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2004 Volkswagen Touareg Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

Base MSRP Range: $34,900 to $40,700

Base Invoice Range: Not Available

MSRP As Tested: Not Available

Versions: 3.2 liter V6 and 4.2 liter V8

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Luxury SUV

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: All Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: Standard 3,2-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valves, V-6 cylinder, 220 -horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 225 lb-ft torque at 3200 rpm.

Optional Engine: 4.2-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 40-valves, V-8 cylinder, 310 -horsepower at 6200 rpm and 302 lb-ft torque at 3000 rpm.

Transmission As Tested: Standard 6-Speed Automatic with Tiptronic manual shift mode

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): V-6 15/20, V-8 14/18.

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger front and side airbags, Head Curtain ventilated, power-assisted, four wheel disc brakes, Traction ControlHill Ascent Assist, Hill Descent Assist, Parking Assist.

Competition: BMW X5, Mitsubishi Endeavor, Lexus RX330, Lexus LX 470, Infiniti FX3.5/4.5, Mercedes-Benz M Class, Mercedes-Benz G Class, Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Land Crusier, Acura MDX, Ford Explorer, Chevy Trailblazer

The 2004 Volkswagen Touareg is the first Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) to ever be introduced into the Volkswagen lineup. In fact it is the only truck offered by Volkswagen in the U.S. Not only that, this vehicle represents an entirely new product class for the German automaker. There are now four classes of vehicle at the company. The other three are the A Class vehicles such as Golf and Beetle, B Class products including Jetta and Passat, and the D Class lineup including new luxury cars, like the Phaeton sedan - due in the Fall of 2003.

You can bet there are more SUVs in Vs future if they have dedicated an entire classification to off-road products. And they should, Touareg is a great product. They must be confident in the consumes reaction to it. The engineer, who served as our off-road guide during the Moab, Utah test said a smaller one will be introduced

Touareg, or more accurately the Touareg and pronouncedtur-e, is the name of an ancient, Western Saharan nomadic tribe. Touareg, roughly translated means free folk But the tribe is better-known as the blue men of the desert because they wear indigo robes and turbans and the men wear veils. They still exist today, eking out an existence on the edge of the desert. Volkswagen used the Touareg name because they hope people will become free in their new on- and off-road product.

Volkswagens competition for Touareg includes the BMW X5, Mercedes M Class, Lexus RX 330 and LX 470, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volvo XC90 and the Acura MDX. Undoubtedly this is true. These are the sales leaders in the upscale SUV market. But few are vehicles capable of real off-road driving. Most are crossover vehicles that focus on having strong on-road performance.

Touareg also succeeds in having great on-road performance, competing head-to-head with some of the toughest names in the off-road vehicle market including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus LX 470, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Range Rover and Hummer H2. Perhaps the Mercedes-Benz G Class might also be included in this grouping. Touraeg however out-performs most of these products when driven in the wild.

Just as an aside, Touareg shares the same vehicle platform with the Porsche Cayenne. But it has a different powerplant and front end, etc.

Vehicle Exterior

Touareg is one of the best vehicle design executions in the SUV marketplace. It is elegant and sleek, uninterrupted by superfluous cladding and threatening militaristic design cues. It is a classic european luxury car; a cross between the Audi Off-Road and the Passat wagon, with the front-end of the Phaeton sedan, and vastly more ground clearance. It certainly has Audi style.

If we were asked which SUV would meet the most success of the two recently introduced SUVs, Touareg and Cayenne, were sure the Volkswagen will have more longevity than Porsche.

Vehicle Interior

The interior is quite refined, more like an Audi than any other Volkswagen. As with other automakers the car contains a lot of brushed aluminum and wood accents. All competitors have busy cockpits because of all the controls needed to adjust all the technology.

In Touareg case everything is useful and properly placed. We liked the location of the controls. Underneath the cowl are a large tachometer and speedometer. Between the two is a small trip computer screen, just like Audi has. Below that are the gauges for fuel, oil, water temperature, etc.

Below the air vents in the center console is the display for the audio, entertainment and optional navigation systems, including the off-road navigation. They are followed by the dual-zone climate control system. (A four-zone climate control system is available as an option.) Next is the gear-shift lever for the six-speed transmission and on its right is a small flashlight that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Next are the controls for the low-range gears, the switch for the on-road suspension settings, and on the right a knob controlling the off-road suspension settings.

