2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2
2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 Expert Review:Autoblog
When the Volkswagen Touareg first arrived around five years ago, the SUV became the first production home to Volkswagen's then-new V10 TDI engine. However, as the old saw goes, "Time waits for no man"... or machine apparently. After a relatively short run, Volkswagen's 5.0L V10 turbodiesel is soon being consigned to the scrap heap of history. Increasingly stringent emissions requirements have meant that the V10 could only be sold in 45 states for the last two years with sales in the large market of California being verboten.
The Touareg will, of course, live on, and the TDI version will be transformed early next year into a new 50-state legal version using the same 3.0L diesel V6 that propels the Q7 we drove during the recent Audi Mileage Marathon. The Touareg itself was not only the first application for the diesel V10, it was also Volkswagen's first SUV. The architecture of the Touareg was developed in cooperation with long-time "friend" Porsche who happen to use the same platform for its Cayenne. Later, Audi popped out its own longer wheelbase variant as the Q7. Find out what it's like to live with this lame duck diesel beast after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
Volkswagen's V10 diesel first appeared in a 1999 show car called the Concept D and then later in January 2000 at the Detroit Auto Show in the Advanced Activity Concept or AAC. The AAC was a truck concept with a front half that previewed the look of the Touareg. Eventually its V10 would be used by both the Touareg and the ill-fated Phaeton luxury sedan. The twin turbocharged V10 was unusual in having an aluminum cylinder block, a rarity in diesel engines. The lower end of the block contained a cast iron main bearing carrier to hold the crankshaft with its offset crank-pins. The off-set crank is needed to provide even firing intervals with the cylinder banks spread at a 90-degree angle.
This V10 is the last new VW diesel designed with the "pumpe-duse" injection system. The pumpe-duse, or pump nozzle system, uses an individual high pressure fuel pump for each cylinder directly connected to the fuel injector. This same system is now being replaced in new Volkswagen-Audi diesel engines with common rail systems that can control fuel flow more precisely. A single camshaft sits in each cylinder head actuating just one intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder. All that hardware provides no shortage of grunt as the V10 generates 310 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, which is handy considering the Touareg has to drag around 5,800 lbs before even loading up.
Interestingly, while this V10 is the largest displacement diesel VW makes, it's no longer the most powerful. That honor goes to the 4.2L V8 TDI used by sister brand Audi in the A8 and Q7 in Europe. I had a chance to try out a Q7 4.2 TDI earlier this year over on AutoblogGreen and it was a rocket with 326 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Nonetheless, the Touareg V10 is no slouch. Step on the right pedal, and after a momentary delay while the torque converter gets wound up and the turbos generate some boost, acceleration comes in a rush. We didn't try out any towing, but the way this thing accelerates at any speed, connecting a 7,700-lb trailer to the Touareg is unlikely to put any significant strain on the engine.
Since the Touareg was refreshed for the 2007 model year, the V10 has also been equipped with diesel particulate filters that eliminate virtually all of the soot from the exhaust. Thanks to the ultra-low sulfur diesel that's now required in the U.S. as well, there was never any hint of smell from the Touareg. In fact, the only thing that has kept this SUV out of California for the past two years is NOx emissions. Rather than add a urea injection system to the V10, VW has instead focused its efforts on the new 3.0L V6 that's coming in the next few months.
Another area where the V10 falls short compared to more recent diesels from VW, Mercedes and BMW is noise. Vee Dub's latest common rail-equipped diesels are particularly quiet and most have a hard time detecting they are diesels. While this V10 is far quieter than diesel engines often found in heavy-duty pickups from the Detroit 3, it does still exhibit some of the traditional clatter that Americans associate with compression ignition engines. It is, however, remarkably smooth with no noticeable vibration.
