2005 Volkswagen Touareg V8 Review


PHOTO

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2005 Volkswagen Touareg V8

Being last to market is not necessarily bad. It allows one to learn from the competition. Some SUVs emphasize urban luxury, and have the off-road and cargo-carrying abilities of a luxury car. Others are true backwoods workhorses, with the same comfort level as a horse, too. Volkswagen was one of the last manufacturers to field a modern sport-utility vehicle, but when the Touareg finally arrived two years ago, it offered one of the best combinations of luxury car comfort and ambience and off-road ready truck ability.

The first Touareg I drove was a V6 model, two years ago. I was in the process of moving at the time, and so availed myself of its large interior and flat load floor. Fold the seats down, and a Touareg can swallow a lot of stuff. The 3.2-liter, 220-horsepower (then) narrow-angle V6, while not overwhelmingly powerful, was up to the task, and has since been increased to 240 hp. Then, around a year ago, I had a chance to drive one of the V10 TDI models. With only 300 or so brought into the country, the turbo-diesel was more of a trial balloon than a regular production vehicle, but oh what power.

As has been said, horsepower is what you brag about, while torque is what you feel. And the 553 lb-ft of torque, enough to break the tires loose under acceleration on dry pavement, was felt. At that time, I was able to drive the TDI on an off-road course through some fine deep, gooey mud, with the odd sharp rock and tree trunk thrown in for comic relief. Put it in low-range - yes, unlike many a luxury SUV, all Touaregs have a real dual-range four-wheel drive system - raise the air suspension up all the way, to nearly 12 inches, and gingerly go for it.

The one model I hadn't had the opportunity to drive was the V8, but a recent week with one solved that. It took the basic functional goodness of the V6 model and added some serious power, 310 horses worth. The chassis was fully able to take advantage of that power, easily, and the result was versatile vehicle that could be used to transport five people in style and luxurious comfort in town or in the country, or to carry a large amount of cargo. The Touareg will work for a trip to the opera or a camping expedition. Volkswagen's SUV is a luxury SUV that's not afraid to get dirty. And it can make a good tow truck, too, with a 7,700-lb. ability in V8 trim.

APPEARANCE: There is little doubt as to the Touareg's manufacturer. Cover the prominent VW logo in the center of the grille, and with its bulging hood, rounded trapezoidal grille, and gently-rounded two-box shape, it still looks more than a little like a tall, slightly chunky Passat wagon. A closer look shows pronounced shoulders, and it is taller in proportion to its length, but the Touareg has all of the current Volkswagen styling cues. It's handsome in an understated, functional way, and has presence without being overbearing.

COMFORT: There is little difference in style and appointment between the Touareg and VW's ultra-premium Phaeton sedan. Leather seats and wood and metal trim give the look of luxury, and it's backed up by the quality of the materials, the high comfort level of the seats, and the low interior noise level. Instrument and physical control placement is very good, and all are well-marked and easy to use. A very good air conditioning system extends to the glove box. Feeling cool? Try the standard six-level seat heaters, in both front and outboard rear seats. Power points are strategically located in the front cabin and cargo area. The rear seat folds flat with a 60/40 split, and, despite the potential high ground clearance, the lift to the cargo area is not much higher than in a hatchback. Luxury meets utility in the VW Touareg.

SAFETY: The Volkswagen Touareg has the full complement of modern car safety features, from its chassis construction to front and ``Side Curtain Protection''(tm) airbags, three-point belts for all passengers, automatic unlocking of the doors and disabling of fuel and electrical systems in the event of a crash, and electronic stability and braking aids including .

RIDE AND HANDLING: Being German, the Touareg was designed to be at home on the Autobahn, where speeds can be in excess of 100 mph. And it was also designed to have serious off-road ability. Those two design parameters can easily be mutually exclusive, as illustrated by any number of SUVs that have poor highway manners, or nonexistent off-road ability. Volkswagen combined the best of car and truck characteristics, starting with a strong, rigid car-like unibody structure that provides a solid mount for the suspension.

Like an off-road truck, the suspension has the ground clearance - 8.3 inchesin standard form and between 7.7 and 11.8 inches with the variable-height air suspension - and long travel necessary for the ability to deal with tough off-road situations (or the odd urban construction zone...). But, as in a car, that suspension is fully independent, with double wishbones in front and a four-link system in the back. The standard coil springs can be replaced with the air spring system, which allows variable shock damping in addition to ride height, and my test Touareg was so-equipped. Highway and secondary road ride and handling were exemplary, among the best of any SUV and comparable to a good European-style luxury-sports sedan. The standard 4XMOTION full-time four-wheel drive system acts as a sophisticated all-wheel drive system most of the time, and can be placed in four-low for extreme duty off of pavement. A number of electronic control aids also help smooth difficult situations. I didn't have a chance for any serious off-road driving, but based on earlier experiences, the Touareg works well at that, if the owner has no problem with driving a $50,000 class SUV in the dirt. Urban bumps, potholes, steel plates, and not-quite-covered trenches can be ignored. Because of its solid unibody construction and luxury-car level of soundproofing, the Touareg is as quiet as a luxury car on the road.

PERFORMANCE: The 4.2-liter V8 has no problem moving 5,300 lbs. of Touareg, and quickly. A dual overhead cam design, it has five valves, three small intakes and two exhausts, per cylinder for improved breathing, high power output, and low emissions. With 310 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 302 lb-ft of torque between 3000 and 4000 rpm, it's more than ample, and can move the Touareg from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. It's helped in its task by the six-speed automatic transmission, which features smooth shifting, close ratios, and ``Tiptronic''(r) manual-shift mode for a luxury-performance driving experience. Towing ability is a strong 7,700 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS:Volkswagen's Touareg is a luxury sport-utility that's not afraid to get dirty.

SPECIFICATIONS
2005 Volkswagen Touareg V8

Base Price			$ 44,260
Price As Tested			$ 54,225
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 40-valve V8
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 255 cu. in.
Horsepower			310 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			302 @ 3000-4000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed electronically-controlled
				 automatic
Wheelbase / Length		112.4 in. / 187.2 in.
Curb Weight			5,300 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		17.0
Fuel Capacity			26.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
				    recommended
Tires				P225/55 VR18 Continental 4x4 Contact
Brakes, front/rear	        vented disc / vented disc,
				        antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone /
				        independent four-link;
				        height-adjustable air
				        springs and variable damping optional
Ground clearance		        11.8 maximum with adjustable suspension
Drivetrain			        front engine, full-time dual-range four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		14 / 18 / 14
0 to 60 mph				7.6  sec
Towing capacity				7,700 lbs

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Premium Plus Package 			$ 7,600
Electronic Parking Assist		$   600
Winter Package				$   600
Rear differential lock			$   500
Destination charge			$   615

Complete specifications on the 2005 Volkswagen Touareg V8 and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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