The Volkswagen Touareg is an impressive mid-size luxury SUV. It offers better off-road capability than the Volvo XC 90, and it seems more comfortable and more practical than the BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz ML 350, both of which are older designs. The 2005 Volkswagen Touareg lineup includes a new turbocharged diesel V10 model that develops a mighty 553 pound-feet of torque while achieving an EPA-estimated 17/23 mpg.
Gasoline engines are also available, of course, including a superb V8 that's also used in the Audi A8 L. The V8 delivers good acceleration performance, enhanced by the Touareg's wonderful six-speed automatic that smoothly selects exactly the right gear for every situation. On the highway, the Touareg provides a fairly smooth ride, though opting for the 19-inch wheels incurs some road vibration and noise. Touareg is no sports sedan, but handling is responsive for this heavy SUV.
All that is no surprise from Volkswagen, which has earned a strong reputation for refined road cars at reasonable prices. What did surprise and impress us about the Touareg was its stellar off-road capability. It turns out that a Volkswagen Touareg can go pretty much anywhere. Touareg's all-wheel-drive and traction-control systems automatically apportion power to the wheels with the best grip, providing better traction and requiring less skill from the driver.
We witnessed this while driving through Hell's Revenge, a trail that weaves through sandy gullies and the not-so-slick rock near Moab, Utah. With its articulated independent suspension, sophisticated drive system, and advanced technology, the Touareg gains the respect, if not the appreciation, of veteran off-road enthusiasts. We wouldn't hesitate to follow a Jeep Wrangler or Range Rover anywhere in one of these, and the folks from Volkswagen would suggest the Touareg should lead the convoy.
Adding to Touareg's credibility are the awards it has won: Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year (2004); Petersen 4Wheel & Off-Road 4x4 of the Year (2004); Car and Driver's 5Best Trucks, Luxury Sport-Utility Vehicle of the Year (2003); American Woman Road & Travel SUV Most Likely to Survive Anything Award (2004): and the Texas Auto Writers Association SUV of Texas (2004).
Another point of credibility is the Touareg's 7,700-pound towing capability. That's more than the big Cadillac Escalade, more, even, than a Hummer H2.
Named after a nomadic tribe from the Sahara, Touareg (pronounced "TOUR-egg" or "TORE-egg") is bound to be the most often mispronounced and misspelled vehicle on sale in America. In spite of this, and in spite of its newness, it is instantly recognized as a Volkswagen. It looks just like you'd expect Volkswagen's first modern SUV to look. Touareg boasts a brawny stance, yet shares styling cues with the Phaeton luxury sedan that give it a sophisticated, upscale appearance.
Inside, Touareg is sophisticated and refined, with the taut finish and keen attention to detail we've also come to expect from Volkswagen. Interior appointments are rich and controls are easy to use. Indeed, this is among the most comfortable of Volkswagens with firm, supportive seats. What the Touareg does not offer, however, is a third row of seats. So look elsewhere if you need seating for more than five.
Touareg looks like a Volkswagen, with smooth, arched surfaces, a Volkswagen face and a Volkswagen rear end. Other VW cues can be seen in the jeweled headlamps, the design of the hood and other features. If that isn't enough, prominent VW badges leave no doubt.
Touareg looks brawny, though its off-road capability isn't immediately apparent. The Touareg is designed to look rugged yet refined, practical yet stylish. Its high ground clearance, large wheels, and the robust design of the wheel arches and bumpers are the first clues to its impressive trail worthiness. Big air intakes in the lower bumper contrast with the upper radiator grille, which is shaped like that of a modern passenger car. This contrast hints at its dual role of luxury car and off-road vehicle. In the same theme, smooth, elegant surfaces above the beltline contrast with broad, rugged-looking side sills. Big exterior door handles look functional and are well designed and easy to grab.
Like a car, the Touareg is built on a unibody chassis. It was designed to be a highly rigid structure (40 Hz), so that it won't bend or twist even in the most tortuous off-road driving conditions. We were able to open and close the doors when the Touareg was teetering on two or three wheels, an impressive feat, especially considering Volkswagen's tight fitment of body panels. This rigidity contributes to the Touareg's ride comfort and high-speed stability. The doors are completely sealed when closed, providing a quiet cabin and allowing the Touareg to ford up to 22 inches of standing water.
