2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI offroad review

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2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI offroad review

Model tested: 2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI

Recommended Retail Price: $121,990

Styling, power, ease of driving, suspension adjustability and brilliance, did I mention power?

ESP still hides in background

CarAdvice rating:

- by Karl Peskett

It's a bugbear of mine. If you're going to buy a four-wheel-drive, then take it offroad. Many people do of course, and good for them. But for those who purchase an off roader, and swerve at the first sign of a twig blowing across the road, this test will make them cry.

We've reviewed this car before, but the problem is with only a week, you can't do everything you want to do with each car. Especially when the car is a four wheel drive, and is touted as having off road ability. So when Volkswagen said we could again take the V10 TDI for a spin, we jumped at the chance.

Not least of all because we get to experience that torque rush when all 750Nm kicks in at only 2000rpm. Certainly that's helpful on the road, when getting this 2.5 tonne beast moving in front of traffic. And boy does it move. But that's not where we want to focus. This time, we decided to tackle the tougher conditions.

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The Touareg is built with a four wheel drive system. It has tough suspension. The V10 comes with adjustable height settings, and formidable ground clearance. It's intention is clear.

But then, how many people take their $122,000 Toorak tractor off road? Us. Yes, we thought it might be a good idea to see if this thing actually works in the environment in which it was designed.

So, in drought conditions, it was going to be a good test for the VW, if it could tackle the soft stuff - sand. Rock climbing and ascents were never going to be an issue for the Touareg, as its clearance and departure angles are quite good. However its weight, and whether it could keep the wheels spinning, are the key.

The other thing that will slow you down, is whether the stability control is too aggressive. If it kicks in too early, and clamps down on spin, then you will bog down. And once two point five tonnes is bogged...well let's just say, you'll be having some fun trying to get it out, without proper equipment.

However, having put it through its paces, we're pleased to report that the Touareg V10 TDI passed with flying colours.

Bearing in mind, we tackled this with only road pressures, it's hard to imagine where the Touareg would come unstuck. Or get stuck, whichever the case may be.

The beauty of this beast is its complete control. Dial up the highest suspension setting, and in a few seconds, you've got ground clearance which belies the speed that this thing will carry. But it doesn't stop there. At speed, the air suspension will drop the ride height to maintain control around bends. But offroad this isn't necessary.

Next to the four-wheel-drive mode switch, is a "lock" button which fixes the suspension height, so traversing tough terrain is a sinch. Not only that, but it's the clearance front and back which allow this car climb up and over hills without destroying the underside. Carefully designed with scallops front and back, the bumpers also feature parking sensors. They can get annoying at times while they beep incessantly. Thankfully the sound can be switched off, yet the LEDs, built into the dash and tailgate, have a distance display which is nothing short of paint-saving.

Linked to the steering is an angle sensor, which alerts you to your wheel offset in relation to the straight ahead. I'm not exactly sure why that's necessary, given you're not going to get out with a protractor and measure how far you need to turn the wheel to miss the boulder right next to you. Perhaps a voice shouting at you would be better: "Left hand down. Righto, okay now back up a tad...further...futher...that's it."

Still, the steering feel is excellent, and you can feel softer areas going slack. You then know it's time to keep the revs up. And keep them up it will. The 5-litre V10 twin turbo never gives up the ghost, and is responsive to boot. Turbo lag is non-existent which is a good thing, when trying to maintain speed in sand.

And even though the ruts do their best to throw you out of your seat, the suspension absorbs the lumps and bumps, and keeps the cabin comfy. As does the climate control. On a 41-degree day, in dry conditions, the seals kept out the dust, and the aircon kept everything nice and cool. And with hours of thrashing, the engine temperature gauge didn't move one bit.

The ESP couldn't be switched off completely, which seemed a disappointment, however there was never any complete stops which would bury the Touareg. With full power, the 4WD system kept some of the wheels going, so that no matter how much slip there was, there was always some forward movement. Sure, there's a fair bit of chattering and grinding, however it's not intrusive, and although you can feel it, it didn't overtake the purity of driving this car.

And that's the key to the V10 Touareg. It's a luxury car, yes. But don't make the mistake of shelving it in that category. It will keep up with the best of them in just about all conditions.

It's a whole fairytale wrapped up in the one car. The Touareg V10 TDI - a Beauty and a Beast. Now, where's my bucket and sponge?

2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI

Engine: 5.0-litre V10 twin turbo
Power: 230kW @ 3750rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100: 7.3 seconds
Top Speed:
Drive: Four Wheel Drive
Transmission: 6sp Auto
Kerb Weight: 2532kg
Length: 4754mm
Off-road Dimensions:
Approach angle 33.2º
Departure angle 33.6º
Break over / Ramp angle 27.2º
Wading depth 580mm
Climbing ability 45º/100%
Lateral slope angle 35º/70%
Seat Capacity: 5
Fuel Tank Capacity: 100L
Fuel Consumption Combined: 12.6L/100km
Built in: Germany