Volkswagen campaigns have always been minimalistic but amusing. It's a character that dates back to the time of the iconic Beetle and the Kombi. Along the tradition of simplicity, a Volkswagen SUV shouldn’t be pulling a Boeing 747. So what's that Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI doing back in 2006? It might well have been a scene right out of an action film, but in truth, it was a PR stunt demonstrating the diesel’s brute towing power.
It all began as a wager among Volkswagen employees that ended as marketing material. The Touareg was slightly modified, and the Boeing was a retired British Airways aircraft with dummy engines, yet it was still a case of a dachshund tugging a mobile home. So what is a Touareg, and does it have vast reserves of strength and towing capacity to pull a 155-tonne load behind it?
The FCAI categorises the VW Touareg as a large SUV, which is equivalent to a J-segment car, midsize SUV, or large 4x4 in other automobile classification systems. Volkswagen AG began producing it from their Bratislava plant in Slovakia since 2002 as a joint venture with Audi and Porsche. They named it from the Tuareg people who live across Sahara and parts of North Africa. The name translates to “free folk”, and Volkswagen borrowed it to exemplify strength in character and resilience in the face of difficulties.
1st Generation: Typ 7L (2002–2010)
The Touareg (aka Typ 7L) shares one design platform with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, particularly the PL71 platform, and rolls off from the same production plant as the two.
The powertrain options for the Touareg consisted of the following engines, all paired up with a 6-speed automatic gearbox:
- (2002–2007) – 3.2 VR6 petrol (162 kW to 177 kW; 305 N⋅m)
- (2002–2007) – 5.0 V10 TDI AYH turbo diesel (230 kW; 750 N⋅m)
- (2002–2008) – 4.2 V8 AXQ/BAR petrol (228 kW; 410 N⋅m)
- (2003–2010) – 2.5 I5 TDI BAC turbo diesel (128 kW; 400 N⋅m)
- (2004–2006) – 3.6 VR6 FSI petrol (206 kW; 360 N⋅m)
- (2004–2007) – 3.0 V6 TDI turbo diesel (165 kW; 500 N⋅m)
Unlike most of Volkswagen's mass-orientated models, the Touareg pits alongside upscale SUVs in the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Volkswagen secured its position in this market by unifying luxury, sporty styling, and off-road capabilities in this five-door SUV.
There's a high demand for the V6 and V8 variant, but the V10 TDI has its share of fans. On-the-fly progressively-locking central differential with manual override is standard equipment for all variants. After-market front differential locks are available for powering through gnarly tracks. Plus, for more superior off-road drivability, there are options for 4-wheel adaptive air suspension and continuous damping control. These technologies reduce body roll in sharp roundabouts, improve vibration absorption on rough terrains, and allow changing of the car’s ride height. The default ride height is 160mm, which is adjustable to 244mm for off-road level and 300mm for higher ground clearance.
The entry-level R5 TDi variant has the 2.5 TDi I5 powerhouse under its bonnet and dons 17-inch alloys. Standard equipment includes dual front/head/side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners for front seats, leather steering wheel, and a 10-speaker CD/radio, among other features. A more luxurious trim comes with heated and power front seats, leather upholstery, and wood grain trim. The V6 has similar trims, except for the more powerful engine.
While there’s only one trim for the V8, its trims are more upmarket, including 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and power front seats with memory, and 10-speaker sound system. The range-topping V10 TDi does not disappoint with its 19-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, SatNav, and Xenon headlights, to name a few.
A new model debuted at the 2007 Australian International Motor Show, called the R50. It is a V10-engined model that outputs 257 kW and 850 N⋅m and sprints 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. It sports 21-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler and comes equipped with air conditioning with multi-zone climate control.
2nd Generation: Typ 7P (2010–2018)
Volkswagen announced the arrival of the new Touareg early in 2010; it premiered at the Geneva Motor Show and later at the New York International Auto Show in the same year. The new generation (code: Type 7P) uses the PL72 platform, which it shares with Porsche Cayenne but not with Audi Q7 this time.
BlueMotion variants in this generation come with a range of energy-saving innovations working with the powertrain to improve fuel efficiency and limit emissions. Some of these technologies include battery regeneration, more aerodynamic design, and new automatic start/stop feature and apply to TDI, TSI, and FSI engine variants. Clean Diesel engines are also available for some markets.
