05/12/2012 13:49 | By Steve Walker, content editor, MSN Cars

Twin test: Porsche Cayenne GTS v Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI review

Porsche’s muscle-bound Cayenne GTS has a lot in common with Volkswagen’s diesel Touareg but you wouldn’t know it…


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Platform sharing is not the latest cost-cutting scheme from those money-grabbing rail companies or a strategy for glam rock bands to make their footwear budget go further. Platform sharing is perhaps the key reason why the scope of choice available to car buyers has exploded over the last decade.

Building a modern car from scratch is a cripplingly expensive business but by creating the basic underpinnings of a car (a platform) then using it as the foundation for numerous different models (sharing it) those costs can be rendered merely exorbitant.

Platform sharing is a process that’s common across all areas of today’s car market and it’s great for customers - as long as they don’t mind being thoroughly flummoxed by the complex web of origins and associations attached to the bits that make up their car.

And so we arrive at the two cars on test here – Volkswagen’s Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI and Porsche’s Cayenne GTS. Two very different luxury SUVs with price tags some £30,000 apart and yet, you’ve guessed it, they share the same platform.  

We wondered just how different two models based on the same underpinnings could get and these posh 4x4s seemed to offer as good a test bed as any. Are motorists being increasingly duped by opaque badge engineering and marketing spin or can two cars with obvious similarities be successfully tailored to deliver optimum function and value at such differing price points?

First drive: Porsche Cayenne GTS
First drive: Volkswagen Touareg

Twin test: Porsche Cayenne GTS v Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI (© Microsoft)

 

Value for money?
 

The Volkswagen Touareg we’re looking at here might have the entry-level 245hp V6 diesel engine in its nose but it came bedecked in the top Altitude trim level and more than a few optional extras. Desirable add-ons like the Continuous Damping Control (CDC) air-suspension and the safety aiding Driver Assistance Pack sent the price over the £52,000 mark.

And that, of course, is peanuts next to the Porsche Cayenne GTS. This is the most powerful Porsche Cayenne without a turbocharger, its aggressively domed bonnet hiding a 4.8-litre V8 petrol engine with 420hp. The suspension is lower by 24mm and firmer than standard; the looks are even more domineering thanks to front-end styling lifted from the Turbo model. It costs £67,000 but with options (including air suspension and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) our car was a whisker away from £81,000.

Read more Porsche car reviews
Read more Volkswagen car reviews

Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI (© Microsoft)



What’s the difference?


Sharing luxury SUV technology across its brands helps the mighty VW Group empire control costs and maximise profits. The practice gives us a hierarchy of related models with the Touareg at the bottom, Audi’s Q7 in the middle and the Porsche at the top. Forthcoming Bentley and Lamborghini SUVs look set to extend the economies of scale further. So should any of this matter to consumers?

It’s probably something to be aware of rather than panic about. VW is in the business of nurturing and growing its brands not undermining them with a policy or lazy rebadging. Our two test cars actually serve as a neat illustration of how it’s done.

 

Both cars slot within the big ‘n’ bold luxury SUV styling template

From the front, you wouldn’t spot much family resemblance. Both cars slot within the big ‘n’ bold luxury SUV styling template but the Touareg is more traditional 4x4 while the Cayenne’s bonnet curls down into the trademark Porsche snout. Gulping air-intakes, side skirts and inflated arches mark it out as a model more at home chewing tarmac than churning mud.

Around the back, the two have more in common. The cars share similar roof, window and shoulder lines, then lift the tailgates and the luggage areas also show a marked resemblance. For the record the Porsche edges it for ultimate carrying capacity with 1,780 litres available when everything’s folded. The supposedly more practical VW comes up with 1,642 litres.

It’s up front where a bigger effort has been made to differentiate these two cars. The cabin ambience of Porsche products has come on in leaps and bounds in the latest model generations and there’s plenty of evidence of this upsurge in quality visible from the Cayenne’s driver’s seat. Deep seat side bolsters extend around the driver and chinks of metal detailing glint back from the dark facia. It all feels a definite cut above quality-wise with the sculpted paddle shifters behind the simple, Alcantara Porsche wheel underlining that this is a luxury SUV built for driving.

