2007 Volkswagen Touareg V6 Review

2007 Volkswagen Touareg (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volkswagen Touareg

2007 Volkswagen Touareg (select to view enlarged photo)

2007 Volkswagen Touareg (select to view enlarged photo)

2007 Volkswagen Touareg (select to view enlarged photo)

2007 Volkswagen Touareg (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volkswagen Touareg

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

What exactly is a “Touareg?”

Literally translated as “free folk” Touareg is the name of a nomadic North African tribe known historically to be feisty and aggressive. It’s also a remarkably competent full-size sport-utility vehicle from Volkswagen. The tougher question is why VW chose that name for their first big sport-utility. Perhaps the VW folks first encountered the name during the world’s toughest off-road rally race called the Dakar Rally (formerly Paris to Dakar) where it is not unusual for the competitors to come into intimate contact with less-than-friendly natives. In 2006 Touareg finished 2nd in the Dakar Rally. I guess Touareg could imply adventure.

Our friend and colleague Thom Cannell, whose by-line you’ll recognize since he is a regular contributor to TheAutoChannel, is in North Africa as we write this review competing in this year’s Dakar Rally in a race-prepared Touareg. The Touareg team is leading the rally. Watch for Thom’s reports or VW press released on TheAutoChannel.

Touareg is a cousin to the hot Porsche Cayenne (being shown in updated form this week at the Detroit auto show) and the new Audi Q7, sharing platform and a other components. A loaded Cayenne can sticker way over a hundred grand so we can confidently say that the Touareg can be a bargain by comparison.

Our test vehicle this week is the basic Touareg V6. Not one extra-cost option is listed on the Monroni sticker. I’m surprised because my first look into this lovely sport-ute and my first slide into the front seat left me with the distinct impression that this was a dressed up vehicle. In fact, I searched and searched in vain for the power seat controller. I was surprised to find an easily-reached, smooth-operating, manual release on the right side of the seat base.

So, let’s have a closer look at the sticker. MSRP is $37,990. The list of standard features is impressive: halogen headlights, power glass sunroof, leatherette interior, 17-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli tires, rain-sensing wipers, premium sound system with 11 speakers and a six-CD changer in the rear, leather steering wheel with lots of controls and functions, halogen fog lights integrated into the lower bumper, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, self-dimming rear view mirror, 8-way manual adjusting front seats, adjustable steering wheel, automatic headlights, wood interior accents, power heated outside mirrors, Homelink , dual exhaust (without fancy chrome tips).

The rear seats fold with a 60/40 formula, as do most. The release is a little handle at the top of each side, but unlike most it’s a mechanism requiring a vertical pull. I’m sure it would be easier if it rocked forward like most of these releases. With rear seats folded a respectable 71-cu-ft of cargo space is available. With the seats in passenger-carrying position we still have 31-cu-ft.

Inside everything looks first class at first blush - even at second and third blush. The seats are generous and comfortable. I’m sure we’d have no trouble sitting in them for an all-day drive if we wanted to. A couple of niggles showed up after a few days with this luxurious sport-ute. First was my pretty blonde’s need to know the time on an evening drive. Of course her fashionable little watch has a face so tiny we’d need a microscope to read it. “Where’s the clock?” she asked. There are two. One is below the tach on the left side of the instrument cluster, out of her view. The other is in the ceiling panel above the windshield. She could see it only if she bent her neck back uncomfortably to accommodate her bifocals. (Hope I didn’t give away a secret here.) A nice car like this ought to have a classy analog clock in the center of the dash.

The other annoyance was the difficulty in adjusting the driver’s seat. Only the forward/back control was smooth and easy. The other functions take the strength of an athlete to manage.

Performance is less than stellar but more than adequate. Zero-to-sixty is reached in 8.3 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 130-mph. Montana drivers will be bummed with that. The 4.2-liter V6 generates 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque but it has a lot of weight to move – 5,168 pounds to be precise. Passing maneuvers are managed with a reasonable modicum of confidence. It seem like there were a lot of slow-pokes on the road this week. Touareg is available with both a 350-hp V8 engine and a V10 turbo-diesel with more than 550 lb-ft of torque if you want more grunt. EPA estimates mileage on our V6 to be 16-city and 20-highway. We averaged about 17.5 in mixed driving. Fuel capacity is 26.4 US gallons. Premium fuel is recommended but not required.

Towing capacity is 7716 pounds. Touareg’s unibody chassis feels plenty sturdy.

Standard with all Touaregs is the trusty and tough 4xMotion permanent 4-wheel-drive system that, with the optional rear-lock differential, will allow 100% of the power to go to one wheel if necessary to push off a treacherous rock or hard place. The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission has a manual shift mode, but shifts are pretty slow compared to the new DSG units in the smaller V-dubs. That DSG has us spoiled now. In addition to all this technology Touareg comes with all the chassis and handling dynamic systems that are optional on a lot of up-scale cars: ABS, Anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, electronic stabilization program with engine brake assist, hill decent assist and hill climb assist. I guess all that electronics isn’t that expensive once developed, but that’s a lot of assist.

Volkswagen’s warranty is 4-years/50,000-miles, 5-years/60,000-miles on the powertrain and 12-years on rust-through.

This is a big, tough sport-ute at a reasonable price. Perhaps next time we can get it off road for a real world flogging through the bush.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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