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2004 VW Touareg Goes Off-Road

Offroad on the Moab

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Touareg is Moab ready

The VW Touareg is more than capable on the Moab.

Eastern Utah is home to Moab, a great place to demonstrate the Touareg’s off-road capability; especially the infamous Hell’s Revenge course in Slippery Rocks.

No one expected the eye-popping and life threatening experiences found. When we weren’t climbing up and over two and three-foot high steps in "bull-low", we were hanging off our shoulder belts creeping down narrow 45 degree rock faces with sheer drops of 100 feet on either side. I can’t imagine doing this course in any other vehicle, except maybe a Humvee.

The Touareg was more than up to the challenge. While a steel suspension system is standard, an air suspension is offered with both the V6 and V8-equipped models. With the air suspension, ground clearance is 11.8” – more than a Hummer H2. Without air, ground clearance is 9.3”. And with air, the total suspension travel is 5.5 inches. Approach, departure and breakover angles also increase an average of 18% with air.<p>With air, the Touareg will ford a stream 22.8” deep. That’s 10” over the rocker panel. But because of the extra heavy, triple door seal you won’t even get your toes of your Timberlands wet. These seals also reduce wind noise to whisper levels.

The space age body is designed to survive crashes and the roof structure is reinforced to increase the safety for the occupants during a rollover. Over all, the Touareg’s crash behavior is similar to that of a luxury sedan, which is highly unusual for a sport utility vehicle. Extra large vented discs with 4-post calipers offer sedan-like braking. Electronic stability control (ESP) with traction control, an important safety feature, also comes standard.

We did Hell’s Revenge on a day when the temperature reached 100 degrees, yet we felt perfectly comfortable in the cocoon-like interior, which shows evidence of the kind of creative and original thinking that went into the chassis. The control knobs, for example, are big and grippy and the seats every bit as comfortable and supportive as a luxury sedan’s.

A 2-zone climate control system is standard. But in Moab, when the temperature hits 100 degrees, everyone tried to get one of Touaregs equipped with the optional 4-zone climatic control system.

A new radio/navigation system is also offered. The CD-based navigation system offers both on road and off-road functions. “So what?” you say. Well, just about any nav system will help you find the next thruway exit but this one will help you find your way back to where you started after you’ve gone and really got yourself lost in the woods.

Most enthusiasts are aware the Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne share the same basic chassis. But, according to Volkswagen’s project team, a chassis is all they share. Having driven both vehicles, I can say they’re similar in some ways but in most critical areas they’re as different as fish and fowl. While each has a 4.2L V8 engine, the Cayenne’s is designed and built by Porsche for Porsche. The Touareg, of course, shares its 4.2L V8 with its corporate cousin, the Audi A8 and various other Audis.

This is not to imply the Cayenne is less capable off-road than the Touareg. In fact, the Cayenne also handled Hell’s Revenge quite smoothly. The main difference between the two vehicles would be the overhang, which will affect the Porsche’s ability to enter and exit steep slopes. While the differences are slight, in a place like Moab, even a few degrees of entry or exit angle can mean the difference between your clearing an obstacle and continuing to enjoy an air conditioned leather seat or walking out for help in the 100 degree rattlesnake heat.

The Touareg is available with either a V6 or a V8. MSRP for the V6 is $34,900 and for the V8: $40,700. The new 5.0L, V10 TDI (diesel), which will be available in 2004, reportedly commands a substantial premium over that. A word of caution, don’t take the MSRP too seriously since VW seems to hide many of the most wanted performance and comfort features in so-called packages.

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