VW Unveils Touareg, Finally

Piëch Waves the Long Goodbye by Jim Burt (4/22/2002)

DETROIT--Volkswagen AG this week releases the first official photos of the Touareg SUV, which will debut at the Paris auto show in September and go on sale in 2003.

The Touareg shares a platform and all-wheel-drive system with the Porsche Cayenne (the two vehicles were developed by the companies together), and is slightly larger than the BMW X5 at 76 inches wide and 67.7 inches tall, with a wheelbase of 112.6 inches. The overall length of the Touareg is 187 inches.

Compared with the BMW X5, the Touareg sits four inches longer, two inches wider, with a wheelbase 1.5 inches longer and a mere half-inch difference in height.

Both the Cayenne and Touareg will be unveiled in Paris. Photos of the Cayenne were released at the Geneva Auto Show in March. The Touareg should make its North American debut at next January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Late to the party

Volkswagen is late to the SUV party, but it is counting on 80,000 sales worldwide for the Touareg, with around half of those in the U.S. The Cayenne is getting 20,000 vehicles a year out of the plant to start.

Pricing for the Touareg is not announced, but VW insiders say that the vehicle will ballpark between $35,000 and $50,000, depending on the equipment package and engine.

2003 Volkswagen Touareg

The name “Touareg” pronounced “Tur-ek,” has drawn much criticism and debate since it was announced earlier this year. The name is the French spelling of a sub-Saharan nomadic tribe known for, among other things, slave trading.

Volkswagen dealers who got their fill of hard-to-pronounce names with fahrvergnuegen petitioned Volkswagen of America recently to get Volkswagen AG to rename the vehicle for the U.S. market.

VW of America chief Gerd Klauss said at the New York Auto show, however, that Volkswagen AG turned down the request. VW wants to have global names. The last time VW gave in to U.S. demands was in naming the Jetta, called the “Bora” in other markets.

VW executives said that when the German company gave in to renaming the Bora they were told it would be the only time they would give in. “That was our mulligan,” said one frustrated VW exec.

Several VW execs and those advising the company thought “SUVW” would be the best name.

Under the hood
The all-wheel-drive system in the Touareg and Cayenne is new, as both VW and Porsche wanted a vehicle that is as capable off-road as it is on the road. The fully electronic AWD system utilizes electronically controlled differentials that can be programmed to respond to both pre-mapped preferences (say a 30/70 front to rear wheel drive bias) and to varying conditions of both slip and driver demands.

If full throttle is applied from a stop, for example, the system will use actual throttle measurement to apply more torque to the rear wheels in anticipation of front slip (as opposed to a system that must detect slip first before diverting power or locking differentials). The system will still detect slip though and divert more power to the wheels that need it most. The system employs an inter-axle differential lock and also has a true low-range gear set for those demanding conditions that warrant it.

Towing capacity is 7716 lb and Volkswagen claims more than 11 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford through water up to 23 inches deep.

The AWD system in the Porsche will reportedly be set with more rear power bias than in the Volkswagen application to give it more traditional Porsche handling and power characteristics. However, the Volkswagen application will reportedly be more suited to hard-core off-road usage due to different programming of the AWD system electronics and its more neutral handling characteristics.

At the German market launch, the Touareg will be available with a 3.2-liter VR6 engine and a 5.0-liter V-10 TDI engine. The VR6 engine has a power output of 220 bhp and develops up to 225 lb-ft of torque. The world's most powerful passenger car diesel engine is the V-10 TDI with unit injectors and bi-turbo charging. It has a power output of 313 bhp and develops 551 lb-ft of torque at 1800 rpm. Two other engines will be added to the lineup at a later date — a new five-cylinder TDI with 2.5 liters of displacement and a 4.2-liter V-8 gas engine.

Six-speed gearboxes are fitted as standard - the choice between automatic and manual is determined by the engine size. With the automatic gearboxes, the driver can use DSP (Dynamic Shift Program), the Tiptronic gear lever, or, if fitted, the steering wheel paddles, to influence gear shifting. In North America the Touareg will be offered initially with the 3.2-liter VR6 and 4.2-liter V8. Neither vehicle will offer a manual six-speed transmission here in North America.

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