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Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI L
road test

VW's first big 4x4 is a big winner!



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There is no getting away from it. Volkswagen was a long time coming to grips with the expanding market for largish 4x4s. But having now joined the market, can the Touareg make an impression against the long established competition?

The marketeers will recognise one problem. And that is that Volkswagen's major competitors, such as Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Nissan, have had many years to build up goodwill with the market. Clearly, Volkswagen is a 'Johnny-come-lately' and has a tough job ahead of itself. But the market is much bigger today than it was, say, 10 years ago. As such, it is pleasing to see increased competition.

With a clear mind, I hit the road (so to speak) in the Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI Luxury. The R5 arrived on the Australian market a little over a year ago. Other Touareg models include a 3.2 litre V6 petrol, a 4.2 litre petrol V8 and a 5-litre diesel V10.

Starting prices for the Touareg models begin at $69,900 (RRP) for both the standard V6 petrol and the standard R5 TDI without options and reach $138,500 (RRP) for the V10 TDI without options.

The test car, the Luxury version of the Touareg R5 TDI, is currently priced from $78,600 (RRP) plus options. The Colarado Red test car featured four options: sunroof ($2,500), pearl effect paint ($1,450), satellite navigation ($4,900) and parking sensors (($1,500). These options take the price of the test car to $88,950 (RRP) plus the traditional on-road costs.

At this price it isn't unreasonable to expect a lot. Thankfully, we can confirm you do, indeed, get a lot!

Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI

Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI
Location: Mt Sugarloaf NSW

Click the image for a larger view

For example, the R5 TDI Luxury model features ‘Cricket’ leather interior with front seats featuring 12-way electronic adjustment plus lumbar support and heating, walnut wood inserts in the dashboard, centre console, doors and gear knob, brushed aluminium trim inserts in the dashboard and doors, coming/leaving home function for the lights, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer jets and an auto-dimming anti-glare rearview mirror.

Like all Touareg models, the R5 TDI models have a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Dynamic Shift Programme (DSP) and puts its drive to all four wheels through the Volkswagen 4XMOTION system which has a transfer gearbox that features a switchable off-road low-range gear (front, rear and centre differentials). Centre differential lock is standard and an electronic rear differential lock is optional.

In normal conditions, power is split 50/50 front and rear. Although when the conditions gets worse, up to 100% drive can be transferred to either front or rear or even to an individual wheel. The driver can also activate the differential locks (up to 100%) manually using the rotary switch in the cockpit.

The R5 TDI models are powered by a 2.5-litre in-line turbo-diesel engine with pump injection that represents Volkswagen’s new generation design of 5 cylinder diesel powerplants.

The 5 cylinder engines were developed for both transverse and longitudinal mounting in various Volkswagen models (Touareg is longitudinal).

For the R5 TDI Touareg, maximum torque is 400Nm at 2,000 rpm and peak power is 128kW at 3,500 rpm.

The development goals for the engineers were:

  • A compact design to allow both longitudinal and transverse mounting
  • Low weight (for example the aluminium block)
  • Low maintenance (for example the maintenance-free gear train)
  • Soiling resistant ancillary drives unit – important for off-road driving
  • A modular design to minimise the number of sealing faces
  • Cross-flow cylinder head with pump injection system
  • Variable geometry turbocharger (electro-pneumatic)

  • Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI

    Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI
    Location: Mt Sugarloaf NSW

    Click the image for a larger view

    On paper, the Touareg looks like a winner! Especially the R5 because of the potential of the 5-cylinder diesel.

    Just as you would imagine, a drive in such a vehicle is full of anticipation.

    We drove 977 kms in this particular unit. Our driving was mostly on bitumen, in a mix of urban, country and freeway conditions. But a highlight was a few hours spent on tracks near Mt Sugarloaf, west of Newcastle NSW.

    It was on these tracks that the 4-wheel drive capability of the Touareg was confirmed. Although fitted with road tyres, the R5 was able to tackle a steepish hill and traverse some rough territory with relative ease. And you wouldn't expect anything else!

    Clearly, the Touareg is a particularly pleasing unit to drive. But as good as it is off-road, it is on-road that the R5 really shines. The ride comfort is outstanding. The handling is very good. The steering and braking are excellent. The transmission is smooth and effective. But what about the engine? Yes, the 5-cylinder is an interesting proposition, so how does it perform?

    We were amazed at the performance provided by the 5-cylinder turbo diesel. Considering that the tare weight of a Touareg R5 TDI comes in at 2,235kg (with 10 litres of fuel) you shouldn't expect too much in the way of performance. But with torque measuring 400 Nm (at 2,000 rpm) you can visualise no problems with getting underway. And that is just the way it is. There is no problem in getting underway and the R5 can cruise along all day with ease and it maintains momentum on hills, too. So expect a surprise if you believe a 2.5 litre diesel will have trouble powering a minimum of 2.4 tonnes. We rate the performance from the turbo diesel as very good. You'll will never beat a Golf GTI but for a largish SUV that weighs well over 2 tonnes and occupies a fair amount of space on the tarmac, you should be delighted by the acceleration. More particularly, you'll be excited by the fuel consumption! Volkswagen figures suggest 0-100 km acceleration takes 12.9 seconds, which is a long time in sports car terms but, in my mind, it is more than acceptable for an over 2-tonne SUV. On a 'combined' cycle, fuel consumption is rated at 10.1 litres/100kms, which I rate as excellent. In fact we rate the fuel consumption, together with the ride comfort and the 4WD capability as the reason why the Touareg shines in the SUV market place.

    We also liked the multiple sun visors, the interior lighting, the comfort seating and the roomy interior.

    The vehicle's finish indicates quality.

    The satellite navigation is good, but it is limited to populated areas. Hopefully the supplier of the system will soon recognise that Australia is more than the major metropolitan areas.

    For those interested in towing, you will be excited by the prospect of the Touareg's towing capability. It is rated at 3,500 kg for braked trailers (750kg unbraked). And the R5 runs economically as well!

    Yes, Volkswagen was slow to bring a largish 4WD to market. But the Touareg R5 TDI L demonstrates that at least VW got it right with their first endeavour in the largish 4WD market. The Touareg is a roomy and comfortable car. The drivetrain and driving dynamics (on-road and off-road) are superb. The fuel economy is beyond excellent.

    There is just one more question ...... how did Volkswagen get it so right?

    Stephen Walker
    13th December, 2005

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    Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI

    Volkswagen Touareg R5 TDI
    Location: NSW Golf Club

    Click the image for a larger view

    ON 30/12/05 WE WILL NAME THE CAR

    You'll see it HERE after midday 30/12/05.

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