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VW GOES FOR THE GOLD FROM COAST-TO-COAST

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Apr 24, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Volkswagen Touareg

VW GOES FOR THE GOLD FROM COAST-TO-COAST By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The all-new 2004 Volkswagen Touareg is the company's first attempt to venture into the top tier of the automotive marketplace. Volkswagen is well known around the world for economical vehicles that are well engineered and very reliable, Volkswagen, with the introduction of the Touareg, is entering new territory with a smartly styled, powerful, versatile, luxurious and very safe sport utility carrying a base price of $34,900.00.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

I was planning on visiting family and friends in Pompano Beach, Florida, and thought that since I was testing the V8 powered model here in LA the week before, why not try scheduling the V6 model in Florida and take my family and friends around in style as I visited the canals in Pompano Beach, and the Florida Everglades in nearby Loxahatchee. The experience was worthwhile as I was able to test and evaluate both the top-of-the-line V8 powered version and entry V6 powered model.

Both Touaregs come standard with all-wheel-drive, and with two rows of seating for five. The top model sports a 4.2 liter, 40-valve DOHC V8 that generates 310 hp and 302 lb.ft. of torque, and offers a four-corner, six-height-adjustable, air spring suspension system that makes this vehicle equal to Jeeps and Hummers in serious off-roading. The V8 powered Touareg also comes shod with big 255/55R18 all-season radial tires that wrap around 18x8 inch alloy wheels. Bigger 19 inch tires and wheels are also available.

The standard independent wishbone suspension features upper & lower control arms, gas-charged shocks, steel coil springs, and anti-roll bars, front and rear. The 3.2 liter DOHC V6 engine makes 220 hp and 225 lb.ft. of torque and comes standard with 255/60R17 all-season radial tires wrapped around 17x7.5 inch alloy wheels.

If you need a wagon for towing, the Touareg is the choice since either engine is factory rated for towing up to 7,716 lbs. Both engines are hooked up to a silky smooth and powerful six-speed automatic transmission with VW's 'manumatic' shift control. A Dynamic Shift Program offers a sport mode that holds gears too much higher revs before shifting. The transmission sends engine power to all the wheels via VW's 4Motion permanent 4WD, with a low-range gear and adaptive torque distribution. There is a standard rear-differential lock on the V8 and optional on the V6.

Driving dynamics are excellent with either engine but I loved driving the V8 in LA. There is plenty of power when needed for merging or cruising. With the fully independent wishbone suspension, the truck handles and performs much like a luxury sport sedan. The ride is always smooth and relaxed. The power assisted, Servotronic rack & pinion steering system easily guides you where you want to go. The Touareg's 7-traction-control systems, that includes hill descent and hill rollback control, help to keep you on track on or off the road. The Touareg is designed for serious off-roading.

The smooth and well-executed exterior styling features, up front, bi-Xenon headlamps with a headlight washer system, VW's signature grille, an air intake on the center lower bumper and air intakes on the sides. The deep skirt features small round fog lamps on the sides.

From the side you see flowing lines from the high front end that sweeps up the steeply raked windshield, over the flat roof and then slightly out and down over the rear hatch. Long pieces of chrome accents outline the strong and rugged silhouette of the Touareg, and if you think you've seen the same profile on the all-new Porsche Cayenne, you are correct. VW developed the basic body and chassis of the Cayenne for Porsche. Porsche adds its own interior, sheetmetal, and engines. Inside is where the Touareg shines and disappoints. The four doors open wide but should open wider for easier entry and exit since the low roofline makes you bend you neck to enter or exit. The other disappointment is that the Touareg comes only with two rows of seats for five persons, not five adults, since I tried getting three adults into the rear but it was too cramped. Not a big deal, but with so many other luxury mid-size sport utilities offering three rows, VW should have engineered the same. Maybe next year?

