1 Sep 2003
By CHRIS HARRIS
The Touareg is a significant vehicle in that it represents VW’s first crack at building an SUV.
Volkswagen says its design brief was to build a vehicle that delivers "superlative performance on-road and off-road".
VW shareholder Porsche collaborated in the development of the Touareg and its close cousin the Porsche Cayenne. But while these two vehicles share their basic platform, they differ markedly in their drivetrains and, obviously, appearance.
Like all its rivals, the Touareg is built on a monocoque chassis that is sprung independently – by double wishbones – on all four corners. The Touareg’s 4XMOTION all-wheel drive system distributes torque to front and rear axles in a 50:50 ratio in normal circumstances, but up to 100 per cent can be directed to either end when the going gets rough.
Where the Touareg differs from most rivals is in its provision of a centre differential lock, which can be engaged via a knob on the centre console. It is also equipped with genuine low-range gearing of 36:1 in first. There’s even an optional rear cross-axle diff lock.
The base petrol engine is a162kW/305Nm 3.2-litre V6 with 162kW and 305Nm, followed by a 4.2-litre V8 with 228kW and 410Nm.
On the diesel the thumping 230kW/750Nm 5.0-litre V10 turbo-diesel was followed in October ’04 by a 128kW/400Nm 2.5-litre five-cylinder TDI R5 model.
A six-speed automatic is standard across the range and this transmission can either be left to its own devices, or controlled manually. The V8 and V10TDI come with F1-style paddles behind the steering wheel, while the V6 makes do with a conventional Tiptronic shifter.
The R5, V6 and V8 models are suspended on conventional steel springs, but the V10 TDI relies on Continuous Damping Control (CDC) air suspension that enables the driver to select one of six ride heights – ranging from an autobahn-friendly 160mm to a tippy-toe 300mm. Ground clearance on steel-sprung models is 237mm.
Touareg V8 buyers can order the air suspension as part of an option.
Volkswagen says the Touareg has been designed to handle speeds of 270km/h (which the imminent W12 would no doubt be capable of if it wasn’t speed limited) and all models have an impressive 3500kg towing capacity.
The Touareg’s design places great emphasis on pedestrian safety, says VW, and to assist in this cause the bonnet is fabricated from aluminium and the front guards are plastic. The other benefit of the plastic guards is that they can withstand low-speed impacts without sustaining damage.
Even the base model gets front, side and full-length curtain airbags, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, dual-zone climate control, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Hill Start Assist, Downhill Assist and six-speed automatic transmission.
The V6 Luxury Pack adds leather upholstery, electrically adjustable (and heated) front seats and woodgrain trim.