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 Mon, Nov 22, 2004
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Every once in a while, the call of the open road beckons. I feel the need for the open road, nature, a communion between machine and man. Many hours are to be spent bonding with all that is good, traveling across the picturesque deserts of the west in a rare, exotic motorcar. Then I woke up. Instead, I'm going on a road trip to Las Vegas and the SEMA show in a Volkswagen.
It's hours behind the wheel that one finds the heart and soul of a vehicle. The road to Vegas can be uncertain in time and conditions. Mind you, this in no cross country jaunt. However, in the space of roughly three hundred miles, the character of a car becomes readily apparent.
The road out to Las Vegas from the 55 to the 91 and then lastly to the 15 can seem endless. With only the waft of cows and their by-products in Norco to jar the senses awake, the drive in general is mind-numbing. The challenge is, can this vehicle make the drive and keep the driver (yours truly) comfortable and happy?
As this isn't a new face on the landscape, I have been exposed to the product already. My prior feelings are still in sync with this recent encounter. The Touareg is a clean design that gets lost in the look-at-me garish designs being dished out to the car-buying public like donuts to cops. While the shape isn't slathered with overabundant, gaudy, chromed plastic or tacky elements, it dose maintain an Audi-like ethos for conservative classiness and timelessness.
I have been going through the Q and A with more individuals on this vehicle than I have with any other in quite some time. Why the interest? Well, behind the mild-manner looks on the outside, the interior is stately and has a look that is far closer to that of an elegant form of transportation - like a business jet in comparison to some of the Touareg's competitors that have a Tonka toy flavor. As they say, different strokes for different folks.
The interior is designed extraordinarily well, in a field that has a tendency of looking somewhat thrown together. All the materials seem not just of high quality, but also of precision fit. The buttons on the steering wheel don't seem like buttons at all. The only clue besides their labeling is a hair thin cut line between each of the neighboring buttons. The level of fit and finish will satisfy even the most demanding critics. When I consider this is a SUV, I am blown away. The party line is, SUVs are the not too distant cousin of farm equipment, and therefore don't need to be precision instruments. Evidently, no one told VW.
While the driver has a full array of gizmos to play with, from a helpful GPS map system, to an easily adjustable system to switch into the proper drive setup whether it be high or low all wheel drive. But, my favorite is the ride height adjustability that can adjust the ground clearance at various levels. With a lower ride height and center of gravity, the VW handles like a sedan - especially when the variable suspension setting is set to sport. With the body raised on its pneumatic suspension, the view down the road is not too far from that of a big rig. Also, if I need the extra clearance to forge any flash flooding down the streets of Vegas, the Touareg can accommodate.
I find the 375-watt, 11-speaker sound system offers superior sound quality, but the front to rear balance seems to have a bias to the front even when the fader compensation is far more than normal. Also, the CD changer in the rear is inconvenient to access and there is no in-dash player, which further requires the driver to think ahead as far as music selection is concerned.
The drive, over the long haul, produced some interesting finds. The first is the V8 in this model has plenty of power. I would rather have a bit more get up and go at the 0-60 range. However, this machine does more than makes up for it in the over sixty miles per hour department. I am amazed that a SUV this heavy can run with some far sportier vehicles. The down side is in our fair land of L.A. and O.C., who can find an opportunity to enjoy this. And if so, how often?
The engine is smooth and refined for the dreary drive to and from the land of slots. The hills are no challenge for this power plant. The 310 horsepower V8 can turn the hills into rubble. As much as I love the motor, I better also develop a love affair with OPEC - or at the very least buy stock in some petroleum companies in order to justify the gas mileage. The drive out of California yields a heart-stopping 14.8 mpg, and the return trip manages a slight improvement at 16.6. While the sticker does state 14 city and 18 highway, this trip doesn't live up to my fuel economy hopes.
The price tag does push the mental envelope on just what a VW should be. The base V8 is not what anyone would consider cheap at over 42 big ones. This particular model has nearly ten grand in upgrades. Is this a value in the traditional Volkswagen definition? Maybe relative to some very pricy competitors, as this model has some excellent road manners and offerings as well as a very upscale driving environment inside. However, the typical Golf or Jetta buyer is going to find this out of his or her league. If my pockets were deeper, I would be a fool not too think of putting this on my short list. This is a rare blend of versatility and luxury that sells itself.
The sojourn from our home base to the home of the one-armed bandit proves the Touareg to be competent, desirable transport. This SUV is a relatively safe bet, which is more than I can say about the poker games.
For more information please go to www.vw.com
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
Suspension: Front: upper & lower control arms, computer controlled air springs, computer controlled gas-charged shocks, anti roll bar.
Rear: 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)
0-60 mph: 8.8 sec. V8