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TOURING WITH A TOUAREG TDI

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, Nov 21, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

TOURING TDI Words by Doug Stokes

We've just had the opportunity to spend a few days on the road in the new Volkswagen Touareg 2 V-6 TDI taking the cool crossover on our annual family trip for the first weekend of Fall (even though the weather while we were there was still quite pleasant, in fact hot for that time of the year. It actually snowed only five days after we left!). Everyone on the away team, my wife, our two seasoned travel pups, and I loved the drive, the ride, and the seamless (and seemingly endless) supply of soul-satisfying torque that this machine's 3-liter clean diesel engine delivers on demand. The Touareg nameplate has been around for a while and the basic design has had a number of different power plants installed. Let's see, there have been a gasoline V-6 and V-8s, a powerful-but-thirsty diesel V-10 and now the V-6 TDI, the engine that I deem as near perfect for the purpose. Remember, this basic machine is also sold as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S replete with some 550 horsepower.

Editor's note: The Touareg TDI is available without the door decals The above basically indicates that this chassis is a VERY good piece of design, and our miles behind the wheel confirmed that, and then some! Two tankfulls of Shell Diesel No. 2 worked out to better than 24 miles per gallon (on a trip that was at least 25 percent twisting mountain roads and long grades). The EPA price ticket numbers quoted for the Touareg are 17/25 (city/open road). We seemed to get a bit better mileage than that. My notes on this review drive are among the most scattered, but most positive I've written in quite some time. One small confession, this is the first machine, car, motorcycle, truck, or SUV, that I did not open the hood (even once) on. I love this engine almost like no other, but I never even stole a glance at it in five days of driving. I have no idea of what that means about me psychologically ... You tell me. (Maybe I didn't want to spoil the love affair by seeing how all that lovely torque was made. Besides, I looked at the same engine in the Audi Q7 that I had driven the week before. The Touareg has full-time four-wheel drive (Volkswagen calls it 4XMOTION). I never got the opportunity to try out the low range (actually I'm not much of a rock-climber anyhow) but the option is there and will surely be a handy feature when one hits hostile road and/or weather conditions. Which leads us to the overall handling which can be simply stated as beautiful. As I earlier indicated, fully in tune with its powerful engine, this VW was competent, assured, and generally a class act over the road.

Every aspect of what we expect in a good machine was handled in the Touareg. These are great, no-compromise brakes, four-wheel discs of course, but these are racecar-like multi-piston binders with oversize discs (you really can't have enough brakes for me) that measure 350mm (13.75 in.) up front and 330mm (13 in.) at the rear. As you've already read, we took this machine on a relatively long drive to the mountains and the lakeshore and had a virtually stress-free time of it. Be forewarned here, this VW is sincerely profound motivation for a road trip. A scrawled trip note (my own) says: "Touring Tool" ... I'm pretty damn apt, if I do say so myself. Inside, the accommodations live up to all the great tech-stuff that I've been going on about in the above 'graphs. There's better than good room for four full-size adults inside and every seat is designed and rendered very much in the great Teutonic tradition of building devices that one can sit on and travel in for extended lengths of time without even a hint of discomfort. The driver (as they should be) is particularly pampered with a lovely multi-adjustable seat that caught and cradled this operator's avoirdupois perfectly for each and every one of the thousand miles I drove it. Head, leg, shoulder, all the "rooms" that count are all most satisfactorily accommodated herein. Standard features on this machine include many items that are ballyhooed extras elsewhere. We're talking niceties like: a push-button power liftgate out back, heated seats and exterior mirrors, power sun/moonroof, electronic stabilization, anti-slip suspension regulation, anti-lock brakes, and even heated windshield washer nozzles. There's a premium AM/FM stereo/CD player and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, dual-zone climate control, and leather-clad steering wheel too.

Let's take a minute or two to talk suspension, in fact let's talk about something that I really never thought that I'd ever talk nice about: air suspension. Not only is the Touareg's optional air suspension good, it was, by far the best I've ever had the pleasure of. Unobtrusive, steady, stable, supple, and supremely confidence-inspiring. I've always shied away from "air suspension systems", finding virtually all of them wallowy, wishy-washy, and weak. And then the Touareg shakes my core beliefs with a near-perfect example of the technique that flat wins my heart in the first five miles of travel. Truth is driving this machine does NOT make you feel as though you're riding on air, it feels more like one is guiding a fine-handling sports coupe. Remarkable, and at $2,750 added to the base $42,800, a bargain in my book. One of my notes reminds me that: "... never got within 50 percent of this one's full capacity." I think that I meant overall handling, there seemed to be so much in hand at all times. Our test machine came replete with what the manufacturer calls the Technology Package (and you thought this was a pretty high tech machine already ... right?). Well, $3,350 more gets you a rear view camera with park distance control, a DVD navigation system, and a "Volkswagen Sound" eight-channel, 11-speaker (!) stereo system. The sound (we listened to lots of great stuff from Sinatra to Dylan on Sirius on this trip) seems to come at you from across the whole dash and the nav system was eminently workable. But the best part of the package was the rearview camera. It took me a while to trust it (I had experienced the same basic device on an Audi Q7 a week earlier so I had a bit of a head start) but once you get the hang of it, you'll really appreciate the tech part of this package and you just might end up saving the $3K that it cost in the first place by NOT taking a corner off your machine (or someone else's) in a tight parking lot late on a dark and stormy night. Let's see what do we cash out at? $49,650. Not cheap by any means, but certainly justifiable given the wealth of features and the wonderful way that all of them come together in this outstanding machine. By the way, and as always, there's more on the Volkswagen website ... Including a nice button for arranging a test drive ... Need I say more?

SUMMARY JUDGMENT High-end SUV motoring with a near high-end admissions price. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2 TDI Price: $49,650, as tested EPA rated gas mileage (city/highway) 17/25 miles per gallon (Editor's note: TDI's real world highway mileage typically fares better) Engine: 3.0 liter direct-injection, turb-charged, intercooled, common rail diesel DOHC 32-valve V6 Horsepower: 221 Torque: 407 pound-feet at 1750-2750 RPM Transmission: Six-speed Tiptronic automatic with sequential manual mode Drive configuration: All-wheel drive Steering: Servotronic rack-and-pinion power steering Suspension Front Suspension: Double wishbone front independent suspension with 4-Corner adjustable air suspension with six adjustable ride heights and Continuous Damping Control - three adjustable damping settings Rear Suspension: Four link rear independent suspension with 4-Corner adjustable air suspension with six adjustable ride heights and Continuous Damping Control - three adjustable damping settings Brakes: Power assisted front vented disc brakes (350 mm X 34 mm), rear vented disc brakes (330 mm X 28 mm) with ABS Dimensions Length: 187.2 in Width: 75.9 in Height: 68.0 in Ground Clearance (standard suspension): 8.3 in Ground Clearance (4-corner air suspension): Load level (0-3 mph) 6.3 in Standard level 8.7 in High speed level I (from 87 mph) 7.7 in High speed level II (from 118 mph 7.3 in Off-road level (0-43 mph) 9.6 in X'tra level (0-12 mph) 11.8 in

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