2008 Volkswagen Touareg Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 1, 2008

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg has more toughness than most mid-size SUVs for heavy-duty towing and off-road needs yet on-the-road comfort doesn’t suffer.

In bringing you this comprehensive review covering the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg, the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com have looked to some of the most respected review sources on the Web. Then, in order to make the review especially useful, TheCarConnection.com’s editors have included their own firsthand driving experience.

The mid-size 2008 Volkswagen Touareg sport-utility vehicle looks like a car-based crossover vehicle, and even though it doesn’t have a ladder frame like some of the workhorse SUVs, it’s still capable of much more serious off-road situations and heavier towing tasks than other crossovers.

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg keeps the same basic shape as last year’s model, but it incorporates a host of smaller changes inside and out and gains "Touareg2" badging. The headlights and front air intakes follow a new design, with more brightwork, and a new LED rear lamp design is introduced. Aerodynamics have been improved, roof rails are now standard, and a new rear spoiler fits much better with the Touareg’s silhouette.

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Inside, the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg breaks away from VW’s traditionally Spartan cabins, with fine leather, metal, and wood materials along with pleasing plastics; it’s put together well, with easy-to-read gauges and mostly well-placed controls.

Seating is very generous and spacious in front, with great seats that are soft enough to feel luxurious, yet sufficiently firm for ache-free long drives. Behind the front seats, the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg is disappointing, with backseats that are comfortable but don’t offer a lot of space for larger folks and surprisingly little cargo space. The four-zone climate control aids comfort in back, however.

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg comes in V-6, V-8, and V-10 models. The base V-6 model’s 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter now moves the Touareg respectably, though it’s not particularly quick. The V-8 model’s 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter provides more satisfying acceleration for driving around with a full load of people or cargo, but the V-10 model’s huge 5.0-liter turbodiesel engine is the choice if you plan to tow a big boat up the ramp and onto the interstate—it makes nearly as much horsepower as the V-8 (310 hp versus 350 hp), but with an enviable 553 pound-feet of torque. Properly equipped, the Touareg can tow up to 7,716 pounds. But the big turbodiesel isn’t a choice for those who wish to go green; it’s not offered in California-emissions states, and it gets the same highway fuel economy as the V-6, just hitting 20 mpg. With the V-8 engine, the Touareg is rated at only 12 mpg city.

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg has an extremely smooth, settled ride that’s comfortable but not at as bouncy as some SUVs, and the interior is remarkably quiet. It also handles well for a vehicle that in some trims can approach three tons—although the weight can be felt in abrupt maneuvers. Despite the Touareg’s length and width, which aren’t all that different from a mid-size sedan's, the Touareg is somewhat difficult to park, with limited rearward visibility—though now-standard parking sensors help.

The Touareg’s all-wheel-drive system has a low range for serious off-roading, along with the impressive approach and departure angles to conquer some precarious situations. Hill descent and climb assist, two electronic aids, also help with slippery situations. The available air suspension package brings the ability to adjust ride height and improves handling both on- and off-road.

Several features that were optional before are now standard on the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg, including a power rear liftgate, sonar parking sensors, and Sirius Satellite Radio. Heated seats, a sunroof, keyless entry, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control are also included. Major options include a high-end Dynaudio sound system, a navigation system, adaptive cruise control, and cricket leather and walnut trim upgrades. A Bluetooth hands-free system is still not offered.

Front side airbags, full-length side curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are all standard on the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg. It has done very well in federal crash tests, with top five-star ratings in both frontal and side-impact tests.


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2008 Volkswagen Touareg

Styling

The freshened 2008 Volkswagen Touareg looks more functional, capable, and luxurious, inside and out.

A minor refresh for the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg subtly enhances the SUV’s adroit appearance and quality interior.

“Restyled headlamps and a large chrome grille that echoes the look of the Volkswagen Passat,” says Kelley Blue Book of the front of VW’s first entry into the SUV field, restyled subtly for 2008. They go on to praise its “tall, wide stance” and “short front and rear overhangs that also help improve approach and departure angles.” Cars.com likes the exterior freshening, making note of the grille that “adopts Volkswagen’s familiar silver faceplate,” as well as “darker taillights and a new roof spoiler.” Seventeen-inch wheels are now standard with the V-6 (VR6 in VW-speak), 19s for the V-8 and turbodiesel V-10. Of the new silhouette, MyRide.com feels “it gives the nose some character, something the generic-looking first run of Touaregs lacked,” and otherwise describes the Touareg shape as a “classic two-box SUV with all the edges rounded off.”

