2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI Review
Options fitted: Automatic tailgate, $1390
- by Karl Peskett
There’s only one figure in this review you need to know. 750 Newton metres. That’s it. You can skip to the end now. Seriously, it’s that figure which dominates this car.
You see, Volkswagen have seen fit to endow the Touareg with possibly the best diesel engine on the market today. Yes, ze Germans are good at their stuff. For those that scoff at it being “just a diesel”, 5-litres in V10 guise and twin turbos will make up for any compromise you might think you have to live with.
Hop in to the smooth, soft leather, 16-way adjustable electric seats, and don’t bother putting a key into the dash – you don’t need to. It knows the key is in the car. Foot on the brake, and press the now ubiquitous start/stop button, and the starter motor churns, quickly firing up all ten cylinders. But if the 600W stereo is up a little, you won’t even know it’s idling.
Smoother than a politician on the election trail, this motor is a phenomenal piece of engineering. It’s not vociferous by any means, but it is rapacious. Combined fuel usage is listed at 12.6L/100km. Good luck trying to achieve that figure. On our test (with an admittedly slightly heavy right foot) we averaged 18.2L/100km.
The unique sound is nothing like you imagine a V10 to be. While idling or loping slowly around the city, there’s barely a hint of its compression ignition origins. But put the boot in, and it growls, similar to a whooshy Volvo 5-cylinder – only with turbo whistles laid over the top.
And when you do put the boot in, all seven-hundred-and-fifty Newton metres kick you in the back, as they do their best to launch 2.5 tonnes of 4WD. Indeed, launching is possible. Foot on the brake, foot on the accelerator, let the revs rise to about 3000rpm. Then let the brake go. Wham! A slight chirp and it’s off.
First gear’s gone. Second gear’s finished. Third gear is winding out and, oh dear, we seem to have exceeded our national speed limit. And then some. 0-100km/h is dispatched in 7.4 seconds. To put that in perspective, that’s quicker than a Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
What’s scary though is that you realise that this is a car that is still meant to go off-road. Time to back off and savour the surroundings.
Audi’s influence on its parent company is obvious. The Touareg’s plastics are all tactile and soft. There are no squeaks, or rattles. The body structure is solid and quiet even though our test car had over 10,000km on the clock.
The steering wheel (and column), straight from the Bentley 2006 Continental family, initially seems large, but is actually the right size, especially for the rough stuff. Clear, bright and attractive instrumentation give the Touareg its luxury SUV edge, and set the standard for other marques. Pity the same couldn’t be said about the centre stack. Littered with a million buttons, it’s far too complex for its own good.
The brushed aluminium that borders the cockpit is contrasted with lacquered walnut (yes, it’s real wood), giving an air of timeless style. Even though Volkswagen has held back from overdoing the wood theme, there’s enough to lift the ambience to a warmer tone.
The rear seats, although comfy, are a little lacking in space, especially head and foot room, but then, we did test them with 5 guys in the car who are all 6ft tall. However, the standard four-zone climate control, which caters for the rear passengers as well, was appreciated.
Unlike the Audi Q7 (which shares the same platform), the Touareg doesn’t offer a 3rd row, and so the boot is a decent size, with enough width and height to accommodate all your gear. But unless you option the eye-wateringly ugly spare-wheel carrier, you’ll have to make do with a space-saver.
It’s kind of like Jennifer Hawkins being able to wear a bikini, but choosing to wear a hessian sack because it’s cheaper. If you’ve got the room for a full size spare, why not use it? Given the size of this beast and its 4WD role, it’s not a sacrifice I’d be happy with.
What was a surprise was the optional automatic tailgate. Ideal for shopping, or when rain heads your way, a button on the key-fob opens the motorised tailgate. And when you’ve finished loading, simply press the button on the bottom of the tailgate and it shuts itself, as well as latching closed. Neat, and handy. The entire Touareg range can be optioned with it too - it comes highly recommended.
Where the Touareg departs from Volkswagen’s traditional ways, is in the area of braking. Normally, Volkswagen’s braking is set up slightly over-assisted, and gentle dexterity is required to not send passengers through the windscreen.
The Touareg’s brakes are the opposite. When brakes are applied, you wonder whether the thing will stop, but each increment of travel reveals even more retardation. Indeed, a heavy-handed (or should that be footed?) slam engages the electronic brake-assist and distribution function which hauls down the weight, and makes inertia seem like a theory, and not reality. Except, of course, that the occupants have continued forward, being caught by the seatbelts. But it is reassuring to know that it’s there if you need it.
And that’s only part of the safety story. Driver and passenger, front and side, and two full-length curtain airbags protect the occupants. In addition, impact absorbing zones are employed, including an aluminium bonnet, as well as polycarbonate front guards (which also help with weight distribution).
To counter the notion that this was designed solely for the school-run, the air-suspension can raise or lower the ride-height according to ground-clearance needs. An electronically lockable rear differential, and a crawling low-range also mean that it truly will go anywhere. In fact, on the same terrain that left a Nissan Patrol diesel red-faced, the Touareg simply walked up the hill.
Don’t let the 20-inch wheels fool you. This VW is capable. Rock climbing is a breeze due to the stupendous torque (all 750Nm is available at 2000rpm), but sand is also easy, as the 230kW does its best to keep the wheels spinning at high revs.
And even though the coil-sprung models are a bit more compliant than the V10’s air-suspension, the drive is still quite smooth, with only the roughest ripples ruffling the ride. The damper presets allow for 3 modes; Sport, Comfort and Auto. To be honest, there’s little difference to separate them, so we left it in Sport.
At higher speeds, this setting drops the car by a few millimetres, allowing less air under the car, aiding stability. Just don’t try to corner like a sports car. This is 2532kgs that can only be chucked around with a certain amount of enthusiasm. Thank goodness for its expertly calibrated ESP.
Overall, the V10 TDI Touareg is a stunning performer. Although no sports car, it has the grunt to embarrass anything this side of a Cayenne Turbo. The fact that it can also keep up with hardcore off-roaders is testament to the fact that Volkswagen hasn’t pandered to the SUV crowd.
Sure, it could use a bit more room inside, and a full size spare wheel would be great, but for this sort of performance, there’s not much that will keep up with it. At $121,990 plus on roads, it’s getting up there, but that’s par for the course in luxury 4WDs these days.
Oh yes, then there’s the torque. That 750Nm does so much to transform the regular Touareg into an absolute ball tearer. It will overtake with ease, and the ZF transmission is so damn smooth it makes driving it a joy. Just keep the right foot under control, or you’ll be visiting the servo more often than usual. Now, where’s my fuel card…..