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Test Drive: VW Touareg

This vdoublya is a sweet ride

Published online: Dec 20, 2007 Feature LANE LINDSTROM
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Yea, we know it sounds a little crazy, but when we were first approached about test driving the new VW Touareg we resisted.

It wasn't as if we don't like driving fancy new vehicles, it's just we don't normally do vehicle reviews-sleds yes, trucks/SUVs no.

Much of the reason we don't do truck/SUV reviews is it seems we're never asked to test the vehicles in the winter-our preferred season. Our brief history of test drives have been in the summer and fall.

So, after going for years without test driving a single vehicle with wheels, here is our second review in less than a year. You might remember we ran a story last February detailing our test drive of the new Toyota Tundra.

Now comes the VW Touareg, classified as a light truck in the luxury class.

But it took some persistence on VW's part to convince to give the Touareg a spin.

We told VW we would be willing to test drive the Touareg but we weren't going to stick to the paved highway (although we admit there's something unsettling about taking a $70,000 vehicle off road.) Fine, go ahead and take it off road, we were told by VW officials.

Okay, we're planning to tow a trailer with it. Have at it, we were told.

If VW was willing to really let us test drive the vehicle, then why should we pass up the opportunity?

Despite what we consider to be a disadvantage of testing in the summer months, we finally relented and test drove the Touareg for nearly two weeks, covering 2,361 miles in Idaho, Utah and Montana.

And we towed a 4-place enclosed snowmobile trailer with two sleds in it-up a hill.

And we went off road for hundreds of miles over some roads that could easily be classified as 4-wheel drive trails.

The Touareg handled it all.

Admittedly, nearly every time during our near two-week jaunt in the Touareg, when something impressed us, we couldn't help ourselves from thinking, "Yea, it should do that for 70,000 bucks." For the record, the model we drove has a sticker price of $69,470.

While we never totally could rid our minds of the price tag, we did enjoy driving and testing a vehicle that had few quirks but was long on features.

One of the features that most impressed us is what's under the hood. The version of the Touareg we drove had the V10 TDI, a 5.0 liter direct injected diesel that has an awesome 310 hp and 553 lbs. ft of torque. Giddy up and go this Touareg did. If you opened the hood and looked at the engine you would never guess the Touareg was capable of those kinds of numbers-it's shoehorned into the engine compartment and just doesn't look that big. Climbing hills (minus a trailer) wasn't even an issue for the Touareg and we hit some pretty big ones, both paved and non-paved. Even pulling a snowmobile trailer, the vehicle did okay, but we'll get to that later.

Need to pass? Press the gas pedal and the twin turbos help get the job done quickly and smoothly. The Touareg responds so well in those kinds of situations you'll find yourself looking for vehicles to pass or hills to climb. The power becomes addictive.

If you have a lead foot, which can happen with a vehicle like the Touareg, that can affect the fuel efficiency. VW claims 17 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Basing our figures on the what the vehicle read while scrolling through the vast amounts of information available to you while driving the Touareg, we averaged 21 mpg on the freeway at speeds averaging 78 mph. That was while carrying four passengers and the driver. On a separate trip from eastern Idaho to Boise, ID, with just two people in the vehicle, the Touareg averaged 23.9 mpg at 70-75 mph.  

As mentioned, there is tons of information available to the driver from the vehicle's onboard computers. Just in the fuel consumption/mpg category alone there are three different settings that allow you to determine four different categories of information. The four categories are the same in each setting: average consumption, average speed, distance and drive time. The settings are: Since Start (each time you start the vehicle), Long Term and Since Refuel.

That's all nice and fine but how does it tow and do off-road? Those are two areas we most wanted to know about.

Towing

The towing weight of the Touareg is listed at 7,716 lbs.

We used a four-place snowmobile trailer with a listed weight of 6520 lbs. Then we put two snowmobiles, a 2007 Arctic Cat M8 and M6, each about 500 lbs., in the trailer, putting the weight at 7520 lbs.

