2004 Touareg New Car Test Drive
We weren't surprised to find refinement inside the comfortable cabin of the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg. After all, we expect refinement in a Volkswagen, known for tautly finished interiors and keen attention to detail. What surprised and impressed us about the Touareg was its stellar off-road capability. It turns out a Volkswagen Touareg can go pretty much anywhere.
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 articulate 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.
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 introduced for the 2004 model year. 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 upcoming Phaeton luxury car and other future Volkswagen models that give it a sophisticated, upscale appearance.
The optional V8 engine, lifted from the superb new Audi A8 L, delivers good acceleration performance, enhanced by a wonderful six-speed automatic transmission that smoothly selects exactly the right gearing for every situation. On the highway, the Touareg provides a fairly smooth ride, though opting for the 19-inch wheels brings in some road vibration and noise. Touareg is no sports sedan, but handling is responsive for a heavy SUV. Off road, the 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.
Inside, the Touareg offers comfortable seating for five with rich interior appointments and controls that are easy to use. Indeed, this is among the most comfortable of Volkswagens with firm, supportive seats.
Measured more broadly, the Touareg is among the best of the mid-size luxury SUVs. 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. What the Touareg does not offer, however, is a third row of seats. So look elsewhere if you need seating for more than five.
Volkswagen Touareg is available in two models: V6 ($34,900) and V8 ($40,700). The 3.2-liter V6 is rated 220 horsepower, while the 4.2-liter V8 boasts 310 horsepower.
The V6 Touareg comes standard with leatherette upholstery, eight-way adjustable seating, wood trim, power glass sunroof, dual-zone Climatronic temperature control with rear seat controls, six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic rain-sensor window wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and many more items. Leather is optional.
The V8 Touareg comes standard with full leather 12-way power adjustable seating, 18-inch alloy wheels, and more luxury features.
Both feature a sophisticated permanent all-wheel-drive system with an electronic stability program (ESP), adaptive torque distribution, a set of low-range gears, a locking center differential, and automatic hill-decent control. A locking rear differential ($550) is available for both models. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with emergency brake assist are standard.
If that isn't enough to boggle the mind, a four-wheel air-suspension system optional for both models ($2,300) automatically adjusts suspension damping (stiffness) and ride height according to driving conditions. The system can also be controlled manually, raising the ride height for driving off road, lowering for high speeds, or kneeling down to let less-agile passengers in and out.
Options for both models include high-intensity discharge headlamps ($750) and an electronic park assist ($600), a useful system that alerts the driver to objects (or, sometimes, children) behind the car when backing up. A navigation system comes bundled with a sound system upgrade ($2,350). The V8 Touareg offers 19-inch wheels with summer tires as an option ($1,200).
The V6 Touareg offers a Premium Package ($2,200) that includes Cricket leather trim, 12-way power seats with memory, heated power folding auto-dimming mirrors with memory, center console wood trim, and a front sliding armrest.
Passive safety features include front, side, and curtain airbags, the latter for head protection in a side impact or rollover. Touareg surrounds occupants with a carefully engineered safety structure with a rigid roof designed to protect them in a crash or rollover, and Volkswagen expects to be awarded a four-star rollover rating from the federal government. Touareg senses when an accident has occurred and automatically unlocks the doors, disconnects the battery, and turns on the warning flashers. Add optional OnStar and an operator will be alerted to send out the safety crews. Most important to safety are seat belts, which should always be worn, and Touareg comes with three-point belts for all passengers including the rear-center position; the front belts are equipped with force-limiters to reduce injuries, while the rear belts have tensioners to enhance their effectiveness.