Oh, and very important, in the center console is a holder for one-liter water bottles brilliant. It takes up a lot of room, but is practical.

The display for navigation is great. It shows GPS coordinates, altitude from sea level, and front wheel angle for steering. It is a DVD based system using one disc for both the US and most of Canada rarely, if ever, will it be necessary to change the disc.

Part of the system is for off-road navigation. Program in the coordinates of the destination and it shows where you are in relation to it. Because off-road there is no precise path to follow, and the track can change in a matter of minutes, the system doest provide driving directions. It does however tell how close you are to the destination. In track mod it recalls the precise route to taken to get there and then reverses it to aid your return. This is the only off-road navigation system available in a production vehicle.

The drives seat is big and comfortable for long on-road trips. It also can be adjusted for off-road comfort while still giving you feedback from the ground. There is plenty of head room and leg room both in the front and back seats. And there is no annoying 3rd row seat, or seat latches in the floor.


Two engines are available on the Touareg. The standard engine is a 3.2-liter, V6, with 4-valves per cylinder, and 22horsepower at 5,400 rpm, and 225 lb.-ft. torque. The optional 4.2-liter, V8, has 5-valves per cylinder. and 310-horsepower at 610 rpm. and 302 lb.-ft. torque at 3,000 rpm. The V8 is the same engine as in the new Audi A8 L. There will be a 5-liter V10 TDI turbo-diesel available in the first quarter of 2004 with more horsepower (308-horsepower) and torque (553 lb.-ft.)

The road performance of both available engines is excellent. The V6 is a little sluggish going up steep hills, but it was better than most competitors. But it is fine for the vast majority of on- ad off-road uses. The V8 is a lot of fun and competes well with the BMW X5, performing better than the Mercedes M Class. The Touareg, with either engine, has the off-road capabilities of a Range Rover, and it is a much better vehicle to own than a Hummer, in almost innumerable ways.

There is one transmission available. It is a -speed automatic with tiptronic (manual shift mode.) It has both Sport and Winter modes for inclement weather. Low range gears are standard making it possible to drive on any off-road surface, short of a cliff.

Ride and Handling

Two suspensions are available. The standard one is Steel. The optional one is an Air Suspension. If you want to take full advantage the vehicls capabilities, the Air Suspension is a must have. The option costs $2,300, but you must purchase Zenon self-leveling headlamps for $700 as well. Why they dot sell this as a package for $2,500 we dot understand, as you cat purchase the Air Suspension without also getting the lights.

Th on-road performance is the same sports car ride that the Infiniti FX 35, or 45 have. But it is comparable to the BMW X5 and is better than the others weve driven. High-speed handling is enhanced by the Air Suspension. At 78-mph the system lowers the body 25mm decreasing the center of gravity. At 112-mph it lowers it another 10mm. (Why they did this at these speeds for the American market is beyond us.) However the driver can select these settings manually for specific uses like comfort, sport, off-road, etc.

The engineer who acted as our tour-guide in Moab, Utah said the Touareg was specifically designed for the American market To which we responded Do you realize you have seriously over-engineered the off-road capabilities for this market He replied well yes, but it had to be a true off-road vehicle And they succeeded.

Basically VW built a Range Rover, but costing $30,000 less. You get all the comfort and luxury of the later, with the ability to race across the deserts of Africa, if you are so inclined. For a technology packed price of $42,000 to $45,000, including the Air Suspension, a BMW X5 with the 6-cylinder engine costs more than the Touareg with the V8, and the Touareg will beat it for off-road performance. Is a VERY good value.

Oh, and by the way Touareg Air Suspension has two off-road height settings, 8.and 11.8 inches . Thats 2.5 inches MORE ground clearance than the Hummer H2! And you wont feel like A Swartzenegger wanna-b when you drive up to a restaurant.

Moab, Utah has among the most challenging off-road trails (known locally as Jeep Trail) in the US. This is where VW took us to test the vehicle off-road.

Hill Ascent Assist is a system in the Touareg that aides it climbing very steep hills take your foot off the brake and essentially it hangs there. This important because it wont roll backward -- something that can really freak you out if you are off-roading, and it does happen. To get going again just put your foot on the gas gently and Touareg starts climbing.

