Volkswagen's first attempt at an SUV was an interesting vehicle; bristling with technology but plagued with reliability issues, expensive for the segment and not the prettiest face.
To overcome the shortcomings, VW has embarked on a program that's seen it compete on the Dakar, Baja and Pikes Peak. They've also facelifted it, creating Touareg 2 (although don't expect to see this badged).
T2 has 22 exterior changes, most noticeably the appealing GTI-style grille. It also gets new bumpers, a rear spoiler, more chrome and four new colors. The aerodynamics are said to give a 1% fuel saving.
Inside, there are new 12-way adjustable seats (standard V8/10), revised instrument panel, trim and optional keyless access.
You also get a new 280hp 3.6 VR6 FSI, which should account for 70% of sales. There's a new 350hp 4.2 V8 FSI as well, and both are vastly improved over the outgoing units.
For toys, T2 gets a powered tailgate and parking assistance standard. The tire pressure monitoring works better and there's an optional ten-speaker Dynaudio sound system with a 620W ten-channel amp.
From a safety angle, you get ABS Plus, said to be more effective on loose surfaces. There's also Understeer Logic that compares steering input to the direction of the car and applies the brakes to compensate.
VW has made T2 easier to buy. Where there were formerly 1236 permutations of vehicle and equipment, there are now 208. The VR6 starts at $54120, with the V8 at $59020. Diesel fans can still get the V10 TDI in certain states, and a 230hp 3.0 V6 TDI is coming in '09.
In addition to the motorsport campaigns, the Toerag appeared recently in The Bourne Ultimatum, where it made a big impact. However, it's the SUV's off-road ability VW wants to promote. And while we thought it was a soft-roader, our recent experiences have shown it has outstanding ability over any terrain. It can certainly leave most of its competition floundering, and we drove on street tires. Who knows what a Touareg could do with off-road or snow tires?
We Experience The Touareg AdventureWe don't typically cover off-road action, but recent Dakar and Baja 500 involvement for the Touareg got us thinking about it. But you might wonder, who would risk their $40-60k daily-driven SUV in the mountains? Most wouldn't, but VW has designed the new Touareg with the ability to do so and invited us to its Touareg Adventure in Moab, UT to prove it.
The Touareg Adventure is a great vacation package offered to the public and includes lodging, food, transportation and three days of driving some wild and picturesque trails.
The location is right on the Colorado River. In fact, our hotel was used in a John Wayne movie - high red cliffs, beautiful desert and the raging green waters of the Colorado River.
We had a fleet of '07 Touaregs, including a V10 TDI and an '08 4.2 V8. With doubts about the SUV's potential, our minds had changed by day's end. None of the vehicles experienced damage over the rough terrain and, despite novice drivers, every vehicle completed the trail without difficulty.
Off-roading through Moab requires certain qualities, such as ground clearance to cross large rocks, proper suspension for balance and handling, immense traction on different surfaces and ample torque to power over obstacles. In its stock form, the Touareg possessed these qualities in buckets.
The first of its excellent features is the locking center differential that can distribute power 50/50 front and rear, helping with traction on slippery surfaces. The differential can also be locked to the rear wheels, helping traverse the more difficult climbing obstacles and steeper inclines.
Another awesome feature is the air suspension. There are two off-road settings. At its lowest for highway driving, the car sits 6.3" off the ground. The off-road setting raises the vehicle to where we drove the majority of the time. There's an "Xtra" setting to raise the vehicle and give 11.8" of clearance.
The hill descent control also surprised us. As we neared steep slopes, we could shift the Touareg into first gear and descend without even touching the brakes. If traction is lost, the system adjusts itself automatically. While we wanted to slam on the brakes, the system worked flawlessly.
We don't expect Touareg owners to use these capabilities everyday but it's nice to know you can if the need arises.
The Touareg's air suspension means it has an approach angle of 33, and can climb gradients of 45, or a 35 lateral angle. And thanks to new door seals and electronic connections, it can ford water up to 23" deep.
We put these claims to the test during our off-road excursions and came away surprised and impressed. There's seemingly nothing a novice driver can't tackle. And now the Touareg can be the player in the SUV market VW always envisaged.