These engines, which are almost 20% more fuel-efficient than the previous generation, powered the new generation of the Touareg. Below are the choices available in Australia; all come standard with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
- (2010–2018) – 3.6L VR6 FSI petrol engine (206 kW; 360 N⋅m; 7.8s from 0-100 kph; 228 km/h) – BlueMotion technology
- (2010–2018) – 3.0 V6 TDI turbo diesel (150 kW; 450 N⋅m; 8.5s from 0-100 kph; 206 km/h) – Clean Diesel technology
- (2010–2018) – 3.0 V6 TDI turbo diesel (180 kW; 550 N⋅m; 7.6s from 0-100 kph; 220 km/h) – BlueMotion technology
- (2010–2018) – 4.1L V8 TDI turbo diesel (250 kW; 800 N⋅m; 5.8s from 0-100 kph; 242 km/h)
For comparison, the previous 3.6L VR6 FSI petrol engine drinks up 13.8L/100km, while the new version is not that thirsty at all, consuming 10.1L/100km, which translates to 27% reduction in fuel consumption. But that’s not even it – the V6 TDI cuts fuel consumption by 32% from the previous generation’s 10.9L/100km to 7.4L/100km in the present. (Note: all values for fuel consumption refer to combined driving.)
In addition to increased fuel efficiency, the new-age version has a lower drag coefficient, sits lower to the ground, and is lighter than its old self. The second-generation Touareg also introduced to the world the first glare-free high-beam headlights, which continually adjusts the range and pattern of the beam.
The IIHS tested the Volkswagen Touareg VR6 for the 2011 model year and gave it an overall rating of Good (in a scale of Poor to Good). It scored Good in all test categories, namely: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.
The Euro NCAP safety test results for the 2018 VW Touareg also shows a maximum overall rating of 5 stars. The ENCAP tested it for its safety to adult and child occupants, to pedestrians, and the safety-assist equipment that it features.
3rd Generation: CR (2018–present)
Volkswagen AG uses its MLBevo platform for the production of the current generation (code: CR). The Touareg shares this modular construction system with Porsche Cayenne, and this time Audi Q7 joins its siblings in this shared architecture.
The emphasis of this generation is on lighter weight and enhanced fuel efficiency. And if you’ve been inside one of the latest models, you’d have noticed its more sophisticated interior and up-to-the-minute technology. A dual-screen display steals the scene in the tactical cockpit. The dash is minimalist even with the massive hi-tech screen.
The Touareg dropped over 100 kg of weight with its new aluminium suspension and bodywork and other weight-saving components including its interior fixtures, powertrain, and other mechanical systems. Even as it lost weight, it gained length and breadth. It is now 77mm longer, 44mm wider, and has at least 110 litres more space in the boot.
The previous 3.0L V6 and 4.1L V8 engines remain as two powertrain choices, with a third one joining the powerhouses. The Launch Edition comes with this engine under the hood: 3.0L V6 TDI turbo-diesel paired with the slick 8-speed ZF auto transmission to produce a peak output of 190 kW and 600 N⋅m. Like the other V6 engine, it's not a keen fuel-guzzler and has a claimed consumption of 7.4L/100km for combined driving.
The Touareg won as the Best Luxury SUV for 2003, a recognition awarded by the Car and Driver magazine annually. In the same year, it was the winner in Overlander’s 2003 4WDOTY. The following year, Motor Trend magazine awarded it the 2004 Sport Utility of the Year. It didn't go unnoticed in 2005 as the Four Wheeler magazine recognised it as the 2005 Four Wheeler of the Year.
Towing beast from Wolfsburg
Now about that Wolfsburg car that hardly huffed and puffed as it carted a 155-tonne 747, that was a standard production V10 TDI with very modest alterations. It was fitted with a specially-adapter towing bracket for a more secure connection to the aircraft. About 4.3-tonnes of metal ballast and bags of steel balls upped its weight to a bit over 7 tonnes.
Long story short, the SUV completed seven runs on Dunsfold Aerodrome’s auxiliary highway. A powerful demonstration of how torque-rific the Touareg could be, no doubt, but it's something you shouldn’t try back home.