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Volkswagen Touareg 2.5 TDi review (2003-2006)
Model: Volkswagen Touareg 2.5 TDi
Body style: 4x4
Engine: 2.5-litre in-line 5-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Date of Test: December 2004
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What is it?
The Touareg is VW’s luxury off-roader and is perhaps the best representation of VW’s quest to move upmarket. It was introduced around the same time as the ambitious Phaeton luxury saloon in a dual model attack on pushing the brand into the premium sector. While the Phaeton has bombed, the Touareg has done really rather well. Stylish, smart and capable on and off-road it’s been successful as buyers in the 4x4 market are less traditional choosing luxury 4x4s more on merit, rather than badge alone.
Where does it fit?
The Touareg is Volkswagen’s only off-road model, and it’s a flasgship machine. That means it competes in the upper-echelons of the SUV market, rivalling products like the BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Mercedes M-Class, Land Rover Discovery and various other off-roaders. With its broad range of engines, and hence pricing, it really can be seen as an alternative to anything, from a Range Rover to more mainstream rivals like the Toyota Land Cruiser.
Is it for you?
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are seriously over-engineered for the type of use that 99.9% of owners use them for. But we live in a democracy so buyers should be free to choose such cars if they want them. Among its rivals it’s certainly an attractive proposition, it’s not brash or overbearing like some, with the VW badge somehow enabling to exude classy appeal without any negative overtones. It’s a real good looker, drives well and is beautifully built and designed inside. However, if the school-run is your thing and you need more seats you’ll need to look at rivals like the Volvo XC90, Land Rover Discovery and Toyota’s Land Cruiser.
What does it do well?
It’ll get you virtually anywhere you want off-road, yet on-road it’s not too compromised because of its ability in the mire. It’s a great looking car, that’s not so big as to put off some drivers, and the range of engines is extensive. The 2.5-litre TDI does a convincing job, on road, shifting the Touareg briskly, while refinement is impressive. Specification is high too, safety equipment plentiful and performance better than the 0-62mph time of 12.9 suggests. The interior is spacious and well built, the fascia and controls all sensibly positioned and working well.
What doesn’t it do well?
Like all off-roaders the Touareg is compromised on road for its ability off it. Although it’s more compact than many rivals it’s still a fair size, and visibility out of the rear window isn’t great. This can make manoeuvring tricky and parking troublesome unless you’ve specified the parking sensors at around £400 – a worthwhile investment to avoid scraped bumpers. The ride is firm too, upsetting the Touareg’s composure over sharp ridges, and making potholes jar. It’s a big heavy car too meaning the 2.5-litre TDi engine has to work quite hard. The official combined consumption figure might be 28mpg, but in real world driving you’re likely to see less.
What’s it like to live with?
Of the current selection of luxury 4x4s the Touareg really is right up among the best. It’s not as brash as a BMW X5 or as default a choice as a Range Rover or Discovery. It’s a good all-rounder, is smartly styled and has one of the neatest, best quality interiors in the class. The range of engines is extensive, including the amazing V10 TDi, but for most drivers the 2.5-litre TDi is the best all round choice with decent performance and refinement, reasonable economy, for a car like this, and more sensible pricing compared to the flagship engines in the Touareg line up. VW dealers are common, and reliability should be good, despite early models suffering some niggling problems.
Would we buy it?
The Touareg would definitely be on our shortlist if we were looking to buy a big, luxurious off-roader. It’s neatly styled, discreet, well equipped and is a good drive on-road and very capable off it. Some might consider it expensive given its badge doesn’t have quite the cache of premium rivals, but inside and out the Touareg really does have the quality and style to match even the most prestigious marques. Volvo’s XC90 is a similarly desirable alternative, but if you don’t need the Volvo’s additional seating the VW is a very attractive purchase indeed.
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