Like many SUVs, the Touareg features a two-stage rear hatch with a glass window that can be raised separately. It has a neat feature that many owners may never discover: The glass hatch can be hard for shorter people to reach when it's open. If this happens, simply raise the rear door. When they reconnect, the window clicks into the door. Rejoined with the glass, the hatch can then be closed as one unit. Tall people have it easier, of course: They simply reach up and close the glass.
Perimeter lights illuminate the area around the Touareg when getting in or out at night, and can be programmed to the driver's preferences.
The Touareg cabin is luxurious and attractive. It elegantly combines robust dimensions with delicate details in rich leather and wood trim. Burled walnut is standard, with vavona or myrtle wood available as an upgrade on the V8 and V10 TDI. We like both grades of leather, Cricket and smooth Nappa. (Leatherette is standard.) The premium light-colored wood with tan leather is particularly attractive and the dark-colored wood is quite nice. The textures found on the dash, door panels and other trim appeal to the sense of touch as well. Chrome and brushed aluminum trim add elegance with a hint of technology. Everything seems perfectly tailored and fitted.
The seats are excellent, supportive and comfortable, much better than most. We've found it sometimes takes time to get comfortable in Volkswagen seats, but I was immediately comfortable in the Touareg.
Visibility from the driver's seat is quite good, aided rearward by huge outside mirrors. All controls are easy to reach. The steering column tilts and telescopes manually; optional power adjustments make it easier to fine-tune its position. The switchgear, climate control, audio controls, and window lifts all feel smooth and sophisticated. Move the turn signal lever momentarily and the signals flash three times, handy for lane changes. Instruments are attractive and easy to read, big and clearly marked, using white-on-black graphics.
Robust climate controls make adjusting temperature quick and easy. The standard two-zone system (with rear A/C) does an excellent job. The optional four-zone system, allowing separate control of each of the four primary seating positions, may be overkill but it does give passengers more control over their personal space and it works well. Farther down on the center console are big round knobs for controlling the differential locks and air suspension (when equipped). The center armrest features a ring designed to hold large water bottles. Overhead, you'll find a small indigo display with compass and clock along with a pair of nicely designed map lights. The glove box is air-conditioned, so you can store a sandwich or beverage in there.
Touareg's optional Navigation System provides traditional route guidance with mapping and voice announcements. But it also includes a neat off-road navigation system with compass, altimeter, and GPS coordinates. A tracking mode leaves an electronic trail that can be used to retrace your route.
Automatic wipers respond well to changing conditions. While driving through a squall in the mountains near Park City, Utah, they quickly changed the wiper speed from ultra-fast to slow to intermittent, then stopped them altogether when the going got dry.
The rear seats are firm, supportive, and comfortable. The back seat of a Touareg is a pleasant place to be and we spent several hours there, sometimes in extreme terrain. Vents in the B-pillars help direct air back there and the four-zone climate control offers individual temperature controls. A second heat exchanger for the rear seats helps get heat back there quickly on cold mornings.
Fold down the rear seats and Touareg offers 71 cubic feet of cargo space with a nice, flat floor. That's more than what's found in the BMW X5, less than that of the Mercedes M-Class or Lexus RX 330. Folding the seats is a little fussy because the seat bottoms must articulate before folding the seat backs down, but the system works well. Put the rear seats back into place and there's 31 cubic feet of space behind them. There's an optional pass-through for skis available, a cargo cover to shield valuables, and a net partition that keeps cargo from flying forward in the event of an accident or hard stop.
Our first impression of the Volkswagen Touareg was its relatively quiet cabin. The V6 and V8 engines are smooth and the six-speed automatic transmission is really smooth. Overall, Touareg feels like a well-engineered vehicle carved from a single block.
The V6 has received a much-needed shot of 20 more horsepower for 2005, bringing the total to 240 at 6000 rpm, with 229 pound-feet of torque at 3200. Though smooth and quiet, last year's V6 Touareg took about 9.4 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60, slow by anyone's stopwatch, and it felt sluggish at altitude. The 2005 model should be better, but we don't expect a dramatic improvement.
The V8, on the other hand, delivers strong torque around town and the transmission always selects the right gear. So you don't need much throttle pressure to smoothly accelerate to the desired speed. Slam the throttle down and the V8 responds well, but it still does not deliver breathtaking thrust. Granted, we drove the Touareg at 6000 feet where thinner air reduces the V8's 310 horsepower to something less than 250. But at any altitude, a V8 Touareg weighs about 5,300 pounds when empty. That makes Touareg 375 pounds heavier than a BMW X5 4.4i, and 425 pounds heavier than Mercedes-Benz ML500. Still, the V8 Touareg delivers respectable performance. It will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.6 seconds, says Volkswagen, which is comparable to the performance of a V8-powered BMW X5.
