2005 Touareg New Car Test Drive
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.
The 2005 Volkswagen Touareg is available in three models: V6 ($37,140), V8 ($44,260), and V10 TDI diesel ($58,490).
The 3.2-liter V6 is now rated 240 horsepower, up 20 horsepower from last year, and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. The 4.2-liter V8 still boasts an impressive 310 horsepower.
New for 2005 is a 4.9-liter turbocharged diesel V10. It develops the same 310 horsepower as the gasoline-fired V8, but produces a mountainous 553 pound-feet of torque at just 2000 rpm, compared to the V8's 302 at 3000. Since torque is the force that actually accelerates a vehicle, crawls over rocks and obstacles, and tows trailers, the practical difference between the two engines should be clear and obvious.
All three models are well-equipped. The V6 Touareg comes standard with leatherette upholstery, eight-way adjustable seating, wood trim, power glass sunroof, dual-zone climate control with rear seat controls, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic rain-sensor windshield wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, 17-inch alloy wheels and many more items. Leather is optional ($2,440) and comes with 12-way power adjustable seats and other appointments.
The V8 Touareg adds full leather 12-way power adjustable seating; 18-inch alloy wheels; flush-folding, auto-dimming outside mirrors with memory; and other luxuries. Dual chrome-tipped exhausts and chrome trim on the door sills add to the V8's uptown appearance.
The V10 TDI comes with appropriately larger brakes and Servotronic steering. Four-wheel air suspension, HID headlamps and a multi-color driver information display, optional on other Touaregs, are standard on the V10. The V10 TDI is distinguished by its silver-finished roof rack and additional chrome on the grille.
Safety features on all Touaregs include a sophisticated permanent all-wheel-drive system, an electronic stability program (ESP), adaptive torque distribution. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and emergency Brake Assist are standard. Also standard: a set of low-range gears, a locking center differential, and automatic hill-decent control. A locking rear differential ($550) is available for all models.
Passive safety features include front airbags, side-impact airbags, and curtain airbags, the latter for head protection in a side impact or rollover, all standard. Touareg surrounds occupants with a carefully engineered safety structure with a rigid roof designed to protect them in a crash or rollover. Touareg earned a four-star rating from the federal government (NHTSA) in its frontal crash test and a five-star rating (the highest) in its side-impact tests. Touareg senses when an accident has occurred and automatically unlocks the doors, disconnects the battery, and turns on the warning flashers. Add optional OnStar ($699) 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 seat belts are equipped with force-limiters to reduce injuries, while the rear belts have tensioners to enhance their effectiveness.
If that isn't enough to boggle the mind, the four-wheel air-suspension system (optional on V6 and V8, standard on V10 TDI) 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 it for high speeds, or kneeling down to let less-agile passengers in and out.
For 2005, most options have been bundled into packages, especially on the V8 and V10. The V6 offers a Premium Package ($2,440) 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. High-intensi.