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
Now comes the VW Touareg, classified as a light truck in the
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Type 5.0L 10
Cylinder, 2V, 90°, V, diesel
Bore 3.19 in 81.0 mm
Stroke 3.76 in 95.5 mm
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
Cylinder Block Cast
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
Cooling System Water
cooled, water pump, cross flow radiator, thermostatically controlled electric
duocentric oil pump
Fuel/Air Supply Direct
injection, two turbo chargers/intercooler
Non-Tier 2 BIN 10 (LDT4) 45 state emissions concept
(Federal Only/45 State)
electronic, with knock sensor
Drivetrain 4XMOTION permanent four-wheel drive system with low
range gear and adaptive torque distribution
Transmission Gear Ratios 1st 4.15
Low range transfer case reduction 2.66
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
Turns (lock to lock) 2.9
Turning circle (curb to curb) 38.1 ft 11.6 m
EPA Class Light
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
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
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
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
Parking Brake Mechanical,
effective on rear wheels
Wheels/Tires 8J X
18” alloy wheel
H, all season tires (snow chain compatible)
inflatable spare tire
Drag Coefficient .38
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
Curb Weight 5,924
lbs. 2,687 kg
lbs. 513 kg
Towing Capacity (max braked trailer) 7,716 lbs. 3,500 kg
Maximum Roof Cargo Weight