Reviews – Review of New Cars – New York Times

14 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Reviews – Review of New Cars – New York Times

2004 Volkswagen Touareg 4dr V10 TDI

Below is a full, detailed review for the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg written by the automotive experts at The New York Times. A full evaluation of the driving experience, equipment and pricing are included from journalists with a wealth of experience.

2004 Volkswagen Touareg: Late to the Party but Nicely Dressed



VOLKSWAGEN and Porsche have headquarters just 330 miles apart in Germany, and they have common family ties: the original VW Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, who later founded his own sports car company.

When their interests have aligned, the companies have joined forces – for instance, to produce the 914 sports car that wore the Porsche name in North America and a Volkswagen-Porsche badge overseas.

More recently, the companies’ stars aligned again. After years spent outside the sport utility ball, the party finally became too alluring to resist. In a quest to tap this lucrative market, VW and Porsche teamed up to produce a pair of S.U.V.’s that share a common basic architecture.

The Porsche Cayenne has been marketed as an exotic four-door sport vehicle and is priced accordingly, with base stickers from $42,900 to $88,900. (A fully equipped Cayenne Turbo tops $100,000.)

With its Touareg (pronounced TOUR-egg, like an elephant sneezing), Volkswagen has aimed at a lower-price, although not inexpensive, segment. With prices in the $36,000 to $60,000 range, the Touareg has landed in the middle of the battleground, staring down formidable competitors like the BMW X5, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90 and Infiniti FX45, along with several others.

While I find the Cayenne’s styling ungainly – I am not alone in this view – I think the Touareg looks terrific, thanks to a few subtle changes. The front grille is aggressive and the broad shoulders are muscular; the window trim is subdued and stylish.

I drove three versions of the Touareg, a V-6 and two V-8’s. One, equipped with the 4.2-liter, 310-horsepower V-8, painted an agreeable metallic beige and wearing an attractive beige leather interior, had a base price of $42,640. Loaded with options like a navigation system, 19-inch wheels and a locking rear differential, it came to $53,205.

With a 220-horsepower V-6, the Touareg starts at $36,515. The latest addition to the line is also the most expensive: a Touareg with a 5-liter, 310-horsepower diesel V-10 starts at $58,415.

Spacious but not supersized, this is a grown-up S.U.V. that doesn’t cross the line into vehicular obesity, thanks in part to VW’s refusal to cram in a trendy (but mostly useless) third-row seat.

The Touareg’s strong V-8 reminded me of BMW’s 4.4-liter engine. Like it, the VW power plant responds on hard acceleration like a thoroughbed leaving the gate, and the six-speed Tiptronic transmission permits manual gear shifting, which is especially effective when you are driving enthusiastically. Unfortunately, at the tachometer’s redline, the transmission automatically upshifts even when in manual mode, depriving the driver of an element of control.

Car and Driver magazine tested the V-8 Touareg’s acceleration at 7.5 seconds from 0 to 60 m.p.h. and it feels even faster.

Both of my V-8 test vehicles had the optional ($1,200) adjustable air suspension. With the suspension on its sport setting, the car was composed and actually fun to drive on challenging roads – more so than the Cayenne Turbo, which seemed overpowered to me. When the comfort setting was selected, there was noticeably more body lean.

Above 5,000 r.p.m. heading for the redline of 6,500, the engine takes on an urgent, raspy performance sound. Third gear is perfect for blasting along between 55 and 70 m.p.h. On my personal pothole road, where I routinely test S.U.V.’s, the Touareg was most impressive even with low-profile tires on 19-inch alloy wheels.

When crossing a succession of four-inch-deep holes at 40 m.p.h. there was little body shake, and the suspension maintained its composure; on the same road, the stiffly suspended BMW X3 was nearly uncontrollable.

The VW’s antilock brakes are exceptional; when I simulated an emergency stop on gravel at 50 m.p.h. the vehicle came to a halt quickly and calmly without any drama.

The interior is exceptionally well done, with tasteful wood accents and six analog gauges that take on a nearly jewellike appearance at night, thanks to blue backlighting. The rear seat folds flat in a 60/40 split, and the area behind it is spacious.

The center console is nicely done, offering both a cigarette lighter and a power outlet, along with switches for locking the differentials and rotary dials for adjusting the suspension. Unusual for a German vehicle, the cup holders actually hold cups.

The steering wheel adjusts both in and out – an uncommon feature today – and up and down. The CD-based navigation system is several steps behind the times, typical of German cars. There is just one CD slot in the dash, so you can’t listen to a music disc and use the navigation system simultaneously unless you get the rear-mounted CD changer, part of a $2,600 option package. Further, when you start the engine, a prominent screen displays an irritating message that starts this way: Warning!

Distraction causes accidents. NEVER enter data while driving. And so on. The warning is itself a distracting hazard.

On the driver’s screen, I found it odd that the outside temperature wasn’t constantly displayed, especially for a car designed to be driven in cold weather.

The 10-speaker stereo sounded great, although the controls are needlessly complicated and buried in the center of the dashboard. The seats are curiously flat, hard and nonsupportive, but their inflatable lumbar support was appreciated.

The fancy high-tech wipers have a rain-sensing feature that I found most irritating. The wiper speed seemed to have no relation to how much moisture was on the windshield; a couple of drops would send them into a wiping frenzy.

Safety features include driver and passenger air bags, along with side air bags and curtain bags that extend across all side windows.

At a time when some S.U.V.’s, like the X5, do not even have a low gear range for off-roading, the VW is equipped for serious slogging. All Touaregs have VW’s 4XMotion permanent all-wheel-drive system, along with a low range and an electronically locking center differential. The all-wheel-drive system normally sends half of the torque to the front wheels, but in slippery situations it can send up to 100 percent to the wheel with the most traction.

This proved useful while driving off-road at a friend’s Christmas tree farm south of Portland. We unexpectedly crossed a two-foot berm with an irrigation ditch on the far side. We managed to get the skid plate under the car stuck on the berm, with the front wheels hanging in space over the ditch.

Just one of the rear wheels was firmly planted.

We set the adjustable suspension to its highest level, then locked the center and rear differentials. One rear tire gained traction and pulled the whole vehicle off the ridge. In all, a most impressive display, although we won’t be allowed to drive through the tree farm again anytime soon.

Despite its prowess, the all-wheel-drive system had a disconcerting tendency, on all three tested Touaregs, to bind up at low speeds in tight corners. An engineer conceded that early models had this problem, but said that it had been solved.

The towing capacity is unusually high, at 7,716 pounds. Gas mileage, while not very good, is typical of the class, with the V-8 rated at 14 m.p.g in town and 18 on the highway. (The V-6 is rated at 15/20 and the diesel at 17/23.) VW recommends premium fuel for the gasoline engines.

German cars are usually expensive, and the dollar’s weakness adds more upward pressure to their prices. But if there is a sweet spot for performance, appearance and value in an S.U.V. the Touareg scores on at least the first two counts.

INSIDE TRACK: Taking VW into greener (or at least more lucrative) pastures.

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