Living with Max, a 2015 VW Touareg TDI
Owner Rating: 8.5/10
Plusses: Nice to drive, safety & technology, comfy seats, great towing vehicle, adaptive air suspension, 100L fuel tank, general build quality and cabin ambience
Minuses: Space saver spare, no Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, some OEM consumables needed replacing early, no DAB+
I found Max when searching for an Audi Q3 TDI replacement. As a family we found the Audi a bit crowded and lacking in towing ability. With a limit of 80kg on the tow ball, we could only get away with towing a Jayco Swift camper trailer which is pretty compact.
As an aside, I feel that car websites would be helpful in including the allowable tow ball mass in their reviews. Although many vehicles are rated to tow 2 tonnes, the tow-ball mass severely limits this in practice (The suggested tow ball mass of 10% of 2000Kg is 200Kg for example).
I was looking for a towing vehicle for a caravan up to 3 tonne; it came down to a Land Cruiser 200 or Touareg/Q7. The Touareg seemed better value than the Audi and drove like “large Golf” rather than “medium truck”, which is more the Land Cruiser experience. Additionally, I travel mostly suburban kilometres and the Touareg is easier for my wife and I to manoeuvre around Sydney.
Technology-wise, Max has it all over the 200 series with much better integrated infotainment systems, a powerful but frugal diesel engine, 8-speed gearbox, air suspension and it tips the scales around 500kg lighter. This difference is mainly in the weight of the 2 range transfer case of the 200 Series needed for difficult off-road situations. As we are towing a Jayco 20-foot Cruising Caravan without any off-road pretence this is not that much of a factor.
The adaptive air suspension is a major plus on the Touareg TDI and was a factor in choosing the vehicle for towing. It means that weight transfer bars are not required as the vehicle self levels. This also helps with a tight turning circle and not having to remove the bars when traversing undulating ground, as can sometimes be needed.
Our intention is to travel to remote-ish locations, park the caravan and use the Touareg to explore the surroundings. This will mean some off-road capability, so we travelled to Braidwood for a 4WD intro course to get an idea of how Max would cope on road-oriented tyres. The training was great and in amongst the Prado’s and Land Cruiser 200’s was an SR5, a Mercedes GLS and two Touareg.
Max handled the conditions well and climbed and descended happily anywhere there was a bit of grip. The tyres seemed to be the limiting factor and will be reviewed for the next time. The electronic systems functioned as expected and at no time did the vehicle feel out of its depth. The air suspension provided extra ground clearance and cosseted the occupants in comfort mode.
Running costs have been a bit more than expected. Over three years Max has needed the regular services at 15000km intervals, and additionally the Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres were replaced at 36000km. I’ve not been very impressed with the Pirelli Verde as they wore quickly on both the Audi Q3 and the Touareg and became quite harsh near the end of their life. A set of Hankook Ventus rubber was fitted as replacements and only lasted 17,000 Km. It’s one those learning curves I guess, as I hadn’t noticed they have a tread-wear rating of 220, or roughly 22000km. The Grabber GT’s now fitted have a treadwear rating of 440 and with 19000km since fitted they look like they’ll go the estimated 44000km distance.
A surprise was needing to replace all the brake rotors and disc pads. I’m not sure if towing the van had an impact, but the electronic pad wear indicators were triggered at 43000km and measuring the rotors confirmed they were down to their minimum thickness all round. VW quoted around $2,800 for supply and fitting, which prompted another of those learning experiences. Compatible rotors and pads are easy to source, so the local brake specialist got the job although the replacement Brembo front rotors and DBA rear rotors suffered from shudder and were machined twice before being thrown in the bin for a set of DBA slotted T3 rotors that were better suited to towing.In hindsight, we should have talked to the DBA technical assistance line earlier.
Max now has around 70000km of metro and towing on the clock and fuel usage has averaged 14L/100km, which seems pretty good considering. In regard to costs, NSW Registration and Insurance got the lion’s share of costs at 46%, followed by tyres at 21%, VW Services at 18% and Brakes at 16%.
The vehicle still feels new, almost like built from solid stone, and is rattle free. Not that there hasn’t been a few quibbles.
1. The vehicle was ordered with the technology pack that, according to the brochure, had a heated steering wheel. It was confirmed post-delivery this option was not part of the Australia build. After mentioning that life was not worth living without a heated steering wheel the supplying dealer agreed to fund the 15K service as compensation, which was nice.
2. As I intended to tow the factory tow bar was ordered, in future I will also ask for the electric brake controller to be dealer-fitted, as a so-called experienced auto electrician had a saga getting the Redarc Tow Pro to work with the vehicle electronics. VW Australia were no support either and when contacted they referred to the brochure stating: “Please note Volkswagen Group Australia does not endorse or will not be held liable for any claim, loss or damage arising from the use or fitment of electronic trailer brakes”. this seemed pretty crazy considering the Touareg is a natural tow vehicle.
3. Tyre Pressure Monitoring had been deleted from the Australian build. This is bad news as the vehicle does not have a full size spare, instead supplied with an inflatable space-saver along with a compressor. There also is no room in the back for a full size spare unless the rear seats are lowered. For peace of mind I have installed a Steelmate TPM. At the very least there should be prior warning so the tyre can be repaired before permanent damage occurs. As the Touareg V8 has TPM fitted I can’t excuse Volkswagen Australia for deleting this from the Australian TDI builds.
4. The Daytime Running Light in the driver’s side headlight failed not long out of the 3 year warranty. As the DRL is part of the self levelling and cornering headlight, the whole assembly must be replaced. I felt a bit sick at this stage as (all told with fitting) the bill was around $2,000. After talking with Castle Hill VW who approached VW Head Office, the headlight was replaced under extended warranty for which I was ever so grateful.
All in all the ownership experience has been good. It’s great to drive, the electronics perform as expected, the local VW Service Centre is friendly and accommodating, the Sales guys follow up periodically, and running costs are not alarming. Fuel economy varies according to use with around 10L/100km around town and averaging roughly 13L/100km when towing at 95-100km/h. Although clambering up over the Blue Mountains does push it to 18L/100km occasionally.
To me it looks good and I’m quite pleased to own it.