MyRide.com likes “the simplicity of the layout, the proper orientation of all the controls” on the inside of the Touareg. ConsumerGuide feels “the gauges, dashboard, and console look contemporary and upscale, but the proliferation of buttons and controls requires a preflight briefing.” They temper this criticism, noting the “Touareg 2 matches any luxury SUV for quality of interior materials.” Of the standard V-Tex Leatherette, MyRide.com says, “it's stiff but otherwise did a decent job of feeling like it once came from an animal of some sort.” Upgrades feature sumptuous leather and wood, an interior treatment that Kelley Blue Book attests “easily rivals the best in the luxury SUV class.” Car and Driver mentions “its handsome IP” that “includes analog gauges for water temp, oil temp, and volts – a rarity.”

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2008 Volkswagen Touareg

Performance

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg masters trails, swills fossil fuel, and overwhelms its powerful engines with its massive curb weight.

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg applies every one of its 5,000-plus pounds to startling off-road prowess--and to startling on-road fuel consumption and unwieldiness.

The Touareg’s two gasoline-powered engines benefit from Audi/VW’s gasoline direct-injection wizardry, dubbed FSI. But rather than reducing their thirst, they upped the power to contend with all that curb weight. The base 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, contends Kelley Blue Book, now “provides adequate power.” The optional V-8, fortified to the tune of 350 horsepower, “provides adequate power” and yields “a subtle growl when passing,” remarks Motor Trend. Edmunds finds the 5.0-liter turbodiesel V-10, at 310 hp and a stump-pulling 553 pound-feet of torque, to be “the most intriguing (and expensive) entry.” It also yields both the swiftest acceleration and the best fuel economy.

All engines are paired with “a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive,” reports Kelley Blue Book, who explain that the Touareg’s “low-range gear, adaptive torque distribution and locking center differential help take the Touareg 2 over the most intimidating terrain.” Car and Driver complains that transmission in their test vehicle “whined whenever the vehicle was coasting.” But Edmunds praises the “rock-solid platform co-developed with Porsche,” that is “more in line with the Range Rover than the growing number of soft-roader crossovers.”

All of this brute strength, off-road ability, and stout structure take their toll at the pump. The EPA rates the Touareg at 14/19 mpg, 12/17 mpg, and 15/20 mpg for the V-6, V-8, and diesel, respectively—all dismal numbers in this age of skyrocketing oil prices. Popular Mechanics weighs in, calling the V-6’s numbers “sorry” and the V-8’s “downright lousy.” Edmunds comments, “fuel economy is relatively poor for this class of vehicle.” Note that premium is recommended for both gasoline engines.

All that weight takes a toll on the handling as well. ConsumerGuide feels that “Touareg 2 feels ponderous in fast changes of direction, and it's no match for lighter SUVs such as the Acura MDX or Lexus RX.” Still, the Touareg’s steering and handling are generally praised: “light steering and a supple off-road ride,” comments Car and Driver; “The ride is compliant yet provides plenty of road feel, and the fairly responsive steering feels artificial at low speed,” remarks Motor Trend. But bringing that weight to a halt resulted in “the longest braking distance of this pack,” reports Car and Driver in an eight-SUV comparison.

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2008 Volkswagen Touareg

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg has less space and fewer seats than rivals costing far less—but it does have exceptional materials.

Compromised interior space blended with excellent fit and finish are a tough sell on a $40,000 2008 Volkswagen Touareg, and an even taller order on a $70,000 one.

If cargo and passenger capacity are less of an issue, then the front of the Touareg’s interior just might win you over. “Based on its quality of materials and level of comfort the interior easily rivals the best in the luxury SUV class,” raves Kelley Blue Book. ConsumerGuide praises “great headroom and generous seat travel” and “firm and comfortable seats.” And MyRide.com feels “the long bottom cushion is perfect for long thighs, offering plenty of support.”

The tight rear quarters of the Touareg hurt it in comparison with a field of SUVs and crossovers that have adopted seven-passenger seating as the rule. With no third row, the Touareg can accommodate only five passengers. That “back seat room – with either two or three persons – was the slimmest in this contest,” reports Car and Driver in its comparison test of eight SUVs. Kelley Blue Book also feels “many buyers will find the Touareg 2’s five-passenger design flawed” and remarks that “even a fully loaded, $70,000+ Touareg has neither a premium badge nor a third row of seats.” Of the rear seats, ConsumerGuide remarks that “the tallest riders may want a bit more head clearance” and “foot space shrinks to marginal with the front seats set far back, but knee space is never painfully tight.” They also find that “narrow rear doorways hamper entry and exit.” MyRide.com considers the seatback “too upright and the bottom cushion…too short.”

