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By Lesley Wimbush

The goal when reviewing vehicles, is to write an objective assessment,
allowing of course, for personal preferences. So, having said that, I’ll try to be as impartial as I can because, of all the vehicles I’ve driven, from luxo-sedans, muscle trucks, sports cars and SUVs – the V10 Twin Turbo Touareg is my personal favourite – hands down.

I absolutely loved everything about this vehicle – largely due to its incredible, awe-inspiring power, but the quality and driveability is astounding. A friend and fellow AJAC member once remarked that his liking for a vehicle was in direct proportion to how much he disliked returning it. I hated taking the Touareg back, and kept looking over my shoulder as I drove away from the VW headquarters.

The first time I saw the commercial for Esuvee’ ( the
new mascot for the Safer SUV Driving awareness program, I laughed with
delight. Part woolly mammoth, part rodeo bull, it’s a brilliant
attention-getter and I immediately thought “put it in an Armani suit,
and you’ve got the Touareg!” Although nothing like it visually, the V10 Touareg has a wild beast within. Beneath that impassive, Teutonic
exterior lies a rollicking soul, just waiting for the drop of the gas
pedal to awaken it. Indeed, after hearing its soulful exhaust note, I
nicknamed it “Bantha” – after the woolly mounts of Star Wars fame. The
Touareg’s name actually comes from a tribe native to the African Sahara, and means ‘knights of the desert’.

It’s not a vehicle you’d ever be inspired to call “she”.. it’s more of a blunt instrument. Visually, it’s sort of a bionic egg, classic and
understated. Diesel is becoming more popular thanks to current gas woes, delivering better fuel economy, with the added bonus of helping to reduce some emissions. Diesel contains more energy than gasoline so the reduced amount of fuel burned means that 20 to 30 percent less CO2 is produced.

One of the keys to emissions reduction is a fuel injection system that
can deliver the fuel in small, precisely measured amounts under high
pressure. There’s a slight little soot cloud on start up and the barely perceptible chug-chug and telltale clatter that say ‘diesel’, but it’s impressively quiet while travelling.

The V10 TDI engine has an aluminum cylinder block with wear-resistant,
lined cylinders. The 5.0-litre engine is boosted by a pair of electronically driven turbochargers which show no sign of turbo lag.
There’s minimum vibration, and any noise from this colossal power plant
is well muted.

And power! Stepping on the throttle is like being shot from a cannon, if you can imagine the kind of force necessary to propel a 5,800 lb object from 0-100 km/hr in seven seconds. Horsepower is rated at 310 – but the torque is stupefying. With 553 lb ft of twist, the Touareg puts more power to the pavement than the Ferrari Enzo (485), the Ford GT (500) or the Porsche Carerra GT (450) and the same amount as the Dodge Viper. No mere pretender with delusions of grunt-deur, this is sufficient to slam you back in the seat and put a grin on your face. A low subdued rumble issues from twin tailpipes, the Touareg doesn’t need to shout.

Although the Touareg is a large vehicle, I found driving it easy and
intuitive. I’d read with trepidation a couple of reviews that mentioned
it was unruly in stop and go city traffic due to its massive power on
tap – to this I say total nonsense! This big SUV feels solid and
extremely stable with next to no wind or road noise. With its wonderful
lateral grip, and supple, linear steering, it seems far more road car
than truck. The Touareg is based on the same platform as the Porsche
Cayenne, and uses the same double wishbones fore and aft. The braking
system is massive – six-piston Brembos up front and four-piston behind
– as they need to be to haul this monster back from the speed it’s
capable of. There’s a slight understeer, but the ESP (electronic
stability program) prevents it from being excessive.

The 6-speed sequential automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is
equipped with Tiptronic (clutchless manual shifting) and optional shift
paddles behind the wheel. VW’s 4XMotion 4wd system electronically
controls the amount of torque transfer between the front and rear
wheels, depending on the road conditions. It uses a continuously
adjustable multi-plate clutch as part of the centre differential
mechanism and delivers torque in a 50:50 split from front to rear. If
needed, up to 100 percent of torque can be automatically sent to the
front or rear wheels.

The driver can choose between three settings: Sport, Auto and Comfort
The difference between them is noticeable – and the enthusiast will
probably prefer the stiffer, lower settings in Sport. The air
suspension system is awe-inspiring and self-levelling in stages – at 125 km/hr and 180 km/hr. The system has six ride heights and continuous damping control with three damping settings. Ride height can be manually changed, from 6.3 inches for highway driving – to 11.8 inches for off-roading. Step-in mode allows the Touareg to squat down for easier access, both for passengers and loading cargo.

