Volkswagen / Touareg / 5-dr wagon range

September 03-October 06 Volkswagen Touareg 5-dr wagon range Rear shot

Our opinion

Equipment levels, design, rough-road ride comfort, cabin quality

Room for improvement

Huge steering wheel, light steering, resale values, space-saver spare

By NEIL McDONALD 17/10/2006

THERE is a distinct trend occurring in luxury four-wheel drive circles. Buyers are increasingly turning to turbo-diesels as the preferred engine choice over a petrol engine.

It makes sense really. Turbo-diesel offer more torque, are up to 25 per cent more thrifty than equivalent petrol models in large SUVs, and their performance is something to behold.

And if they ever go seriously off-road, the low-speed torque of a diesel can be truly appreciated.

In the case of Volkswagen’s new Touareg 3.0-litre V6 TDI, the turbo-diesel is also quieter under load than the equivalent 3.6-litre FSI petrol V6.

The 3.0-litre TDI is a new engine in the Touareg line-up, along with the 3.6-litre FSI petrol engine.

In an effort to lay the groundwork for the facelifted Touareg model next year, VW Group Australia has wasted no time in realigning its model lineup and slashing prices - $5000 off the entry R5 TDi and a massive $15,000 off the range-topping V10 TDI.

Two new engines, a petrol V6 and TDI V6 have been added to the range while the V8 has been dropped.

Equipment levels in the 3.0-litre TDI test are impressive and expected in a luxury off-roader.

The 3.0-litre TDI has 4Motion four-wheel drive system with low-range, dual zone climate control, six airbags, ABS and ESP, brake assist, hill hold and hill descent control, 17-inch "Canyon" alloys, cruise control, trip computer, multi-function steering wheel, net partition and luggage cover, front foglights, front and rear parking sensors, exterior chrome package, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, hinged rear window, central locking and six-stacker CD changer. The only downside is a space-saver spare but at least a full-size spare, hinged off the rear door, can be ordered for $1990.

The V6 TDI also gains an alarm system, walnut wood and brushed aluminum highlights, cricket leather, electrically adjustable and heated front seats. After driving the petrol 3.0-litre V6 and then jumping into the TDI 3.0-litre V6, the differences were obvious.

The 3.0-litre TDI is shared with Audi but in the Touareg it develops 165kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm between 1500rpm and 1800rpm, shooting away from the traffic lights with an impressive torque curve that continues to build.

Up long, steep hills near Thredbo, the TDI just kept on going overcoming its 2.2-tonne mass when the V6 petrol would become noisy and change down a cog or two to maintain momentum up steep hills.

The V6 TDI accelerates to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds and has a top speed of 205km/h. Average fuel consumption is 10.9L/100km and we managed 11.7L/100km over some mixed gravel and sealed roads.

That’s not to say the petrol V6 is a slouch. With 206kW at 6200rpm and 360Nm at 2800rpm, the petrol engine can hit 100km/h in 8.7 seconds and has a top speed of 215km/h.

But it is the common-rail piezo-injected V6 TDI that really impresses. So much so that VW Group Australia expects it to make up 70 per cent of sales.

The impressive V6 TDI is enough to swing us back into a Touareg.

However, some persistent issues remain with the car and will not be corrected until the facelift arrives in less than 12 months.

The steering is still too light and uncommunicative, the front seats lack cushion and backrest support and some of the switchgear is too scattered around the dashboard. All of these things, we understand, have been fixed in the facelift.

Bonuses are the fact that for a family, the Touareg is a commodious vehicle and it has proven off-road credentials.

It has plenty of leg and head room and luggage space - 555 litres to 1570 litres with the rear seats folded.

The 4motion all-wheel drive system is already proven in other VW products and the Touareg is no exception.

The system splits torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles in normal drive conditions.

4motion transmits the power through a transfer case that is equipped with an off-road reduction ratio – low-range – as standard.

The centre differential has continuous locking as standard.

As soon as slip is detected, the multiple-disc lock of the centre differential redistributes power to wheels with grip. This is assisted by an electronic differential lock with active brake control.

Up too 100 per cent of drive can be transmitted to one of the two axles.

It is an impressive system, and although not tested in the new model, we have experienced it off-road previously. It’s no off-road pretender.

There is a lot to like about the Touareg.

It has the confidence to go off-road, it’s well built and the styling, in our eyes, is more resolved and pleasing to the eye than the Cayenne. The only nagging doubts are resale values.

We suspect that with the car’s repositioning and VW’s commitment to increasing sales, more buyers will experience this consummate offering.

But the 3.0-litre TDI is the pick of the bunch.

 Volkswagen Touareg 5-dr wagon range - Action shot

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