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
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.
“While 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.
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 rear.
“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
“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
“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 driver.
“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
“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 sound
“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 remedied.”
(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.)