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Heels on Wheels: 2008 VW Touareg Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


By Katrina Ramser


The Touareg is a luxury SUV with a growing reputation as a fast off-road performance car – the vehicle started out as a prototype for the world famous Dakar Rally and debuted in the 2007 Baja 500. The Touareg is praised for its navigation ability in desert terrain and its computer-controlled descent feature that doesn’t require the driver to manually brake.

Volkswagen focuses on a few technological improvements for the 2008 model, including a FSI fuel management system, which produces more efficient horsepower and torque, along with new functions to the ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program). This refers to safely stuff, like better hydraulic brakes and rollover stability. There are new colors, lot more chrome, and new optional packages.

The Touareg I drove had a 4.2-liter FSI, 8-cylinder engine with 4XMOTION permanent 4WD that includes the low-range gear and adaptive torque distribution. With all the bells and whistles, total price for the vehicle came to $59,200.

You'll feel like you're entering an off-road race inside the Touareg and once you hit the road. The temperature and speed gages have a very authentic off-road racing gage design. The V8 engine goes from 0-60 in 7.6 seconds. It has 324 lb-ft of torque at 6,700 rpm.

Unheard of features is as goes: Keyless access with a special transmitter built into the key fob (all you have to do is walk up to your Touareg 2 and the doors will unlock automatically); tinted power glass sunroof for UVA ray protection; a power liftgate that you can adjust to how high it opens; rain-sensing wipers where speed is controlled by car (a small sensor in the windshield detects how much water is obstructing your vision); and a built in rearview camera where you not only see video while in reverse, but are aided by graphic lines to help figure out your backing path.

I can't be quip and say the only thing this vehicle cannot do is drive itself, because it kind of does with all its brake technology. The EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) works with the Anti-lock Braking System by sensing exactly how the Touareg is braking and then distributes the stopping power to each individual wheel. Additionally, the HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assist) recognizes how quickly the brakes are pressed, and helps control the ABS with deceleration.


Stylish But Comfortable Results:
If you're in the market for a high-end capable SUV, the Touareg – along with the Porsche Cayenne and the Land Rover's LR3 and Range Rover – round out the choices. Spoiled might be one word to describe the Touareg's interior attributes. The backseat amenities are the best I've ever seen. Back passengers can control their individual temperatures (seated heats, too) and pull built-in shades over their windows.

Reliability & Safety Factor:
Consumer Reports call the Touareg's reliability as "consistently well below average." The 2004 model especially had some transmission problems, as well as recalls on the wiring system and seatbelts.

Cost Issues:
Hands down, this is an expensive SUV that sucks up a lot of premium gas. Headlights are very expensive to replace.

Activity & Performance Ability:
The Touareg comes standard with AWD and a low range. The settings are easily activated with in-cabin controls on the press of a button. Options to make the vehicles more capable off-road include an available air suspension system which can raise the car's ride height on command and an interior switch allowing the rear differential to be manually locked. The headlights on the Touareg are something else where safety is concerned. The Bi-Xenon headlights are the same headlights you'll find on the Land Rover 3. These types of lights are gas-discharge lamps verse Halogen lamps to produce a brighter, whiter beam and are apparently more energy efficient. But the Touareg features a built-in leveling and steerable light system -- basically, imagine an eyeball turning, because these lights rotate into your turns, highlighting everything.

The Green Concern:
The gas mileage on the V8 engine gets 12-mpg city and 17-mpg highway driving. Not good. In 2007, the Touareg's 5.0L 10V engine was listed on EPA's Green Vehicle Guide as the number one Meanest Vehicle for the Environment. The smaller 3.6-liter VR6 engine gets 14-mpg city and 19-mpg highway, which doesn’t equate to a significant difference.

I've test driven both the LR3 and the Range Rover. I guess if I had the interest, cash, and a tolerance for ignoring vehicle emissions, I'd go with the VW Touareg – there is just something exciting about owning an off-road vehicle that is also known for its desert racing speed. 2008 Katrina Ramser


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New Car Buyers Guide
Volkswagen Buyers Guide
Bureau of Transportation Statistics
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U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Green Vehicle Guide
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
U.S. Census Bureau 
Bureau of Labor Statistics 
Consumer Reports
J.D. Power and Associates
R.L & Polk Co. 
U.S. News & World Reports