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2004 Volkswagen Touareg Road Test

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Better late than never

If youre going to be late to the party, you better show up looking hotter than anyone else there or no one is even going to notice you. Especially, when the party is filled with the debutantes of the sport utility world. There are Navigators dressed to the nines, Escalades parading around with their blue blood family crests and Hummers stealing the show on the dance floor. So, why would anyone turn to the door to see yet another midsize SUV enter?

Not only would this Johnny-come-lately need to be able to compete in such ivy leagues, but also outshine all the others quite the feat for such an overfilled market. However, that is exactly what Volkswagen had in mind when they debuted their first entry into the sport utility market: the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg.

Source: Car and Driver
Category:$35,000 – $45,000 Luxury Sports Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car:A person looking for the ultimate in luxury and sophistication in an SUV
Comparable models in this class:Acura MDX, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX, Lexus RX & GX, Lincoln Aviator & Navigator, Mercedes Benz M Class, Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90

Whats in a name?

The first comment most people made to us during our weeklong test drive was, whats it called? Touareg (pronounced tour-reg) actually has its origins in Africa. Named after the Tuareg, a nomadic tribe in the Sahara Desert. These free folk, as the name translates, used to roam the Sahara supporting themselves by raiding neighboring tribes, leading caravans and extracting taxes from trans-Sahara travelers. Of course with the advent of modernization all of that changed. Today, the Tuareg are not quite as rambunctious. They’re more sedentary, living in urban settings on the outskirts of the desert. And, although it would come in handy, its unlikely they could afford to shell out $35,000 for something that could traverse the desert in a fraction of the time that it takes a camel.

Touareg roots

Unlike its namesake, the Touareg shares its lineage with car royalty the crme de la crme: Porsche. Volkswagen joined forces with Porsche to create a refined, yet utilitarian vehicle.

Porsche went with the Cayenne. And, Volkswagen created the Touareg. Why this partnership between two classes? Because if both manufacturers had to venture into this market by themselves the developmental costs could have easily tallied over $1 billion dollars not a very profitable prospect for Porsche who only sells about 55,000 cars per year. So, they decided to hook up.

Basically, the Touareg and the Cayenne share the same blue print when it comes to size, platform and drivetrain components. However, they each went their separate ways when it came to engine, suspension tuning, styling and the finishing touches. The result? The Cayenne is designed for pure city driving while the Touareg is at home anywhere you are.

Offroad capabilities

From the looks of it, you’d think the Touareg would be afraid of chipping paint if it ever ventured from the asphalt. But, this one will surprise you. All Touaregs (both V6 and V8 models) are equipped with 4XMOTION, Volkswagens term for full-time all-wheel-drive. Optional features like adjustable ride height (top clearance being 11.8 inches vs. 8 on typical SUVs) and continuous damping control, which allows for varying shock stiffness according to road conditions, make traversing wooded backroads as comfortable as driving down the interstate.

Serious offroaders should opt for the navigation system, which provides you with GPS coordinates, along with a graphic that displays front wheel steering angles and altimeter readings and you thought you were piloting just another SUV.

Onroad refinement

Even though the Touareg is as capable as some Land Rovers, it is most likely destined to end up in the suburbia showroom. Pristinely parked in a driveway, never to venture past the safe, white strips of the road. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the Touareg is quite the looker.

Inside, the dash is bathed in burl walnut trim, brushed aluminum and chrome accents. Ambient lighting adds a warm glow every time you enter or exit while storage consoles are hidden inside one another: open the center console and you’ll find an integrated beverage holder that can accommodate one-liter container. Attention to detail is excellent and found where you would least expect it, like in the glove box (its air conditioned).

Its interior appearance could easily compete with the Mercedes ML-Class, BMW X5 and Lexus GX470. The Touareg fits five adults in comfort. The seats are wide and the headroom is generous. A third row is not an option, a negative point for some, but for those who don’t need to escort seven people around town, that simply equates into more cargo space. Our test vehicle even had a rear center armrest with a built-in, covered load through. Essentially, you could lay a pair of skis flat, through the load through, and because they’re encased in this built-in cover, there’s no dripping water or snow on your upholstery.

Volkswagen may have been late to the party, but they knew what they needed to make an entrance. So, should the other manufacturers stop what they’re doing and turn to look at this new RSVP? If they’re smart, they will.

The Touareg is the real deal its a svelte SUV with a taste for luxury and it isn’t afraid to get dirty, unless of course, you are.

2004 Volkswagen Touareg

Specifications

V6

V8

Engine Type3.2L Double overhead camshaft, 24 valve V64.2L Double overhead camshaft, 32 valve V8
Horsepower220 @ 5,400 RPM310 @ 6,200 RPM
Torque225 @ 3,200 RPM302 @ 3,000 RPM
Fuel RecommendedPremium 91 Octane Unleaded.
TransmissionElectronically controlled 6-speed shiftable automatic
Drive TypeAll wheel drive
Tires – StandardP255/60HR17 all season tiresP255/55VR18 all season tires
Overall Length187.2″
Wheelbase112.4″
Width75.9″
Turning Diameter38.1 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight5,086 lbs.5,300 lbs.
Fuel Tank26.4 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 15, hwy 20EPA city 14, hwy 18
Base Sticker Price$35,900 + $615 destination charge$42,640 + $615 destination charge

Standard Equipment
(partial list)

V8 models also include:
(partial list)

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Author

Michele Brooke

Automotive Expert

Michele began writing auto reviews in 2001 for a daily newspaper in Louisiana. She graduated with a MBA in finance but left the financial world for an exciting career in auto journalism. She can now be found tooling around town test-driving new cars.

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