- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Seems like every major player in the automotive industry is offering, or plans to add, an SUV as part of their product lineup.

An unlikely participant in the SUV game was Porsche with the new Cayenne in two versions: an “S” as the base model and the admirable “Turbo,” so it comes as no surprise that stablemate Volkswagen joins the fray with an SUV version of its own — its first ever (the THING doesn’t count), which was actually co-developed with the Porsche off-roaders.

The Touareg also comes in two versions: a V-6-powered model and another with a V-8. Touareg is a “new product, in a new segment, allowing us to attract new buyers to the brand,” according to Frank Maguire, Volkswagen’s vice president of sales and marketing. Mr. Maguire further emphasized that Touareg is “a true off-roader in every sense of the word.”

Touareg was also designed to be equally at home on the autobahn and is truly an amazing vehicle, regardless of the model chosen or the terrain to be traversed.

The V-6 is 3.2 liters and delivers 220 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds of torque, with a base price of $34,900. The V-8 version is 4.2 liters, generating 310 horsepower and 302 foot-pounds of torque, and beginning with a base sticker price of $40,700.

Destination and handling is $615 for either.

Both engines mate to a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Dynamic Shift Program. Definitively, Touareg is the driver’s SUV from Volkswagen that does things that other VWs are incapable of. It is simpler, and more user-friendly than Porsche’s Cayenne.

The V-6 and V-8 each possess distinctive design cues that differentiate what’s under the hood — the V-6 runs on 17-inch wheels and tires, sports a painted grille surround and dual exhaust with no pronounced tips.

The V-8 stands on 18-inch wheels with 19-inchers available, features a bright grille surround and a rear fascia with cutouts for the chrome exhaust tips.

Touareg uses VW’s proven electronically controlled 4XMOTION permanent four-wheel-drive system to ensure its off-road prowess.

Power from both models is totally adequate for virtually all tasks, though the V-6 does work noticeably harder on steep mountain grades.

The air suspension option features an onboard compressor, and is a must for serious off-road enthusiasts, as it appreciably increases approach, departure and break-over angles, and ground clearance. A continuous damping control is in effect with Comfort, Automatic and Sport settings.

There is no third-row seat in either of the two current models, as VW thought that incorporating one jeopardized both safety and space. Other model Touaregs are to follow at a later date — an 8X with a full-size spare, and a V-10 TDI.

The Touareg is a most impressive SUV — after the pronunciation is mastered — doing things that seem initially impossible … in total comfort.

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