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2004 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Road Test

By Tom Strongman
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $60,000 - $70,000 Luxury Sports Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car: A person looking for the ultimate in luxury and sophistication in an SUV with passable fuel economy and superb performance.
Comparable models in this class: BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX, Lexus LX, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes Benz M Class, Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90 V8

The Touareg gets a fabulous V-10 diesel

Volkswagens Touareg luxury SUV is finally available with a V-10 turbo-diesel, and what an engine it is.

Diesels arent as popular in this country as they are in the rest of the world, especially Europe, but they have been improved so dramatically that they are now better than many of their gasoline counterparts. Diesels used to be noisy, sooty and slow, but the new state-of-the-art diesels are none of the above.

The Touareg TDI is just such an example. The 5.0-liter, 310-horspower diesel is very impressive. It cranks out a monstrous 553 pound-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Nudge the throttle and you get instant movement. Flatten the pedal and this Touareg flies. The typical loud diesel clatter is almost completely muted. Start-up is the only time it is even slightly louder than the gasoline engine.

VW uses an aluminum block, two turbochargers and an electronically controlled drive-by-wire system that controls the throttle and the fuel injectors that deliver precise amounts of fuel into each cylinder. Fuel mileage is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway, whereas the 4.2-liter V-8 is rated at 14 mpg city and 18 on the highway.

The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission has a gear for almost any situation, plus it can be shifted manually, which is a bonus in off-road situations.

The Touaregs all-wheel-drive system works together with hill descent control, hill climb assist, a locking center differential and a vehicle stability program. The transfer case with an extra-low gear means the Touareg has the off-road manners of a mountain goat.

The test cars optional air suspension allows the vehicle to be raised for serious off-road work, plus it automatically lowers the vehicle for better handling and mileage at high speeds.

From a performance and mileage perspective, the diesel is clearly the best choice for the Touareg. The only drawback to the diesel is the ,800 base price compared to ,640 for the V-8. The 3.2-liter V-6 starts at ,900.

The Touareg is an excellent example of how Volkswagen has broadened its product line. This luxury SUV rivals the best on the road, regardless of price. Its standard equipment includes heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with multifunction controls, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, five power outlets, premium stereo with CD player, trip computer, side-curtain airbags and center locking differential. Options include a navigation system, interior upgrades and air suspension that raises the vehicle more than three inches for off-road use and lowers it at highway speeds. The test car had lots of options and a sticker price of ,965.

A couple of gripes about the test car: The electronic throttle would occasionally go limp, as if the engine died momentarily, and then it would catch with a lurch. I believe this is a software issue with the drive-by-wire system as I have experienced it in other vehicles, too. Also, the navigation systems map was not easy to read because it often lacked street names.

Volkswagens upscale interiors are superbly finished. The Touareg is as well turned out as any luxury SUV on the market. The gauges look like an expensive watch, the burl walnut trim is scrumptious and the leather is soft. The Touareg does not have an optional third seat.

Folding down the back seat is not as easy as it should be for an SUV. The bottom cushions have to be tilted forward and the headrests removed before you can have a flat load floor.

The cargo area is very well finished, with plush carpeting and chrome tie-downs. Accessory power outlets by the tailgate are useful.

A double-wishbone suspension provides a very pleasant ride. Continuously adjustable shock absorbers, with sport, comfort and automatic settings, are part of the air suspension package.

The diesel Touareg may be expensive, but it compares favorably with the best SUVs on the market.

Do you have any feedback on the Touareg TDI?  Any opinions or experiences ofyour own?  We would love to hear from you.    Click here to send us your comments

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2004 Volkswagen Touareg





V10 Diesel

Engine Type 3.2L Double overhead camshaft, 24 valve V6 4.2L Double overhead camshaft, 32 valve V8 4.9L Single overhead camshaft, 20 valve V10
Horsepower 220 @ 5,400 RPM 310 @ 6,200 RPM 310 @ 3,750 RPM
Torque 225 @ 3,200 RPM 302 @ 3,000 RPM 553 @ 2,000 RPM
Fuel Recommended

Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.

Diesel fuel

Electronically controlled 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive Type

All wheel drive

Tires - Standard P255/60HR17 all season tires

P255/55VR18 all season tires

Overall Length 187.2"
Wheelbase 112.4"
Width 75.9"
Turning Diameter

38.1 ft Curb to Curb

Curb Weight 5,086 lbs. 5,300 lbs. 5,825 lbs.
Fuel Tank

26.4 Gals.

Miles Per Gallon EPA city 15, hwy 20 EPA city 14, hwy 18 EPA city 17, hwy 23
Base Sticker Price $35,900 + 5 destination charge ,640 + 5 destination charge ,490 + 5 destination charge

Standard Equipment
(partial list)

  • 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission

  • all wheel drive

  • descent control

  • mechanical center locking differential

  • hi-lo gear selection

  • alloy rims

  • rain sensing wipers

  • power glass sunroof

  • privacy glass

  • roof rack

  • 4-wheel ABS

  • emergency braking assist

  • traction control

  • stability control

  • dual front side-mounted airbags

  • front and rear head airbags

  • Automatic headlamps

  • tire pressure monitoring

  • Front Fog/Driving Lights

  • vinyl upholstery

  • Heated front seats

  • tilt and telescopic steering wheel

  • dual zone climate controls - driver and passenger

  • wood trim on dash

  • AM/FM in-dash single CD player, CD-controller stereo with 10 speakers

V8 models also include:
(partial list)

  • 18 inch wheels and tires

  • leather upholstery

  • 12 way power driver and front passenger seats

  • Memory seats for 3 deivers

  • multi-level heating front seats

  • manual sunshades for rear side windows

  • power retractable mirrors

Major Available Options

  • Navigation System

  • 4-Corner Air Suspension

  • 4-Zone Climatronic Air Conditioning

  • Electronic Parking Assistance

  • OnStar Telematics

  • Bi-Xenon Headlamps

  • Rear Differential Lock

  • Trailer Hitch

  • AM/FM/CD stereo with 11 speakers and 6 disc CD changer

For more information on the Touareg, visit

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