Other than these two shortcomings, the interior is just like sitting in your easy chair in your favorite room. The visibility is great with plenty of side viewing. The 12-way powered and heated leather bucket seats with memory are very comfortable and very supportive. There is real wood and real aluminum trim everywhere for a luxurious touch. All buttons, dials, and levers are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime travel. The optional 4-area electronic climate control really works. The beefy leather wrapped, tilting and telescoping steering wheel feels perfect in your hands and contains buttons for the 375 watt 12 channel, 11 speaker, audio system, electronic cruise control, and the optional navigation system. The only problem I found with the navigation system, if you option for it, is that you can't listen to a CD when the navigation system is working because it shares the same entry slot with the navigation system's CD. There is a 6-CD changer mounted on the left side of the cargo area.

I loved looking at the beautiful instrument cluster with its deep blue color. You get a big, 160mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer, and smaller gauges for fuel, engine temperature, oil temperature and voltmeter. Bright LED lights warn of system or safety failure. All four windows have 'one-touch' up or down and the door locks are powered. The gated gearshift lever is in the right position for easy and firm use. Thick pile carpeting and thick floor mats help keep unwanted outside noise out of the cabin. Two big, pop-up dials on the real wood trimmed center console easily control seven traction-control systems, hill descent and hill rollback and six adjustable ride-heights. In the center is a knurled button to set one of three damping settings. There is also an optional parking assist sensor that helps you avoid hitting objects behind you when backing up.

Grab handles are found above each door and there are reading lamps in the back. The rear seating section benefits from air vents behind the center console that also houses the rear entertainment system. The second row bench seat also comes with a pull-down center armrest with dual cupholders that pop-out to use. The 60/40 split bench seat folds flat for extra storage in the fully carpeted cargo area. You'll notice chrome tie-down rings, a security shade and 12volt plug. When you open the lift gate the lip is line with a wide and ribbed chrome strip.

The all-new 2004 VW Touareg comes standard with the latest safety features including front and rear crush zones, side impact beams in each door, driver and front passenger front airbags, side airbags, side curtain protection again head injuries, front and rear, 3-point safety belts for all seating, lower anchors and tethers for children, child safety rear door locks intelligent crash response system, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lamps.

Prices for the all-new Touareg are competitive with other mid-size luxury sport utilities. The loaded V6 powered model starts $34,900.00 and the fully loaded V8 model that I tested stickers at $53,205.00.

As I mentioned before, the Touareg is designed for serious off-road adventures, and is also one of the best looking, best handling, most comfortable, safe, and well appointed mid-size sport utilities vehicles. Driving the V8 powered Touareg was a pleasure on the fast LA freeways; up and around the joyous Santa Monica Mountain canyons. In Florida, the V6 Touareg was perfect to drive over and around the beautiful canals of Pompano Beach, and then out to the Everglades at Loxahatchee.

© Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2004 Volkswagen Touareg Price: $53,205.00 as tested Engine type: 4.2 liter DOHC 40-valve V8, aluminum alloy block/head Horsepower: 310 at 5,400 rpm Torque: 302 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: front engine/all-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport Shift, and Tiptronic manumatic auto/manual shifting Front suspension: upper & lower control arms, computer controlled air springs, computer controlled gas-charged shocks, anti roll bar. Rear suspension: upper & lower control arms, computer controlled air springs, computer controlled gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 18x8 in. aluminum alloy wheels/P255/55R18 in. all-season steel belted radial tires. Brakes: 13 in. front vented discs with 4-piston caliper/13 in. vented rear discs with twin-piston calipers with ABS, Brake Assist, Dynamic Rear Brake Proportioning Overall length: 187.2 in. Overall width: 75.9 in. Overall height: 68.0 in. Curb weight: 5,086 lbs. to 5,250 lbs. EPA mileage: 14 mpg city / 18 mph highway (V8) 15 mpg city / 20 mpg highway (V6) 0-60 mph: 8.8 sec. V8/10.8 sec. V6

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