We haven't tried the new turbo-diesel V10, but we are impressed by its specifications, especially its 553 pound-feet of torque at just 2000 rpm. VW claims the new engine places the Touareg among the best-performing diesel SUV's ever, capable of clocking a 0-60mph time of just 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. Twin turbochargers account for its power, while Volkswagen's sophisticated diesel fuel injection accounts for its relatively efficient 17/23 City/Highway mpg. (TDI stands for Turbo Direct Injection.)
The V6 and V8 models are not as fuel efficient, at least partly due to the Touareg's considerable weight. The V6 earns an EPA rating of 15/20 mpg City/Highway, while the V8 returns 14/18 mpg. VW recommends premium gas for maximum performance.
The transmission that comes with all three engines is brilliant, a luxury-grade six-speed automatic used in the new Audi A8 L. Fuzzy logic senses the driver's intentions then smoothly selects the proper gear. Switch from Normal to Sport mode and it selects higher shift points for more aggressive driving. There's also a Tiptronic mode for manual shifting, useful in some situations, but ultimately the transmission will still shift up automatically when redline is reached.
VW says it has recalibrated the 2005 Touareg's suspension for more sport. The ride quality of last year's model was good, though road vibration increased with wheel size, most noticeable with the 19-inch wheels and tires. The V6 model's standard 17-inch wheels offered the best ride quality, smoother and quieter, though the aggressive tread pattern of the tires generated some noise and vibration.
Steering responses are sharper with the 19-inch wheels, and more lethargic and mushier with the 17-inch wheels. The 18-inch wheel and tires seemed like a good compromise between the two. Most of my time with the 18-inch wheels was spent off-road, but the ride seemed quite pleasant during the few, short highway sections that I drove with them. Overall, I preferred the 17- and 18-inch wheels and tires.
Two suspensions are available for Touareg: a standard suspension with regular steel springs and an optional air suspension. The standard suspension works very well and we recommend it highly. It might even be our preference. It offers a nice ride and handles well, as we discovered on some winding mountain roads in Utah. Touareg boasts an impressive 8.3 inches of ground clearance with the standard suspension.
The optional air suspension fea
Volkswagen Touareg combines luxury, sophistication and good road manners with impressive off-road capability. It'll deliver you anywhere you desire in smooth, luxurious comfort. The engineering that went into it is impressive. The V6 Touareg gets more power for 2005, but you'll need the V8 for respectable levels of performance, and the new 2005 Touareg V10 TDI brings a lot more power to the party.
Build and price your dream Volkswagen Touareg in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2013 Volkswagen Touareg$35,995 | 24,947 mi
2013 Volkswagen Touareg$37,999 | 21,004 mi
2013 Volkswagen Touareg$42,888 | 19,053 mi
2013 Volkswagen Touareg$46,888 | 24,856 mi
2013 Volkswagen Touareg$49,888 | 12,045 mi
2013 Volkswagen Touareg TDi Executive$49,950 | 20,167 mi
2012 Volkswagen Touareg$32,000 | 40,432 mi
2012 Volkswagen Touareg$36,000 | 64,059 mi
2012 Volkswagen Touareg$42,888 | 48,858 mi
2012 Volkswagen Touareg$44,888 | 22,173 mi
2012 Volkswagen Touareg$44,950 | 19,310 mi
2011 Volkswagen Touareg$29,888 | 55,246 mi
2011 Volkswagen Touareg$30,988 | 31,521 mi
2011 Volkswagen Touareg$32,487 | 24,107 mi
2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid$39,997 | 18,721 mi
2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2$16,995 | 74,222 mi
2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2$20,500 | 70,435 mi
2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2$22,975 | 31,032 mi
2007 Volkswagen Touareg$13,988 | 68,982 mi
2007 Volkswagen Touareg$17,995 | 54,329 mi
2006 Volkswagen Touareg$12,950 | 101,307 mi
2006 Volkswagen Touareg$13,995 | 97,254 mi
2005 Volkswagen Touareg$9,999 | 117,763 mi
2005 Volkswagen Touareg$11,950 | 77,214 mi
2005 Volkswagen Touareg$12,537 | 76,728 mi
2004 Volkswagen Touareg$7,998 | 176,473 mi
2004 Volkswagen Touareg$10,999 | 112,899 mi
2004 Volkswagen Touareg$12,488 | 97,438 mi