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Touareg tips the scale as ultimate SUV

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 11th, 2006

Volkswagen is a company that is known to produce affordable and fun cars for the average folk. In the past, VW products were a stepping-stone for someone who wants to get into German engineering.

That is no longer the case since VW itself has some very premium segment vehicles in its line-up.

Sitting one-step below the Phaeton is the Touareg SUV, a vehicle that was produced as a joint project with Porsche.

The Touareg also uses a lot of technology out of Audi, so teh SUV then is a mixed breed.

So the question would be- is the end result a successful cross-pollination or a bit of a letdown?

Lets start with the exterior, and I see no faults here. This is a handsome looking brute with clean lines all around and has real presence on the road. Personally, I think it looks even better than the Porsche Cayenne, with which it shares its platform.

Then enter the interior, which is again, simply fantastic. To start off, the build quality is great. Everything looks good and the quality is top-notch. More than that, VW designers actually spent time to ensure that all the materials work together in harmony. So just the right amount of chrome is used, and the wood looks beautiful and compliments the interior well.

Then there are the wonderful leather-lined seats for all the occupants. Not only do they support you in all the right places, they are also comfortable to sit on. Really, you will have no issues spending any amount of time in here.

Nor will you be bored if you spend a lot of time, because there are enough gadgets to keep anyone happy. Everything moves about electrically, and yes, you get automatic climate control too. You also get a wonderful stereo, but there is one annoying bit with that. You see the car came equipped with a CD auto-changer, however that auto-changer is placed right in the back of the vehicle, which is inconvenient. Most vehicles now have built in-dash CD changers, or have them placed in the glove box. However, I hear VW is about to fix this issue, so that be one complaint that'll be taken care off soon.

My test vehicle also came equipped with the optional navigation system. The navi' system is quite good with a very clear map, but all the functions are a bit confusing and its not as easy to scroll through different features as some competitors systems allow you to do. Still, it gets the job done.

What really gets the job done is the engine. While you can have the standard 3.2 V6, my test vehicle came with the powerhouse 4.2 V8.

This is not just an engine, it's like a nuclear reactor, and it never seems to be running out of grunt. This vehicle pulls away so strongly, it begins to feel like you're in the Starship Enterprise, traveling at light speed through the galaxy.

This 310 hp engine is mated to a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission goes through the gears so fast, breathing feels slower in comparison. No wonder then this vehicle is capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in about 6.5 seconds. Top speed, well I just didn't get the chance to check that out personally, for obvious legal reasons. Just be sure to use the performance wisely, because it will cost you quite a fortune on fuel consumption. I averaged about 17-liters/100km.

You can choose how fast to burn off your fuel by using the different settings on the gearbox, since you can either use it in drive mode, or you can use it in "S" for sport-mode when you really want to get moving. Like playing with gear ratios yourself, then switch it over to the TipTronic mode for your pleasure.

Most impressive of all, is that when you want to go off-road, this vehicle is actually going to be good at doing that. The ride-height certainly ensures you won't get stuck.

So it seems VW has thought of everything, and that includes the price.

A base V6 model is yours for $50,790. A base V8 is yours for $63,800. My test vehicle with options such as the luxury package and the navigation system is yours for $70,360.

Would I buy one? If I was in the market for such a vehicle, it'll have to be a choice between this Touareg and the Land Rover LR3. Which would I choose? I'll worry myself with this dilemma when I can actually afford to buy them.
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