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« Review: 2005 Volkswagen Touareg | Volkswagen

2006 Volkswagen Touareg review

December 8, 2005 03:04 PM EST | SUV's , Volkswagen | Email to Friend

View large imageAn enticing blend of the pavement-dwelling crossover and the rugged off-roader swathed in Volkswagen style.

Pros
Upscale interior, polished road manners, true off-road capability, solid construction, lengthy standard equipment list.

Cons
Lousy fuel economy, smaller backseat than competitors, no in-dash CD changer.

What's New for 2006
For 2006, Volkswagen has upgraded the Touareg's V6 engine (late availability). It now displaces 3.6 liters and makes 280 horsepower. The diesel-fueled V10 is also expected to return after a 2005 hiatus due to emission qualifications (as before, it will not be available in California, New York, Maine, Massachusetts or Vermont). Other significant changes to the Touareg this year include bigger brakes for V6-equipped Touaregs and the addition of a new rearview camera feature and auxiliary multimedia connector to the optional navigation package. See 2005 model

Introduction:
It's pronounced "Tour-regg" -- emphasis goes on the first syllable. The word translates literally to "free folk," and refers to a nomadic tribe whose travels regularly take them across the Sahara Desert. Such harsh terrain demands a strong physical and emotional constitution, and knowing that, it shouldn't surprise you that an automotive manufacturer has adopted the name of this people for a sport-utility vehicle.

While obviously unable to replicate the sentient human qualities of the real Touareg, the SUV namesake does indeed possess a strong physiology. Not strong in the old-fashioned, live-axles-at-either-end, give-me-your-worst sense, but strong as in carefully engineered using today's technology to take on such conditions as rush-hour traffic in the city, steep off-road trails in the mountains and everything in between in an unflappable manner. VW chose to straddle the divide between crossover SUVs and traditional SUVs. The Touareg has a unibody structure, four-wheel independent suspension and agile handling on pavement like most crossovers. But leave the paved world, and it can be shifted into its low-range gearing (4WD Low) and evade the assaults of rocks with up to 11.8 inches of ground clearance when equipped with an optional air suspension. It can also ford water up to 22.8 inches deep.

With a full menu of safety features (stability control and head curtain airbags included), the five-passenger Touareg is one of safest SUVs on the road. While its smallish backseat and cargo bay may not make it the best choice for families, we expect that plenty of people will be delighted by the style and versatility of VW's SUV.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The four-door, midsize Touareg SUV comes in three models -- V6, V8, and V10 TDI. The V6 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leatherette seats, a telescoping steering wheel, genuine wood and aluminum accents, a 10-speaker sound system with CD player, one-touch front windows and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The V8 and V10 TDI add 18-inch wheels, upgraded side mirrors, leather seating and power-adjustable front seats. Popular options on the Touareg (depending on the trim level) include HID headlights, 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension, parking sensors, a locking rear differential, four-zone climate control, premium leather upholstery and a navigation system.

Powertrains and Performance:
Three engines are available. The V6, upgraded for 2006, displaces 3.6 liters and makes 280 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. The midlevel 4.2-liter V8 puts out 310 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. The diesel 4.9-liter V10 boasts 310 hp and 553 lb-ft. Interestingly, the V10 TDI provides the best fuel economy and the fastest 0-60 mph acceleration. A four-wheel-drive system is standard on all Touaregs, and it includes low-range gearing for serious off-roading. Optional on the V6 and V8 and standard on the V10 is an air suspension that increases the Touareg's ground clearance from 8.3 inches to 11.9; a rear locking differential is also available. Regardless of the engine equipped, the Touareg, properly equipped, is rated to tow 7,700 pounds.

Safety:
Every model comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes with BrakeAssist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, stability control, hill descent and incline rollback control. Passive safety features include side airbags for front occupants, full-length head curtain airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners in all outboard positions. Crash testing by the NHTSA returned a four-star rating (out of five) for frontal impacts (both driver and passenger) and five stars for side impacts (front and rear).

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, each Touareg has an upscale two-tone ensemble accented by real wood and aluminum. Most surfaces are soft-touch, and what hard surfaces there are (lower dash, console and doors) feel smooth and substantial to the touch. The backseat isn't overly roomy, and we encourage families to try before they buy. Cargo capacity is average -- 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71 cubes when they're folded.

Driving Impressions:
Even if you never leave the pavement, the Touareg should satisfy. The V6 is no longer the runt of the group and provides acceleration just about equal to that of the V8. The top dog is, of course, the V10 TDI. It's surprisingly quiet and posts the best fuel economy of the three engines. The Touareg's ride quality is smooth and stable, and although heavy, the VW feels agile around corners, particularly when equipped with the air suspension. Taken off-road, the Touareg amazes as it tackles steep passes and deep ruts normally reserved for rough-and-tumble Jeeps.

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