again, the VW descent control is one of the best I have used, controlling the car delicately back down the hill with virtually no wheel slip while wearing street tires.

We attacked a steeper more rutted incline and the Taos didn’t even notice, it went all the way to the top and back down so we call it a day and returned via the truck trail we had come in on, suitably impressed.


Inside the Taos, you’ll find a thoughtfully designed and well-built cabin. The materials used are of high quality, and the fit and finish are excellent although some hard scratchy plastics reside below knee level.  The seats are comfortable and supportive, providing a pleasant driving experience even on long journeys.

The rear seats offer ample legroom and headroom for adult passengers, and there are two 2 cupholders, 2 USB-C outlets, and rear HVAC vents. Cargo space is generous for a compact SUV, with almost as much room as in the Tiguan. It’s not that much smaller than the Tiguan offering 28 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seatbacks and 66 cubic feet with them folded flat.

Technology and Features

Volkswagen has equipped the 2023 Taos All-Wheel Drive with a wide range of advanced technology features. The dash features an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that offers crisp graphics and a user-friendly interface. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing seamless smartphone integration. Lesser models get a 6.5-inch screen but the 8-inch is optional on all models. In addition, you can get a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The available digital instrument cluster provides clear and customizable information to the driver. Other notable features include a Beats premium sound system, wireless charging, a panoramic sunroof, and a suite of advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking.


All SEL models get a fancy panoramic sunroof as standard equipment. Prices for a base S model with FWD start at $24K but this tester is a little over $35K and has luxuries like heated and ventilated front seats, a digital gauge display, and a Beats audio system.



The 2023 VW Taos All-Wheel Drive is a well-rounded compact SUV that offers style, performance, and versatility. The capable all-wheel-drive system is surprisingly good and exceeded our expectations off-road, sadly the transmission is something of a letdown. The dual-clutch transmission simply doesn’t provide the level of refinement or drivability of the FWD’s traditional auto.

2023 VW Taos 1.5T SEL AWD Numbers

BASE PRICE: $34,535
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, All-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: Turbocharged and inter-cooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4,
POWER: 158 hp @ 5,500 rpm
TORQUE: 184 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic 
CURB WEIGHT: 3,465 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.5 sec
EPA COMB/ CITY/HWY: 28/25/32 mpg
PROS: Good performance and handling, spacious interior
CONS: Jerky dual clutch transmision