We went to the Conant Hill in Swan Valley for our test. The hill has a 6 percent grade and our test run was a little more than a mile. Using a satellite-based GPS excelerometer for accuracy, we compared the 2006 Touareg against a 2005 Chevy Silverado 6.6L Duramax LLY, each towing the snowmobile trailer.

Here are the results:

 

2005 Chevy Silverado 6.6L Duramax

 

Run No. 1 - Began with a rolling start at 65 mph. Ending (at the top of the hill) 72.6 mph, 1 minute, 6 seconds from bottom to top

Run No. 2  - Began with a rolling start at 55 mph. Ending (at the top of the hill) 72.3 mph 1 minute, 8.5 seconds from bottom to top

 

2006 VW Touareg V10 TDI

 

Run No. 1 - Began with a rolling start at 65 mph. Ending (at the top of the hill) 71.9 mph, 1 minute, .44 seconds from bottom to top

Run No. 2  - Began with a rolling start at 55 mph. Ending (at the top of the hill) 67.5 mph, 1 minute 9.62 seconds from bottom to top

 

On both vehicles, we had them floored from the bottom of the hill to the top.

Of course, the uphill challenge could have been much different were there snow on the road, but we tested in the conditions we had and those are the results.

We carefully reviewed the owner's manual on the Touareg to make sure we were able to get the maximum towing capability we could from the vehicle. Here are a couple of suggestions we came across in the owner's manual that could change someone's perception of the Touareg's towing capabilities.

Here's the first one. Under the heading of Maximum trailer weight, it states, "You can only tow typical class 1 or class 2 trailers with your vehicle. The maximum gross trailer weight and the tongue load must never exceed the specifications listed in booklet 2.5 "Technical Data."

So you flip over to the booklet and it reads the "maximum permissible trailer weights" for the diesel Touareg as 7,716 lbs.

Common accepted standards for a class 1 trailer is 2,000 lbs. gross trailer weight and class 2 3,500 lbs. gross trailer weight.

Obviously there's a discrepancy. Maybe it's just lawyers trying to cover VW's butt.

The second "red flag" that went up after reading the owner's manual states this, "In altitudes above 3,000 feet, reduction of 10 percent of combined towing weight (vehicle plus trailer) for the beginning of every 3,000 feet should be observed."

It's a known fact that you lose horsepower as you gain elevation. However, a turbo diesel should offer up the same horsepower at any elevation-that's one of the benefits of a turbo.

Using our simple shootout in Swan Valley as an example, we would be limited to 6,944 lbs. We figure we were at 6,520 lbs. with the trailer and sleds so we were within VW's recommendations because we were driving around the 5,000-foot level.

However, if we were headed to Island Park (6,290 feet), you would have to take off another 10 percent (total now is 1,543 lbs. off the 7,716-pound towing limit), leaving the Touareg with an allowable 6,172.8 lbs. of allowed trailer/sled weight. In our scenario, we would have to go with a lighter trailer or we could leave a sled at home.

Or use a two-place trailer, which we think is better suited to the Touareg anyway.

For example, a Wells Cargo aluminum two-place trailer has a GVWR of 3,850 lbs., well within the towing capacity of the Touareg. You might be screwed if you're towing in some of Colorado's highest altitudes, but more than likely that won't be a problem if you stick with a two-place trailer.

We noticed a couple of things during our uphill tests. When we took the trailer off road (turning around in a field to run the hill again), there were some wrenching noises, which we assume was the vehicle's frame twisting under the weight of the trailer. However, the vehicle has a very nice tight turning radius, which would come in handy in tight parking lot or plowed road.

Off-Road Driving

As impressive as the Touareg is on the highway, it's equally as impressive off-road. We took the VW on two big off-road trips. One was along Fall Creek and June Creek in the Caribou Range in eastern Idaho.

The other was up along the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana. This was the longer of the two trips-nearly 300 miles, most of which was on a dirt road, which, sometimes, were just two tracks in the grass. The general route was from Rexburg to Dubois, over Bannack Pass to Lima, MT. We turned east off Interstate 15 at Monida and took the Red Rock Road past Lakeview, MT,  over Red Rock Pass to Island Park, up to the top of Sawtell Peak and then back to Rexburg. The dirt roads we drove ran the gamut from well graded to rutted to times when the two tracks through the grass were barely visible. The second trip also included a water-crossing (several times for pictures' sake).