Believe it or not, there is more to the Touareg than this monster engine. The vehicle itself falls firmly into the mid-size SUV category. Although slightly shorter than a BMW X5, it has similar interior dimensions to the Bimmer and Mercedes Benz ML, but is more than a foot shorter than its Audi sibling. In fact, one of the closest comparisons you can make in terms of interior volume is VW's own Passat station wagon. Aside from a two-inch advantage in shoulder room, the Touareg actually looses out to the Passat in rear leg room and cargo volume. The SUV, however, rides some eight inches higher and weighs a full 2,000 lbs more than the station wagon.
Inside the Touareg lives up to the usual high standards set by Volkswagen Group products. The Sienna leather-covered seats are comfortable, although their lower cushions are a bit flat for a VW, and the lower part of the center console has a plethora of identically sized buttons that each requires their own look to operate. Behind the transmission shift lever are pop-up knobs to select 4WD high and low range as well as controls for the differential locks to the left and ride height to the right. In between those are damper settings and stability control disable switches.
On the road the Touareg feels distinctly softer than the Audi Q7. Even with the dampers set to Sport mode, the responses are not as crisp, body roll and pitch is more pronounced and the steering feels lighter. Aside from strong acceleration, it feels like like the Touareg weighs nearly three tons. Oddly, in spite of being a foot shorter, the Touareg does actually weigh more than 400 lbs more than a Q7 TDI 3.0 V6. Most of that extra mass must be underhood because the gas-powered V6 Touareg is about 100 lbs lighter than the Q7. Wherever it is, the Touareg's mass sure makes its presence felt in inertia. The 6-speed automatic transmission, however, shifts smoothly and the immense torque of the diesel engine means it doesn't necessarily have to downshift every time you stab the accelerator.
The V10 Touareg is rated by the EPA at 15 mpg city and 20 highway. During its stay in the Autoblog Garage, it averaged 18 mpg in mostly city driving according the SUV's trip computer, which is by no means exceptional in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, for a three-ton SUV with a max tow rating of 7,700 lbs. and strong acceleration, it's not bad. When the new V6 TDI appears in a couple of months, that number should easily climb into the upper 20 mpg range.
If you don't live in California, New York or one of the other states that follow California emissions rules, you can probably still find a new Touareg V10 TDI. They don't come cheap, though. While a V6 gas-powered Touareg starts just shy of $40,000, a diesel V10 like this one will run you nearly twice as much. The $68,340 base price of our tester was also boosted to $77,880 with the addition of adaptive cruise control, the Lux Plus package (push button start stop, four-zone climate control, etc.) and the technology package (navigation, backup camera, cd changer, etc.). If you do go down this path, you'll certainly get a unique SUV with better performance, fuel efficiency and capability then either the current V6- or V8-powered gas models. Is it worth the mountain of cash you'll need to get one? Probably not, especially with a new Touareg TDI powered by VW's common-rail 3.0L diesel V6 right around the corner.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Substantially revised and dubbed Touareg 2.
The Volkswagen Touareg (TOO-r-egg) is a luxury sport-utility with a rare blend of highway composure, refinement and off-highway capability.
For 2008, the Touareg gets new front and rear lamps and appendages, and while the wrapper looks familiar, there are a couple of thousand new parts within. This represents a major upgrade for 2008, and it's officially dubbed the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2.
Like the Infiniti FX and Mercedes-Benz ML, Touareg eschews a third row of seats for generous five-passenger space in compact packaging. Touareg 2 offers a choice of V6 or V8 gas engines and a diesel, as with the Mercedes ML and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Volkswagen's diesel is the the fastest, the most fuel efficient, and the most expensive. All Touareg models use a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.
Protected by a rigid structure and full suite of airbags and electronic safety systems, the Touareg cabin is at once inviting, involving, and efficient. There are more thoughtful touches than you'll notice at first glance, yet the learning curve is quick, the controls not daunting, and comfort remains high even after hours on the road, or off it.