Once you are up the steep hill the next thing you need do is go down the other side. Controlling the speed, without using the brakes, is critical. The Hill Ascent Assist system kicks in on steep declines of 20% (18 degrees), or more. The Hill Ascent Assist automatically decreases engine torque and, if necessary, applies the brakes to slow the vehicle and give the driver more control. Combined with a low-range of gears, this is a belt and suspender approach to getting you down hill safely one system slows the fall and the other provides backup.

The Touareg can start climbing steeper hills than a Range Rover or a Land Cruiser because it has a better approach angle. It can climb over bigger rocks than a Grand Cherokee or a Hummer H2 because of its ramp angle wheels straddling the crest of something. It can crawl across the side of a hill at an angle of, at least, 35 degrees. The way VW proved this was by purchasing an Angle Meter at Home Depot and then driving at a 35 degree angle. Thats about as good as a Land Rover or Hummer can do.


This vehicle has all the safety features one would expect of a European luxury automaker. There are 6 airbags -- driver and front passenger front and side airbags and a head curtain that runs from the A pillar to the C pillar on both sides. The roof is reinforced to act as a rollbar in the event of a rollover, or protect the passengers should something fall on the vehicle.

Slowing a heavy truck requires special attention. Touareg has 4-wheel, power assisted, antilock, disc brakes. Were glad it has 4-wheel disc brakes because they stop vehicles with less fade. The brakes cool more evenly and drain water quickly for more even braking power over time. The vehicle also has Hydraulic Brake Assist. This system determines the necessary amount of brake pressure for the situation and delivers the appropriate amount it determines whether the vehicle needs to come to a gentle or a panic stop and adjusts the brake pressure.

The Tire Pressure Monitor has both audio and visual warnings, and there is an additional air supply for pumping tires, etc. If you get a Touareg with the standard steel suspension it comes with an electric compressor built into the rear cargo area. If it has the optional Air Suspension then a hose is plugged into an air socket leading directly into the air reservoir. Obviously flat tires can be inflated. But if yore off-roading tires get better traction with lower tire pressure. With the air supply is easy to let air out of the tires for off-roading and then pump them back up when you want to return to the pavement.

In Conclusion

Again, Touareg is a Range Rover for about half the price. It is not quite as luxurious, but the level of luxury is just fine. It is definitely the most luxurious vehicle Volkswagen has ever produced. Touareg, and the upcoming Phaeton sedan, definitely move the brand upscale.

Were concerned that Volkswagen will impinge on the sales of their Audi brand with the introduction of more and more luxurious products. Volkswagen was supposed to be an entry level brand attracting young buyers at an early age. Audi would then keep them through their high-earning years. Now Volkswagen will keep people in their products longer, before they might make the switch. Higher prices mean fewer consumers who can afford to buy within the line. Volkswagen needs to make sure it doest price itself out of the market.

Touareg has to be one of the best SUVs launched by a company without a previous truck line. The product has all the luxury needed. Volkswagen delivered on the on-road performance, competing well with the BMW X5 and the Infiniti FX35 and 45. They have established themselves as standout manufacturers of serious off-road vehicles.

If yore looking at any SUV in the $35,000 range, and up, and you want luxury and real off-road capability, Touareg is it.

Editors' Ratings

Pros: Refined design. Appears to have great build quality. Fantastic on- and off-road. No 3rd row seating available. One of the best thought out and designed vehicles weve driven in a very, very long time.

Cons: You'll have to form a rock-climbing club. No 3rd row seating available.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 8
  • Performance: 8
  • Price: 9
  • Handling: 8
  • Ride: 8
  • Comfort: 9
  • Quality: 8
  • Overall: 8.3

More Data

Where Built: Wolfsburg Gernany

Major Options: Bi-Xenon Headlamps (GDL) with Automatic Level, Electronic Parking Assistance , Four-zone climate control, Navigation System, Upgraded "Nappa" leather seat trim, 4-Corner adjustable air suspension.

Seating: 5

Number of Rows: 2

Crash Test Ratings:

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: Not Yet Tested

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Not Yet Tested

Length in Inches: 187.2

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 mile fully transferable powertrain, 4 years/50,000 miles free Roadside Assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 4,450.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: 1,400

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not Available

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 7,716

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 26.4

Destination Charge: $615