Here are some observations after the 300 miler:

·        For the bumps we went over, there weren't many rattles or shakes coming from anywhere in the vehicle.

·        After both drives on the dirt roads, there was lots of dust in the door jambs. A cloud of dust appeared when you opened the door. It was worse on the passenger side but we should point out dust never got inside the vehicle.

·        Because of the short wheel base in the back, the rear door and window got plastered with dust, which you can assume would happen in snow, too. There is a rear wiper, but it's pretty small and doesn't clear off much of the window.

·        Even on the most bumpy parts of the road, the ride of the Touareg was smooth, almost like you were on a paved highway.

·        The full-time four-wheel drive meant we didn't have to push any buttons at anytime to assist in certain driving conditions. Dubbed 4XMotion, the all-wheel drive system is fully automatic.

It's while driving off-road where one of the Touareg's coolest features comes into play-the 4-Corner Air Suspension. This really cool feature keeps the vehicle's ride height constant on both axles, automatically adjusting for weight loads in different parts of the vehicle. Say you're carrying something heavy in the back of the Touareg, which would make the front end tip up. The air suspension compensates for that. There are four ride height level settings: load level (the lowest level, allowing you load and unload the vehicle); street level (height when driving on normal roads); off-road level (a higher vehicle height for driving off road); and X-tra level (for special off-road situations). Ground clearance at load level is 6.29 inches while street level is 7.28 inches. The off-road level is 9.44 inches and the X'tra level is 11.81 inches.

The off-road level was handy when we crossed the stream on our big off-road adventure.

Here's the other very cool feature. Part of the six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission, which allows you to shift manually, is the hill descent control and hill-start assistant. The hill descent control automatically activates whenever you drive down a slope that is steeper than 20 degrees.

We tested the hill descent coming down from the top of Sawtell Peak, which you can drive to in the summer. If we manually shifted the transmission to second, the Touareg stayed right near 20 mph, regardless of how steep the mountain was. In third, it stayed at 30 mph. Of course, as the owner's manual aptly points out, this technology can't overcome the laws of physics. But it worked well when we tried it.

Here are some more general observations:

·        The Touareg is smooth even at 110 mph (got 20 mpg) across the desert in eastern Idaho-not that we're confessing to anything.

·        While the GPS is a cool feature, it's not exactly accurate. One time it said we were not on a digitized road when we never changed course or left the road. And it's not up to date. It didn't recognize the new south Idaho Falls exit off Interstate 15, which has been there for about a year. The GPS system utilizes a DVD that is inserted into the dash. While it had several cool features, the few days we had the vehicle didn't allows to try all the features that were available. It wasn't too difficult to figure out the navigation system on the fly, except the owner's manual cautions against working it while driving.

·        The CD changer is in the back of the vehicle, like in the storage compartment. It holds six CDs but if you want to change them, you have to stop, get out, got to the back and do it.

·        The vehicle is very quiet for a diesel.

 

The VW Touareg has all the features you'd expect in a $70,000 vehicle.

Just one of the decisions a buyer would have to make is are you willing to tow your snowmobiles with such an expensive vehicle.

 

2007 U.S. Touareg V10 TDI Technical Specifications

Engine

Type    5.0L 10 Cylinder, 2V, 90°, V, diesel

Bore     3.19 in  81.0 mm

Stroke  3.76 in  95.5 mm

Displacement    300.2 in3          4,920 cm3

Compression Ratio       18.0:1

Horsepower (SAE) @rpm        310 @ 3,750 (230 kW @ 3,750)

Maximum torque, lbs. - ft @ rpm         553 @ 2,000 (750 Nm @ 2,000)

Fuel Requirement          Diesel fuel (Ultra Low Sulfor Diesel - ULSD recommended)

