It came as a bit of a shock a few years ago when we heard that VW’s first SUV was going to be in the premium price segment and was going to include SUV qualities — read, off-road ability — at a time when the market seems to be gobbling up very carlike designs like the Nissan Murano, Volvo XC90, and Lexus RX330. Is there room in the premium SUV market for the oddly named Touareg?
That enigmatic name, pronounced ‘tour-regg’ (ignore the ‘a’), which VW Germany was rumored stubborn to keep despite marketing-department resistance, is the name of a Saharan tribe, and VW says that it represents qualities of self-reliance and triumph over harsh terrain. Seems like the perfect name for an SUV, right? If only it were easier to say…
Volkswagen is serious by any standard when it claims the Touareg is tough. It’s overbuilt and burly enough to survive the toughest off-road treks. Rather than sharing a platform with the company’s car lineup, or incorporating portions of its cars’ underpinnings, the vehicle uses a completely new uni-body steel platform designed to resist severe off-road flex and twist.
Boulder-scrambling underpinnings aside, the Touareg was designed from the start to be luxury-car quiet, with sandwiched aluminum within the structure, panels made of sound-deadening materials, and a special door-seal system. It works. The Touareg is extremely quiet inside and very little road or wind noise enters the cabin. Vaultlike is a word used often in reference to high-priced German cars, but here’s it’s a relevant term to use.
In the U.S., two different engines power the Touareg: either a 220-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 or a 310-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 Our test vehicle had the V-8. The all-aluminum engine has five valves per cylinder and is the same engine that powers the new Audi A8, but with a deeper oil pan and spraying tube to make sure lubrication is adequate in off-road situations.