Touareg 2 is a genuinely capable four-wheel-drive, and it takes to trails like Letterman to a politco's faux pas. Its combination of clearance angles, gearing, fording depth and suspension travel compares to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Hummer H2, and Lexus GX470, and none of those offer the massive thrust of Touareg's diesel and the Jeep and Hummer don't have its adjustable air suspension.
Back on the highway the Touareg has a Teutonic feel, with smoothness imparted by precision and not softness. It cruises effortlessly regardless of road condition, and belies its heft on winding roads. A sports car it isn't, but you could make a dynamic argument for an inclement weather Grand Touring vehicle.
If you like the Volkswagen Touareg 2 but need a third row of seats at the expanse of some off-road capability, check out the Audi Q7; it uses a stretched version of the same structure.
The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 comes in three levels: 3.6 VR6 FSI ($39,320); V8 FSI ($48,320); and V10 TDI Twin Turbo ($68,320).
The 3.6 VR6 comes with a full slate of features, including dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, power windows and locks, heated front seats, power driver's seat, leather shifter and steering wheel with redundant controls, alarm/immobilizer, cruise control, split-folding rear seat, alloy wheels, fog lamps, trip computer, outside and oil temperature displays, aluminum accents, heated power mirrors with synchronized adjustment and right-side reverse tilt, front and rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers and heated washer nozzles, 10-speaker audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio (three-month service included), power liftgate, and six power points, including one 115-volt outlet.
The 4.2 FSI adds a 350-hp V8 engine, leather upholstery and walnut woodwork, bi-xenon curve-following headlights, more chrome trim, 19-inch wheels and more sporting suspension calibration, power passenger seat, driver memory system, power folding auto-dimming outside mirrors, rear seat side sunshades, and sliding center dual-bin armrest.
The V10 TDI comes with the twin-turbo diesel engine, power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, larger brakes and adjustable air suspension with continuous damping control.
Options include a tow hitch ($500), a rear differential lock ($700), 19-inch wheels and tires ($1200) for the VR6, and the air suspension package ($2750). Option packages start with the Lux ($2900), which brings many of the V8 upgrades (leather, wood trim, power passenger seat, AFS2 bi-xenon headlamps) to the VR6. Lux Plus ($3400) adds four-zone climate control, heated rear seats, Dynaudio sound, and keyless operation. The Technologie package ($3350) adds DVD-based navigation, upgraded 11-speaker sound system with CD changer, rear view camera, expanded instrument panel multifunction display, and auxiliary input.
Safety equipment includes rollover-sensing ESP-plus stability control, ABSPlus brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, tire-pressure monitors, Hill Descent Assist, and adjustable seatbelt anchors front and rear. Also standard are front airbags, side-impact airbags, and curtain airbags.
Volkswagen family heritage is clearly evident in the Touareg, from the face of lights and split-frame grille that mirrors Eos and Passat to the large chrome circular logos. For all intents and purposes the body panels remain unchanged, only the trim, lamps and larger rear spoiler atop the hatch have been redone in the interests of fresh appearance and better function for 2008.
The 112-inch wheelbase permits good occupant space and an overall length of less than 16 feet keeps the wheels near the corners. This creates both a muscular stance, with the glass areas rising out of strong shoulders, and maintains the approach and departure angles and clearance necessary for real 4WD use. Unlike virtually every other 4WD SUV and pickup, the Touareg's approach and departure angles are identical, meaning that regardless of which direction you encounter an obstacle, if the leading edge clears it so will the following edge. Large wheelwells do not have fender flares, instead using gracefully curved sheetmetal to house the large wheels and tires.
Touareg is essentially void of superfluous trim. The strip along the lower doors minimizes paint damage, a chrome strip protects the top of the rear bumper, and the signal mirrors transmit intentions to vehicles alongside. Finally, taillights are easy to see and cleanly integrated to avoid being subject to damage on tight trails or crowded market lots.