Firing Order     1-6-5-10-2-7-3-8-4-9

Engine Management      Bosch PDE P1.5

Engine Design

Arrangement     Front mounted, longitudinal

Cylinder Block Cast iron

Crank Shaft      Forged steel, five main bearings

Cylinder Head  Aluminum alloy, cross flow

Valve Train       Single overhead camshaft, spur belt driven, two valves per cylinder, maintenance free hydraulic lifters

Cooling System            Water cooled, water pump, cross flow radiator, thermostatically controlled electric radiator fan

Lubrication       Chain-driven duocentric oil pump

Fuel/Air Supply            Direct injection, two turbo chargers/intercooler

Emissions         Interim Non-Tier 2 BIN 10 (LDT4) 45 state emissions concept

            OBD II (Federal Only/45 State)

Electrical System

Alternator-A/Ah           190/95

Battery-A/Ah   480/85

            520/110

Ignition Digital electronic, with knock sensor

Drivetrain

Drivetrain         4XMOTION   permanent four-wheel drive system with low range gear and adaptive torque distribution

Transmission Gear Ratios          1st        4.15

            2nd        2.37

            3rd        1.56

            4th        1.15

            5th        0.86

            6th        0.69

            Reverse            3.39

            Final     3.27

Low range transfer case reduction                     2.66

Capacities

Engine Oil (with filter)               14.3 qt 13.5 L

Fuel Tank         26.4 gal            22.0 gal (IMP) 100 L

Cooling System            10.0 qt             17 L

Wiper Fluid      6.3 qt               6.0L

Steering

Type    Servotronic power steering

Turns (lock to lock)      2.9

Turning circle (curb to curb)      38.1 ft  11.6 m

Ratio    14.7:1

Interior Volume-SAE

EPA Class        Light Truck

Seating Capacity           Five

Passenger Volume        99 ft3    2.8 m3

Cargo Volume  31 ft3    0.9 m3

Cargo Volume with rear seat folded (floor to ceiling)     71 ft3    2.0 m3

            Front   Rear

Volume            55.1 ft3 1.6 m3  44.4 ft3 1.3 m3

Head Room      38.7 in  983 mm            38.3 in  974 mm

Shoulder Room            57.7 in  1,465 mm         57.4 in  1,457 mm

Leg Room        41.3 in  1,049 mm         35.6 in  904 mm

Body, Chassis and Suspension

Type    Unibody construction

Front Suspension          Double wishbone front independent suspension with 4-Corner adjustable air suspension with six adjustable ride heights and Continuous Damping Control-three adjustable damping settings

Rear Suspension           Four link rear independent suspension with 4-Corner adjustable air suspension with six adjustable ride heights and Continuous Damping Control -three adjustable damping settings

Service Brakes Power assisted front vented disc brakes (350 mm X 34 mm), rear vented disc brakes (330 mm X 28 mm)

Anti Lock Braking System        All four wheels

Parking Brake  Mechanical, effective on rear wheels

Wheels/Tires    8J X 18" alloy wheel

            255/55 R18 H, all season tires (snow chain compatible)

            Anti-theft wheel locks

            195.75 R18, inflatable spare tire

Drag Coefficient           .38

Dimensions

Wheelbase       112.4 in            2,855 mm

Front Track      65.2 in  1,655 mm

Rear Track       65.7 in  1,670 mm

Length  187.2 in            4,754 mm

Width   75.9 in  1,928 mm

Height  68.0 in  1,726 mm

Ground Clearance-4-corner air suspension

Load level (0-3 mph)    6.3 in    (0-5 km/h)        160 mm

Standard level   8.7 in                220 mm

High speed level I (from 87 mph)          7.7 in    (from 140 km/h)           195 mm

High speed level II (from 118 mph)       7.3 in    (from 190 km/h)           185 mm

Off-road level (0-43 mph)        9.6 in    (0-70 km/h)      245 mm

X'tra level (0-12 mph)  11.8 in  (0-20 km/h)      300 mm

Weights

Curb Weight     5,924 lbs.         2,687 kg

Payload            1,131 lbs.         513 kg

Towing Capacity (max braked trailer)   7,716 lbs.         3,500 kg

Maximum Roof Cargo Weight