2008 Volkswagen Touareg R50 Review
Aus leidenschaft zum automobile
Torque, Equipment Levels, Handling, Comfort and Ride
Foot Operated Park Brake, Positioning of Stalk Controls
– by Matt Brogan & Anthony Crawford
“Enormous 21- inch alloys, a huge 5.0 V10 bi-turbo diesel with 850 Nm of torque, and massive 295/35 series tyres on all four corners.
No, it’s not one of those monster trucks but rather, the mother of all diesel SUVs – say hello to the Touareg R50”
We’ve been itching to get behind the wheel of this beast, ever since it’s well attended reveal, at the 2007 Sydney Motor Show, last October.
It wasn’t just the thought of 850 mind blowing Newton metres although, I grant you, that is a very, very, big number. Nor was it the R50’s 0-100kms/h acceleration time of 6.8 seconds. It wasn’t even the crazy low fuel consumption of 12.6L/100km combined.
It was all of the above and much more.
This monster looks ready for battle, even at idle. The aggressive styling is more like that of a special edition from ‘go fast’ German tuning houses like Oettinger or MTM, than anything off a mainstream production line at a Volkswagen plant.
First off, the car is significantly lowered. This accentuates those massive, yes massive 21-inch wheels.
But take a peek inside any one of the 10 alloy spokes, on either front corner, and all you can see is blue. Well, not quite. What is visible is one half of a pizza base size rotor, but the other half is covered by the largest set of front brake calipers I have ever seen on any vehicle. And do they haul this modern day, peacetime, Tiger tank up in hurry!
Then there’s the rear roof spoiler and the huge radiator grille in matt chrome with R50 lettering.
Other highlights include; Napa leather sports seats with R50 logos in the head restraints, heated front and rear outer seats, door sill inlays with R50 logos and twin chrome exhaust pipes and I haven’t even began to list the inventory.
The level of standard kit on board the R50 is so extensive, that I would need five pages if I were to itemise every feature. As a driver or passenger, you will want for nothing and almost all of it, is standard.
What isn’t standard though, is the best Satellite Navigation System I have used yet. It’s called the RNS510 and while I don’t know the cost, tick the box anyway. It’s that good.
It’s a high-resolution touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio with 3-D map views and a 30 GB hard drive with an SD card slot and can play DVD.
But seriously, with 850Nm sitting under the bonnet, the luxury side of things was a distant thought.
It’s a Bi- turbo set-up, so the moment you dab the throttle, you’re off and running in the R50. I found only fractional turbo lag from a standing start launch, which, brought my first smile of the day.
It’s a vehicle of large proportions and with this sort torque on tap, I decided to take it easy on the drive back to the office and find out if this really was a monster, or not.
In actual fact, I was almost expecting the R50 to be the SUV equivalent of Bugatti Veyron. Pleasantly, that’s not the case at all. It’s quite content to amble along at slightly less than the speed limit and bumper-to-bumper traffic, is no more difficult than any other garden variety SUV.
I made a b-line for the steepest road I know in Sydney. Near enough to half a kilometre, from bottom to top. It’s a man made Everest, which the Army’s 1 Commando Unit use when sorting the men from the boys.
I’d like to see Nissan’s R35 GT-R get up this hill quicker than the R50. That’s a Top Gear segment, if there ever was one.
The acceleration via 850Nm in all six forward gears, defies logic. This is the car “The Hulk” would have in his driveway.
There’s mild torque steer only when you drill the throttle from a standing start, but the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) employed on the R50, quickly sorts you out, without ever seemingly cutting power to any wheel.
Some of you will be asking why I haven’t yet mentioned the power figure. Put simply and honestly, it’s nothing to write home about.
With so much torque, 258kW tends to be completely overshadowed, but let me tell you straight. It’s enough.
Diesel powered V10’s seem to make their presence known only at idle. BMW’s four-door missile, the M5 is the same. But once you pass 1000 rpm, the diesel clatter magically vanishes.
The soundproofing in the R50 makes this vehicle a quiet car, at any speed. It may as well be called a Grand Tourer; such is its versatility and refinement.
The 6-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox is certainly smooth shifting but don’t bother using the paddle shifters. I found them too slow to be of any use and superfluous at best. You just need to engage the “S” for “Sport” mode. That’s a pity, because this set of paddles look awefully similar to that used in Audi’s R8 supercar.
But I’m not finished raving about this thing just yet. I haven’t told you how Volkswagen has altered the laws of physics, as we know it. That is, when it comes to handling.
The R50 is no lightweight; at over 2500kg and all of 4,754mm long, it’s big. So when I tell you that it turns into corners like a spanking new HSV R8 Clubsport, you would be as surprised as I was.
Super wide 295/35 Michelin rubber on all four corners, do wonders for grip and stability under load. I checked up on the specs for these tyres for you. They are capable of dealing with 0-100km/h in less than 5 seconds and up to 300km/h, if you have a German address. They also come in 25 series and can wrap a 23-inch wheel!
But that’s just half the story. The real genius behind the R50’s extraordinary handling ability lies in the Air sports suspension with Continuous Damping Control (CDC). This system allows you to scroll through three settings Comfort, Auto and Sport. With 35 series profile tyres, the difference between the settings, while noticeable on smooth surfaces, is small at best.