The entire structure is quite stiff. With a Touareg balanced on just two opposite corner wheels, the hood, hatch, and doors can all be opened and closed with no more than normal effort, an unusual feat. Even the glass section of the hatch, which opens separately and self-latches into the main hatch when it is lifted, is accessible.
While the Touareg 2, Porsche Cayenne, and Audi Q7 share some development background, differences are so significant they can hardly be labeled competitors. Indeed, the Q7, which uses the same gasoline engines and transmission as an FSI Touareg, shares less than 15 percent of its parts with Touareg.
Opening a Touareg door makes a good first impression, as the door itself conveys that feeling of pinpoint-balanced heft and quality and the cabin only reinforces the notion. Few things here appear little or lightweight, from the big T-handle shifter in a wide console to the fairly large steering wheel suitable for a long-distance cruising yacht.
Materials appear first-rate as does assembly; even after days of trail twisting and pavement pounding we heard no squeaks, rattles or wind whistles. The VR6's V-tex upholstery makes a fair rendition of synthetic leather. Genuine leather comes standard on the V8 and V10 and is available on the VR6; it's called Cricket though it chirps and squeaks only if you're wearing leather as well. Even the lower door panels are done in soft-touch material. Dull hard plastic is very hard to find in this car. Leather wrappers for steering wheel and shifter are standard. With leather upholstery also comes leather door pulls and very comfortable armrests. Silver-tinted trim is standard on VR6 but all the aluminum accents pieces are real aluminum, and again, the VR6 may be fitted with the polished walnut that comes in other models.
For 2008, the seats have been recontoured for better side bolstering although comfort was already very good in the previous version. With a wide range of power adjustment, seat heaters and a big padded headrest, it's easy to sit for hours yet not restrained, so you can put your head out the wheel to see exactly where the near-side rocks and obstacles are or where your toll coin landed.
Rear seats are fixed at a good backrest angle balancing comfort and vision, and outboard riders enjoy big, cushy headrests and adjustable height shoulder belts just as front riders do; pop for the Lux Plus package with left/right climate control and seat heaters for the back, and no one should complain.
Storage units are average in number and include a few useful touches. The bins at dash top center are deeper than average, and will not eject contents at quick starts or on steep climbs. On all but the basic VR6, the center armrest slides fore-and-aft, has two stowage compartments, and the lid is articulated so it doesn't flip back and pinch a center rear rider's knees.
Apart from always-on headlights/daytime running lamps that will bring bugs with you to camp, the Touareg gives the driver full control options. Air suspension, where fitted, and the four-wheel-drive system are switched by rotary dials behind the shifter, with Park Assist defeat, ESP, and seat heaters ahead of it. Climate control can be full automatic, or to any combination of outlet vents you choose. The transmission has two automatic shift modes, plus manual mode if you prefer to time your own. Column stalk controls are typical in layout, including the rear wiper, and fuel door and hatch releases are lift-up buttons near the door map pocket that are impossible to trigger accidentally.
The dominant tachometer and speedometer, and smaller numbered ancillary gauges that include both coolant and oil temperature (a better indicator of how hard the engine is working) all have flat faces with anti-reflective coating. Digital displays show miles/trip to right and time/date to left, with a redundant clock over the mirror where everyone can see it. The navigation screen is surrounded by buttons that correspond to adjacent screen icons to keep keystrokes to a minimum, and clearly more intuitive than another German brand's rotate-clockwise-to-decrease logic. Test drives done at night reveal excellent illumination of all instruments and switchgear.
Big outside mirrors provide generous views both near and far, yet are low enough relative to the seating position the driver can look over them rather than having to peer around them. Wiper and washer coverage is excellent at each end, there's plenty of glass area to avoid claustrophobia or blind spots, xenon headlamps follow the road supplanted.