The Touareg can navigate a 45-degree upward slope, 35-degree side slope – thanks to electronic assists that can hold it on slopes and help it to crawl back down at a walk. With its sealed axles and adjustable ride height, it can wade through water up to 22.8 inches deep (a boon for those pesky river crossings on the way to the office). This does beg the question however: how many people are going to take a vehicle worth nearly $100,000 out into the rough? Those who can afford it, I guess. The sticker price on the test vehicle came to $97,000 – and honestly, if I had it, I’d have no problem spending it on this Touareg.

The interior is clean and masculine. Thick, heated tan leather seats are firm, and comfortable: plush vehicular la-z-boys. They are fully
adjustable, complete with memory settings. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and heated, with a full array of instrument access buttons. Richly coloured burled wood accents highlight the dash and centre console – which was cavernous, but two-tiered, the uppermost of which kept making irritating contact with my elbow while driving. Drilled aluminum pedals are attractive and adjustable. Rear seating is just as comfortable, with climate control, heated seats, centre console and pull down screens for passenger windows.

Lighting is generous (including adjustable foot well lighting and
exterior lights that can be programmed to stay on to help you find your
way to the front door in the dark), bi-xenon headlights, foglights and
signal lights in side mirrors.

Gadgetry on this vehicle redefines the word “loaded.” There’s a huge
number of switchgear and buttons, all of which become intuitive after a
bit of familiarization. Automatic headlights and wipers (twisting the
wiper stick is startling, as two great oars sweep across the panoramic
windshield), keyless access and ignition, power tilt/slide glass
sunroof, four-zone climate control, and a sound system comprised of 6-disc CD changer with ten speakers are just a start.

A true afficionado of a nice gauge pod – I loved this one. The gauges
were so crisp and clean, they could be on display in a jewellry shop. The purple-glow instrument cluster boasts a startling 320 km/h speedo, tach, oil and coolant temperature, fuel level and battery voltage gauges. Need to know your points latitude and longitude? A scroll-through display screen accessed on the steering wheel can bring that option up. A diagram showing the angles of all four wheels? No problem. Speeding and tire pressure warnings? Ever wonder just how much fuel you are consuming as you depress and release the gas pedal? Coming right up!

I’d like to say I was impressed by the navigational system with its five-inch LCD television…but unfortunately, the CD was in the glove box – in two pieces. Could be that the previous driver was an even greater technophobe than I am…

To aid those who are parking, or backing-up challenged, the Touareg
comes with visual, and/or audible sonar. Overhead, a set of indicator
lights move from green to red according to urgency and approaching
object.. This same display is repeated at the back of the vehicle, for
backing up. If you so desire – you can be warned of proximity to objects with the press of a button – enabling an audible sonar system. Somehow, I managed to activate this system, and before figuring out how to de-activate it, was driven to teeth-gritting irritation by its extreme sensitivity. Approaching a corner stop sign inspired urgent and rapidly increasing staccato beeps. The drive-thru window for my morning Tim Horton’s fix was cause for alarm, at least to the Touareg, and cause for embarassment to me. Access to my backyard driveway is through a gated arbour – and an errant tendril of wisteria vine set off a series of indignant beeps long before it made contact with a precious mirror.

These mirrors, by the way, pin themselves back at the touch of a button, as protection while offroading and from narrow car washes.

Eight airbags and a high strength body help to keep occupants safe. The
Touareg offers generous cargo space – augmented by fold-down rear seats, an under-floor spare and dual 12-volt outlets and tie-down hooks. The rear hatch closes at a touch – thanks to the auto-close feature.

So, in the unlikely event that I become the recipient of a surprise
windfall or lucky lottery ticket – while awaiting the arrival of my
hand-built CAV GT40, I’d have to decide between a ’71 ‘Cuda or a Shelby
GT500. In the meantime, I’d already have rushed out and ordered the V10
Touareg, exactly as test-driven, as my daily driver.

Technical Data: 2005 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI

Base price $88,040
Options $8,960
Freight $695
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $97,795
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size SUV
Layout Longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 5.0-litre V10, turbocharged diesel, SOHC, 20 valves
Horsepower 310 @ 3750 rpm
Torque 553 @ 2000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tires 255/55R-18
Curb weight 2642 kg (5825 lb.)
Towing capacity 3500 kg (7716 lb.)
Wheelbase 2855 mm (112.4 in.)
Length 4755 mm (187.2 in.)
Width 1928 mm (75.9 in.)
Height 1727 mm (68.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 900 litres (31.8 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.8 L/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 9.2 L/100 km (31 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Diesel
Warranty 4 yrs/ 80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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