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2005 Volkswagen Touareg TDi

This Isn’t Your Typical Vee-Dub

    There might be a cute face on the front of this one, but there is no Bug hiding behind that smile. Underneath that gentle demeanor is more grunt than any Yank bargained for. At least according to the spec sheet. But numbers don’t contact the pavement, rubber does. So what happens when a homegrown Red, White, and Blue farm boy gets behind the reigns of a German steed on western soil? Read on and find out.
     It is true that while VW has been building the Phaeton and Touareg for two years now, people still get images of the loveable Bug in their mind when you mention Volkswagen; hence the skepticism from the good ‘ole boys concerning one rather nasty Michigan snowstorm. “Don’t worry guys, I’ll get through, I got a Volkswagen.” Much laughing ensued. The Touareg is by no means a cute-ute, though it does wear that loveable face that every VW proudly displays. The lines are smooth and clean with chrome accents trimming the grille, doorsills, window frame and roof rack.
     Upon introduction, all Touaregs came equipped with either a 3.2L V6, or a 4.2L V8. This past fall however, VW upped the ante and dropped a 5.0-liter V10 Direct Injection Turbo diesel into the engine bay. Horsepower remains a very healthy 310, just as in the V8, but torque increases to 553 lb-ft of tire shredding twist. All that power while registering 17/23 city/highway mpg; something the V8 can’t claim. It is this mill that resided behind the bright blue eyes (read: bi-xenon self-leveling projection headlamps) of our Colorado Red Touareg. Volkswagen is being bold for sure, knowing full well that Westerners typically shun diesels mounted in anything smaller than that of a full-size truck. Even in January, our mule muttered nary a whimper as she turned over one subzero morning. The typical rattle and smell were there when she started cold, but after things warmed up, all was quiet. One thing is for sure: the Touareg makes good us of sound deadening insulation.
     We have always believed that Mother Nature provides the best testing conditions, and she certainly didn’t disappoint us this time around. Upon inspection of our newly delivered Touareg TDI, we noticed that the tires were looking a little smooth; no doubt the result of the strenuous press event this VW was originally intended for. But the show must go on, and after a day in the stables Mother Nature unleashed one wicked January snowstorm on the greater Michigan area. Throwing caution—and possibly, better judgment—to the wind, we trudged on anyway. Despite the less than ideal rubber contact patches, the Touareg performed remarkably with its full-time 4wd system and various electronic stability and traction systems doing their job. After the snow stopped falling, we jacked the air ride suspension up to nosebleed heights and ventured out into the back 40. On pavement that setting yields about 11.8 inches of daylight under the vehicle, or snow in this case. With the drivetrain locked in 4LOW the Touareg pushed on, regardless of the fact we had snow up to the doorsills. If the going gets really rough, the front, center, and rear differentials can be manually locked by twisting the 4wd selector knob another 60 degrees. When the sun comes out and the pavement dries however, it is a whole other story. Roll the ride selector to sport, drop the gear selector down into S and wait for the light to turn green. The ride height lowers, all four corners firm up, and ratios change at a faster pace. Put your foot down and the tranny wastes no time in running through all six gears. This diesel’s monster torque gets put to good use in getting you up to speed, and unlike most other diesels, it had a remarkable top-end. Roll the selector down into Comfort mode and you pretty much forget about those nasty Michigan potholes.
     It may be cold outside but inside it’s warm and inviting, and I’m not just talking about the heated steering wheel. Beige leather dominates with just the right amount of black mixed in. Splashes of metal and wood brighten up the atmosphere. All controls are within easy reach, though there is a bit of a learning curve with so many buttons congregated into one area. Fortunately all the primary functions are large and easily useable while wearing gloves, as you will most likely be doing in Michigan in January. The gauges are absolutely beautiful to look at while large display screens detail just about anything and everything you want or need to know about the vehicle. Oh and the good ole boys especially liked the rear seat warmers, well, all except the guy stuck in the middle seat. Our only gripes concerned a nondescript navigation system, the door armrest that was cut into the door making for awkward elbow placement, and the steering wheel heater button is hard to find. My fingers were cold for two days before I found it.
     Ok, so there is one thing that is typical Volkswagen, the quality. Again we are impressed with the fit and finish of the materials and content. Volkswagen truly offers a unique, versatile vehicle in the Touareg. As she sits our model listed out for $64,565. This is a steep figure to swallow, but you get what you pay for. While the V6 and V8 models may be more attainable, the V10 TDI truly is the best blend of power, fuel efficiency, and content. And yes, the boys agree.

The Good:
Lots o’torque, adjustable suspension, go anywhere attitude, heated steering wheel.
The Bad:
Awkward armrest, hidden steering wheel heater button, poorly labeled navigation map.
The Verdict:
Awesome foul weather traveler with cool features to boot.


As a word of caution to the reader, 4wd and stability systems alone will not save you in foul weather, use good judgment and drive responsibly for the conditions.

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