Perhaps saving the Touareg is “a richly-appointed cabin of leather, wood and chrome trim,” according to Kelley Blue Book. Reviewers also appreciate the Volkswagen’s attention to sound attenuation, and indeed, ConsumerGuide finds that “wind rush is low for an SUV” and the “Touareg 2 matches any luxury SUV for quality of interior materials,” while still noting that some of their examples “suffered from an assortment of interior rattles.” MyRide.com comments that the leather-covered wheel “feels good in the hands; so does the similarly wrapped shift handle.” They also discover that “finding a comfortable place to rest our elbows was easy.”

In base trim, at around $40,000, the Touareg competes with luxury SUVs such as the Acura MDX, the Lexus RX 350, the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz ML500, and the Land Rover LR3. But by and large, those vehicles offer lower curb weights and, therefore, better acceleration and fuel mileage--not to mention available third-row seating in some of the above. Moving up the range, a V-8 starts at nearly $50,000. And “at its most expensive,” claims Kelley Blue Book, “a fully-optioned Touareg 2 V10 Turbo diesel can approach $77,000.” Says MyRide.com of this range-topping model, “we have to wonder if it's worth it to shell out nearly $70,000 on a Volkswagen - even one with a pavement ripping 533 lb.-ft. of torque - when an Audi and Porsche cost just as much.”

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2008 Volkswagen Touareg

Safety

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg has excellent crash-test scores and abundant safety features.

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg’s stout platform is enhanced with new high-tech active safety features, making it less likely to need its passive ones.

In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) front and side impact crash testing, the 2008 Touareg earned five stars all the way around. It earned four stars in the rollover resistance category, perhaps explaining Volkswagen’s decision to include the aforementioned Active Rollover Protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet tested the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg.

The most prolific safety news for the Touareg’s 2008 model year is in the realm of braking. In addition to the Hydraulic Braking Assistant, which, as MyRide.com explains, “charges the braking system fully if the throttle is suddenly disengaged,” there is the new ABSPlus, which is designed specifically to shorten off-road stopping distances. On loosely packed surfaces such as dirt and snow, ABSPlus helps to reduce stopping distances by up to 20 percent “by intentionally locking up to push debris in front of the wheels,” reports Cars.com.

Popular Mechanics brings word of a new rollover protection system, Active Rollover Protection, that “activates the side and side-curtain airbags to reduce the possibility of injury” if sensors detect that the Touareg is about to go belly up. They also mention a new tire pressure monitoring system that “delivers real-time air-pressure readings to the driver more quickly and accurately.”

Other new safety features for the 2008 Touareg include Understeer Control Logic, which, as MyRide.com explains, “improves the vehicle’s dynamics if it understeers in a corner.” They also mention the ESP dry braking function, which “engages the brake linings with the disc at repeated intervals” during wet weather to keep the pads and disc surfaces dry and ready for effective braking at a moment’s notice.

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2008 Volkswagen Touareg

Features

The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg starts out with good features, but more expensive models lack some stuff that’s standard on the competition—and Bluetooth isn’t offered at all.

At $40,000, a 3.6-liter VR6 2008 Volkswagen Touareg is an impressively equipped and capable vehicle. But as you move up the model spectrum or add many options, its competitors make more sense.

For your $40,000 entry fee, the VR6 model “includes a long list of features designed to enhance its on and off-road abilities,” so states Kelley Blue Book. Front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes round out what you would expect, while Hill Descent Assist, 4XMotion four-wheel drive, and tire-pressure monitoring are items you might not. A standard tow rating, with all three engines, of 7,716 pounds speaks to the Touareg’s heft and do-anything abilities. Standard creature comforts include dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, heated seats, a sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Step up to the V8 FSI trim, and you get an available “adjustable air suspension, xenon headlights, real wood trim, leather upholstery and driver memory function,” according to Edmunds. The air suspension, which Popular Mechanics finds “infinitely tunable to all conditions off-road,” is standard on the V-10 TDI.

A Dynaudio 10-speaker, 640-watt stereo is optional across the board, as is a DVD-based navigation system, a reality that troubles MyRide.com, who lament when speaking about the $69,000 V-10 TDI, “you still have to pay extra for the navigation system, heated rear seats, upgraded audio and keyless entry and start. Clearly, value isn't the Touareg's strong suit.” Also, Bluetooth functionality is not to be had in any of the models. A locking rear differential and a tow hitch are available.

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