Each Volkswagen Touareg model has its own set of distinct driving characteristics defined by engine, suspension and tires, and each feels of-a-piece solidly built and engineered to a point where it feels all the moving parts are light and balanced, with that rigid platform and luxury features responsible for the weight. Regardless of model one must remember this is a three-ton 4WD able to traverse far more than the typical owner's nerves will permit, and it will not change directions nor stop like a sports car half its weight. VW organizes adventures in Moab to show customers exactly what a Touareg will do. We've attended some of those adventures and came away impressed with its capability.
With short gearing in the six-speed automatic transmission, the VR6 engine's 280 horsepower moves the 5,000-pound Touareg better than you'd expect. Torque is rated at 265 pound-feet from 2500 to 5000 rpm, delivering sufficient midrange power for daily tasks and keeping up if not leading the pack. Towing the maximum rated load over 7,000 pounds or driving at high altitudes will use all it can deliver, which it will do without complaint. The narrow-angle V engine (10.6-degree, as opposed to typical V6 of 60 to 90 degrees) looks and feels more like an inline six-cylinder engine, smooth and stress-free to redline.
The six-speed automatic knows this isn't a big engine and where the power lies, and it quickly shifts to the appropriate gear. Sport mode quickens shift response for more enthusiastic driving styles. Under normal circumstances in Auto mode the 4XMotion four-wheel-drive system (which differs from the 4Motion used in all-wheel-drive VW cars) is transparent to the driver; you select alternate modes seeking specific changes in traction in gearing according to terrain, such as engaging low-range for slow-speed rock crawling or very steep hills. Both uphill starts and severe descents can be helped with electronic systems, as only expert four-wheelers could do any better.
Electronic aids include updated antilock brakes that will form a chock in front of the tires on soft surfaces. This means shorter stopping distances on gravel roads, mud, snow, sand. The electronic stability control system is tied into a rollover sensor, side curtain airbags and steering systems, so they can all work as a team.
For 2008, the Touareg VR6 suspension has been slightly softened and carries the comfort label. Since it rolls on 17-inch wheels and tires designed for all surfaces, the comfort spec is logical, and endows the VR6 with the gentlest ride of the three Touareg models. It responds accurately to driver input, though not as quickly as vehicles like the BMW X5 which haven't the off-road prowess, and the quick steering will execute a U-turn in less space than many mid-sized sedans, an important trait in urban areas and tight off-highway trails. This is also the best package if you frequent poor and potholed roads as the tires will absorb most of the impact, or if you do a lot of winter mountain or icy road travel because the 17-inch tires are snow-chain compatible.
A VR6 may be ordered with the 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires, giving crisper response to turn and brake commands and a moderate increase in maximum cornering grip. As with virtually every other wheeled device, you'll pay a price in ride softness with the 19-inch wheels and notice things like lane divider dots; and there will be a bit more noise as the tire noise of the 17-inch aggressive tread is swapped for a stiffer sidewall and a hair more road noise. None of these issues is severe, and a Touareg remains as quiet inside as any other genuine 4WD. Drivers who prefer something softer and have no interest in off-road capability might be better served by a Lexus RX350, a less adventurous vehicle.
The full air suspension is optional on the VR6 and V8 and standard on the V10 diesel. This system replaces the steel coil spring at each corner with an air.
The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 mixes trail-worthy ability, excellent road manners, and a feature-laden five-seat cabin into a compact package to find favor with urban warriors, outdoor adventurers, suburban sybarites and everyone else who'd like to be one. The array of engines and suspensions permit any buyer personality to design a Touareg they like, the better to appreciate everything you won't notice in a short test-drive.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale test drove Touareg models in Germany, Los Angeles, and Moab, Utah.
Touareg 2 VR6 FSI ($39,320); V8 FSI ($48,320); V10 TDI Twin Turbo ($68,320).
Options As Tested
Technologie package--navigation, upgraded sound system, rear view camera, 6CD, aux input ($3350); tow hitch ($500).
Volkswagen Touareg 2 V8 FSI ($48,320).
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