Touareg 2.5 TDi
date : 25th April 2004
Itís probably not an
exaggeration to say that the Volkswagen Touareg sports utility
vehicle has been the most significant new model launch so far
Volkswagen's entry into the four-wheel-drive SUV market was
pre-empted by the appearance of the Porsche Cayenne late last
year, a vehicle developed concurrently with the Touareg.
The Porsche off-roader is naturally more powerful and it is
specced for high-speed autobahn use. And it has to be said,
the Cayenne is a little bit glitzy in appearance.
The Touareg is if anything understated. Rather like a Golf on
steroids, with no fancy metal mouldings or badging to make it
And yet stand out it does. During our time with Touareg we
were amazed at its recognition factor, and the admiring
glances it attracted.
It seems the word is out that this is one special
Whereas most of the early publicity surrounding the Touareg
has gone to the V10 diesel model, we were not unhappy to kick
off with the base-model R5 2.5 TDi. There is also a 4,2-litre
V8 petrol version which we are keen to sample.
As the model designation implies, the R5 is a five-cylinder
diesel and comes with a choice of a six-speed manual or
six-speed automatic gearbox.
Our vehicle was the manual, with nicely-spaced gear ratios to
accommodate the rather short power spread of the diesel motor.
One of the rather limiting factors of a small-capacity diesel
engine is that you are constantly changing gears. And this was
the case with the R5 Tdi. Power from the five-cylinder
2,5-litre is rated at one hundred and twenty eight kilowatts,
and 400 Newton metres, and while it is adequate, it is no
A two-point-five litre diesel may be potent in a sedan, but in
an SUV weighing just over two thousand, four hundred
kilograms, it is going to work for its living
Neverthless Volkswagen claim a respectable 12,4 second nought
to one hundred sprint time and top speed of just over
one-eighty for the manual model.
And with the six-speed 'box and plenty of torque, you can
maintain a respectable pace. However, on undulating roads you
will be stirring that gear lever.
Happily the gear lever has a wonderful solid feel, and with
the good feedback through the steering wheel adds up to a very
secure on-road ride.
And it has all the latest techno aids to get you out of
trouble like traction control, anti-lock braking, and
corner-assist braking which brakes individual wheels to
correct a skid.
In fact the whole vehicle exhibits no-nonsense solidity.
However we did notice a few build-quality glitches, like a
loose beading on the door surround and on the ill-fitting
As for the rest of the interior, it is quite down-the-line,
with no ingenious seating configurations like many of its
competitors. However it is fully equipped with six-CD sound,
navigation, climate control, telephone installation and the
So much for the road. Is the Touareg just another soft-roader,
best suited to the speed bumps of Durban North?
Out on a real four-wheel drive trail were were astonished at
just how accomplished the Touareg is.
Key to this is its all wheel drive, low ratio tranfer gearbox,
central and rear differential locking, and its variable ride
height air suspension.
We were disconcerted to have to use the combination
foot-parking brake on inclines. This means having to first
apply the brake with your left foot, wind up some engine
torque by revving the engine and slowly releasing the clutch
pedal, and then releasing the brake with your right hand.
Volkswagen reports a hill start assistance mechanism on the
automatic model. However, as any driver of a Mercedes manual
model will tell you, you really need it on a manual version
with this dual system.
What was wrong with the good old fashioned, progressive hand
Our fuel consumption varied between 10,8 litres per 100 km and
14 litres per hundred kilometres, good for a heavy
four-by-four. In fact our overall consumption, which included
off-road driving was 11,8 litres per hundred kilometres, which
we thought was excellent.
What amazed us about the Touareg was its combination of
on-road sharpness and stability and real off-road prowess.
Steep rocky slopes are handled with aplomb thanks to the
low-ratio option which is normally found in much more
Competitors? You'd have to include the very accomplished
Toyota Prado, which doesn't have quite the on-road finesse,
and the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, which again are more on-road
In fact, the Touareg sets news levels of versatility in this
class. Hereís an SUV that behaves like a car on road and a
pucker four-by-four off the beaten track. In our book it is a
Car Torque is