The Touareg is upmarket in its own way but the design is cleaner and more derivative of lesser VW models. The expanses of plastic are wider and the materials generally aren’t of Cayenne quality.

Buy a Porsche Cayenne on Auto Trader
Buy a Volkswagen Touareg on Auto Trader
 

Porsche Cayenne GTS (© Microsoft)


 

How do they drive?
 

One has a 420hp V8 specially tuned for the business of going quickly, the other has a sensible 3.0-litre TDI diesel – you’d expect the difference in the way these cars drive to be starker than stark.

In fact, on the tight twisty roads of our test route, the Touareg could keep the Cayenne in sight. Volkswagen’s six-cylinder oil-burner has 406lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm while the steroidal Porsche only kicks out 380lb ft at 3,500rpm - that helps the Volkswagen surge out of corners with almost as much purpose, if not the same carnal roar. So long as the road refused to open up, the VW could stay in touch but it always felt as though it was working far, far harder.

 

...with its V8 burbling, the GTS really does eat up the road

Both of these cars had the optional adjustable air suspension fitted but beneath the GTS is Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) system, which has the uncanny knack of making a two-tonne, 1.7m tall SUV feel a passable substitute for a sports car. Active roll bars work hydraulically to keep the enormous body in check through the bends while the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system distributes engine force between the rear wheels to tuck the nose tighter into corners. In sharp bends, the Cayenne feels massively more composed than the Touareg and through quicker corners it’s in a different league.

It’s also a brute in a straight line. The 0-60mph trial takes 5.7s in the Cayenne GTS compared to 7.6s in the Touareg. Perhaps you’d expect a bigger advantage over the sprint but once into its stride, with that V8 burbling, the GTS really does eat up the road. It will see 162mph whereas the VW bows to the laws of physics at 137mph.

So the Volkswagen is comprehensively outclassed, right? Wrong. While the Cayenne rides very firmly all of the time and like a brick hurled down a mountainside in its firmest suspension setting, the Touareg is highly comfy. It also gets nearly 40mpg on the combined cycle while the Porsche’s 26mpg and 251g/km will bring on some grandiose bills.

The world's most extreme SUVs

Twin test: Porsche Cayenne GTS v Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI (© Micorosft)

 

Which is best?


There’s no doubt that the Porsche Cayenne GTS is an epic machine but it does work on the assumption that people want a giant luxury 4x4 that thinks it’s a sports car. Some undoubtedly do but those individuals will be massively outnumbered by people who are more in tune with the Touareg’s proposition - comfort, economy and lively pace at a £30,000 saving.

The Cayenne GTS is created as a niche product with a ride that can chatter teeth and looks that can stop hearts. The Touareg is relaxed, salubrious family transport. The two are  intentionally chalk and cheese and yet on a basic platform level they’re the same. That’s platform sharing and the modern car industry for you. 



 

Need to know

Porsche Cayenne GTS
Price:
£67,147
Engines, petrol: 4.8 V8
Power, hp: 430 @ 6,500rpm
Torque, lb ft: 380 @ 3,500rpm
0-62mph, secs: 5.7
Top speed, mph: 162
Mpg combined: 26.4
CO2: 251g/km


Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI Altitude 
Price: £44,640
Engines, diesel: 3.0 V6
Power, hp: 245 @ 3,800rpm
Torque, lb ft: 406 @ 1,750rpm
0-62mph, secs: 7.6
Top speed, mph: 137
Mpg combined: 39.2
CO2: 189g/km

First drive: Porsche Cayenne GTS
First drive: Volkswagen Touareg
Read more Porsche car reviews
Read more Volkswagen car reviews
The world's most extreme SUVs
Buy a Porsche Cayenne on Auto Trader
Buy a Volkswagen Touareg on Auto Trader

 

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