Is it a Porsche Cayenne without the fancy badges. Not at all,
according to our down-under correspondent John Weinthal, who spent some time, on
and off-road with this vehicle. Here are the Words from Weinthal.
new Touareg represents a genuinely significant entry to the ranks of serious
off-road wagons. It comes from Europe’s largest vehicle builder - a firm with
a formidable reputation for engineering excellence, build quality and more than
a touch of market savvy. The VW Group embraces a raft of automotive brands
including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Skoda and SEAT.
“Heavy duty four-wheel-drives are about the only arena in
which the VW Group has not played to date. However, it does have experience of
all-wheel-drive in many vehicles including light commercials and cars ranging
from the VW Bora and Passat 4Motion, through numerous Audi quattros to the
latest Lamborghini Countach Gallardo and Murcielago.
most people think of VW as the archetypal German vehicle maker, in fact it has
factories in all quarters of the globe. VW is, for instance, by far the largest
automaker in China - the world’s fastest expanding vehicle market.
“The New Beetle emanates from Mexico; Bentley can only be
British; Lamborghini Italian, SEAT is made in Spain and so it goes. Thus it
should be no surprise that the imposing Touareg range should hail from
Bratislava in Czechoslovakia. I believe they are the only Czech-made vehicles
currently sold here in Australia.
“The Mitsubishi Challenger/Nissan Pathfinder-sized Touareg
comes in three distinct specification levels identified primarily by their
engines. Styling which implies function over flirt is common to all models and
has clever relationships to other VW models - particularly the Golf from the
“Tourag starts with a base - but still well equipped and
highly competent - 3.2 litre, 162kW, V6 model at just under AUD 70,000. The
second petrol Touareg is a 228kW, 4.2 litre V8 for AUD 100,000. But, all eyes
will swing your way when you go on about your new 5 litre V10 diesel Touareg. It
won’t be the AUD 139,000 price tag that grabs attention so much as
twin-turbocharged 230kW V10 diesel engine’s ability to deliver an awesome
750Nm of torque available from just 2000 revs.
“This handsome, five-seater hold-all is more than
adequately luxurious and lavishly equipped to justify its price, even before
some of the high tech stuff is taken into account. Its only true competitors are
the strangely styled yet closely related Porsche Cayenne and the grand daddy of
all luxury off-roaders - the Ford-owned, British-made Range Rover.
“The V6 and V8 Touaregs compete with the likes of the BMW
X5, Honda MDX, Lexus RX330 and the Mercedes ML, but of these only the Merc and
VW are true off-roaders with high and low range transmissions. All are automatic
“Our first encounter with Touareg was with the V8s in the
Daintree Forest north of Port Douglas and on the great tourist roads north of
Cairns. Both proved ideal testing grounds for this car’s twin fortes
demonstrating refined competence regardless of the demands of terrain and
“Again one must emphasize that these are serious vehicles.
Sure, their handsome good looks and lavish interiors fit them for the cityscape,
but not to the extent that owners will be reluctant to get down and dirty from
beach to rugged bushland.
“Safety is a standout feature with the number of airbags
and electronic traction and braking aids rising with each model. Leather is the
go for the V8 and V10 and for an L version of the V6 which costs AUD 9,000 more
than the base V6. One of the best sat nav systems tried so far is the AUD 4,900
option for the V6 and V8 and standard on the V10.
“The autos have six speeds with manual over-ride available
plus F1-style steering wheel paddle controls on the V8 and V10.
“Full air suspension is standard on the V10 and an AUD
8,400 option on the V8, this option adding brilliant xenon headlamps.
“Minor downsides are the fact that the smart 16”,
18" and 19" alloy wheels are backed up only by a space saver spare. A
full size tailgate mounted spare is an expensive option regardless of model and
you would not even want to consider the cost of replacing one of the giant
19" tyres fitted on the V10.
“There is a confusion of minor instruments with hard to
read red needle on black background markings, and the V8 and V10 have a silly
crowded 320kph speedometer.
“A more important criticism is the barely adequate
air-conditioning. This is a weak area for several Europeans compared with even
the most basic Asian and Aussie efforts. Not only does the Touareg air-con
struggle to bring temperatures down and hold them but there is a constant fan
roar which is almost enough to cancel conversation or enjoyment of the excellent
“Beyond these niggles the interior is all class, on the V8
and V10 particularly - leather and wood trim, climate control air front and
rear, fine sound system and - when fitted - excellent sat nav.
“There are plenty of useful storage spaces and the carpeted
rear luggage cover is more than adequately commodious for a substantial camping
break. A tonneau cover conceals your gear from prying eyes.
“VW has done well with Touareg. The few blemishes on the
company’s first venture into the realm of big-time off-roaders will be easily
(Thank you John, but the lack of cooling with the air-con
would be a worry in Thailand that has higher ambient temperatures than
Queensland, Australia. I believe a blemish such as that would be a very large
one in this country, and not so easily remedied. Dr. Iain.)