On the hardware side – Sophisticated Double wishbones and Anti-roll bars are employed front and back
Even at considerable speed, you can turn in hard without lifting your foot off the right pedal and there just isn’t any body roll. You might as well be in a Golf GTI. Now that would be an interesting comparison as mad as it sounds. Just don’t bet against the R50!
This is also a proper four-wheel drive complete with a transfer gearbox with low range off road ratio.
I took the vehicle onto some very soft sand to photograph it and despite the fitment of high performance road tyres with tarmac tyre pressures, the low range gearing made light work of the situation.
“The R50 gets my vote for the most capable all round SUV on the market today. It has no weaknesses worth mentioning here. It also represents extraordinary value for money, should you be bothered to scrutinise the sheer number of standard features packed into this vehicle”
Click here to read Matt’s review of the R50.
Volkswagen’s strident motto clearly and eloquently defines their love of the car, though when it comes to the ‘R’ designated models, one must surmise that this is no ordinary love. This is lustful and unadulterated passion.
Having driven the thrilling R32 earlier this year I was impressed at just how well balanced and centred a car it had become above that of the already outstanding Golf. Thanks to some brilliant engineering work the enhanced model is truly something to behold.
Not only had shoe-horning a 3.2 litre V6 in to the small hatch back made it go harder, but every other mechanical feature of the car complimented the package so well as a whole that parting with such splendid company was a very hard process indeed.
Imagine then applying that level of enthusiasm and exhilaration to Volkswagen’s über four wheel drive, the Touareg. Now, that time has come.
R50 takes what is already a masterfully capable all roader and enhances it further with a sports feel unlike that of any so called SUV I’ve yet experienced. In fact it’s very hard to believe the Touareg’s dimensions are so large and weighty from a driver’s prospective.
Originally developed as a joint venture with Porsche, the Touareg’s thoroughbred background cannot be doubted and the demands of an SUV with sports car handling have been met beyond a shadow of a doubt with Porsche’s Cayenne and Audi’s Q7 both sharing the same beastly platform.
R50 pictured in Shadow Blue
Brilliant interactive front and rear self leveling air suspension with adjustable ride height and damper settings are either automatically or driver controlled (depending on the application selected) and offer several modes of firmness and five ride height settings, all at the turn of a dial.
The damper response is almost instantaneous and sharpens the level of control offered and response time in the vehicle’s handling, feel and feedback considerably. Conversely in comfort mode the R50 offers a ride on par with that of many large luxury saloons, truly a remarkable feat.
On paper the torque figures can in no way prepare you for just how hard the R50 can pull, in fact I remember a time not so long ago when large trucks didn’t have this many Newtonmetres. An asphalt stripping 850Nm are on tap from just 2000rpm, which when put to the ground through all four wheels offers blistering results.
Acceleration times to 100km/h in the six second bracket are impressive for any road going car but when you consider the R50 tips the scales at almost 2.6 tonnes then the 6.7 second sprint is nothing short of awesome.
Producing these impressive figures is a beautifully tweaked version of Touareg’s regular 5.0-litre, V10 TDI engine, which has also been slightly augmented from the standard 230kW to develop a burly 258kW @ 3500rpm.
Putting this amount of power to the ground then was surely no easy task, but a proven six-speed auto coupled to VW’s accomplished 4MOTION all-wheel drive system provides seamless delivery with very little in the way of the fuss and wheelspin some other manufacturers seem unable to harness in vehicle’s with half this amount of power.
Dual range all paw grip and a lockable, limited-slip, centre differential accompany a respectable 300mm ground clearance and under engine bash plate to offer modest off-road jaunts. Although the system itself presents no issues at all, the low profile tyres and deep slung side skirts do inhibit R50’s true off-road potential.
Now I know what you’re thinking, sure this thing’s great, but have you seen the price of fuel? Sure, but consider this. The average combined consumption of the R50 is 12.6 litres per 100km, and it is very easily attainable if you manage to curb your enthusiasm. This makes the R50 no more costly to fuel than a Falcon or Commodore!
Being such a size, and with all that torque on hand, I could well see the R50 being used as both a work horse and show pony. It’s easy to drive, has a substantial towing capacity of 3500kg (braked) and as if that’s not enough there’s standard chrome roof racks and a cargo area capable of stowing some 1525 litres of gear (with seats down – 500 litres to window height with seats up).
Complimenting the daunting stance of Touareg’s already despotic silhouette are some unique body additions including rear and side spoilers, 21 x 10 inch Omanyt rims and a little extra chrome work to add a conservative amount of bling to the stately top-of-the-range wagon.
The interior too is customised for the R50 and although the basic layout is shared with its poorer siblings, the attention to detail, especially that of the bespoke sports alcantara leather seats make you feel, perhaps deservedly for the price, so very regal indeed.
Memorised seating, steering column and mirror positions, sumptuous yet supportive cow hide pews, hectares of space and every conceivable modern day convenience – all with Volkswagen’s reputable, no nonsense engineering – are all offered standard for the $130K price tag.
The Dynaudio stereo system is first rate and coupled with a hard drive 3D satellite navigation system and full colour guided reversing camera makes piloting the R50 an experience you’ll look forward to time and again.
Now I guess a lot of people will struggle with quantifying the merits of a vehicle in this price bracket but when you consider the performance, economy, space, size and level of kit on offer for the money, any one considering a high-end SUV would in my opinion have a hard time doing better any place else.
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