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Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI Road Test

Unleashing the twin-turbo V10 TDI Volkswagen Touareg - all 750Nm and 230kW!

By Michael Knowling

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It’s a sad fact that manufacturers’ concept cars rarely go into production. Well, Volkswagen is one company that has gone ahead and bitten the bullet – the awesome Touareg V10 twin-turbo diesel is a fantasy vehicle come reality!

The bit that makes the Touareg V10 TDI so extraordinary is, of course, the engine. Capable of churning out 230kW at 3750 rpm and 750Nm from 2000 rpm (more than double the torque of the standard V6 Touareg!) it’s fair to say that the V10 TDI has more than ample performance... Hills that you once thought steep are climbed with barely a whiff of throttle and the ability to run away other cars from a standing start is simply startling. Gently squeeze the throttle and the Touareg V10 TDI picks up its nose and sprints!

So how on earth is it possible for a near 2.5-tonne SUV to be so potent, you ask?

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Well, there are lots of cylinders, lots of cubic inches and a couple of turbochargers! The TDI Touareg uses a long-stroke 2-valves-per-cylinder V10 engine that displaces 5.0-litres and is boosted by a pair of turbochargers. The static compression ratio is 18.0:1 – oh, did we mention it’s a direct-injection diesel?

The twin-turbo V10 diesel engine configuration might seem peculiar at first but it makes sense when you consider the balance of low-down torque, emissions and fuel economy. The twin-turbo V10 diesel can be quite frugal when driven gently – the official 12.2-litres per 100km average figure would be difficult to achieve but we regularly saw short-term averages below 15.0-litres per 100km (as read from the trip computer). Average fuel consumption during our test was around 17-litres per 100km. A 100-litre fuel tank is fitted, providing a good touring range.

But you don’t buy a V10 twin-turbo for fuel economy.

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That V10 turbo engine delivers effortless performance from very low revs and good response. Despite the size of the engine, there’s minimal vibration through to the cabin and the whizzes and whooshes of the turbo system are well muted. But there’s no mistaking this machine for a diesel – it has a hint of clatter at idle and it will occasionally blow a cloud of black smoke from the twin tailpipes when you stand on the go pedal.

The Touareg V10 TDI delivers its torque through a 6-speed sequential automatic transmission and 4XMOTION 4WD. The 4XMOTION system uses a continuously adjustable multi-plate clutch as part of the centre diff mechanism and, in normal conditions, it delivers torque 50:50 front to rear. In tougher conditions, up to 100 percent of torque can be automatically sent to the front or rear wheels – a centre diff lock switch can also be used as a manual override. A rear diff lock is optional.  Extreme conditions might also warrant slipping into low-range – but only in situations where 750Nm isn’t enough...

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Volkswagen claims a 0 – 100 km/h time of 7.8-seconds, but we were stunned to record mid 7s on consecutive hand-timed runs; that’s bloody quick! The stupendous torque is evident when the front tyres scabble for grip when the V10 Touareg is stalled up and released off the line. Impressive stuff considering the tyres are nothing less than Pirelli P-Zero Rossos measuring 275/45 19!

When this 2.5-tonne monster barrels up to a corner at speed you can apply the brake pedal at the last moment thanks to a truly mammoth braking system. At the front are tremendous 6-pot front calipers that bite over nearly half of the disc (ventilated, of course) and the rear uses chunky 4-pot calipers. ABS, EBD and brake assist come as standard braking supplements. We have absolutely no criticism of the V10 TDI’s brakes.

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Point it towards an apex and the Touareg chassis feels immensely stable and the lateral grip from those P-Zero Rossos is excellent. It’s apparent that the chassis is set up with a slight understeer bias but you can rely on the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) to prevent excessive understeer or oversteer. Note that if you want to drive the Touareg to its limits you absolutely must switch the transmission to manual mode – this gives much better control. It’s just a pity the effective rev range is so short...

The power assisted rack and pinion steering on the Touareg also makes it hard work to negotiate a series of relatively tight bends. The steering is light and has little feel - all that we felt was tramlining along bitumen edges.

Interestingly, the Touareg is based on the same design as the Porsche Cayenne and uses double wishbones at the front and rear. The V10 TDI also gets CDC (Continuous Damping Control) air suspension. The air suspension system is self-levelling and gives up to 300mm of ground clearance on demand. There are three damper settings – Sport, Auto and Comfort. The difference between Sport and Comfort is noticeable but the ride always remains compliant and comfortable.

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The V10 TDI has a curious mix of off-roading abilities. On one hand, it looks the goods with a switchable centre diff lock, high and low range gearing, hill start and downhill assist, adjustable ride height, generous approach/departure angles and, of course, ample grunt. On the other hand, the 275/45 P-Zero Rossos were never intended to venture far off the bitumen and the standard spare wheel is a tiny space saver job. We’re told that a larger spare will be fitted to later examples, but – as it stands – the Touareg V10 TDI is not a truly serious bush-basher.

The top-line Touareg is luxury-car refined, solid and well appointed.

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The cabin offers seating for five with plenty of overall space, except for limited rear foot room. The centre rear seating position is also quite firm and elevated (though headroom is still not an issue). The leather-trimmed seats are comfy, but the lack of side bolstering is disappointing given the vehicle’s sporting abilities.

The dashboard is home to a huge number of switchgear and buttons, which all become very easy to use after some familiarisation. The interior features list is as long as your arm but the highlights include automatic headlights and wipers, keyless access and starting, electric adjustable front seats (with memory settings and cushion warmers), a power tilt/slide glass sunroof, 4-zone climate control, overspeed and tyre pressure warnings and a host of scroll-through information displays. The sound system is headed by a 6-discs CD changer and – with ten speakers – it covers a broad spectrum and is amply powerful. There’s also an effective parking sensor system, which combines a beeper with a LED proximity indicator for both audible and visual warning

Note that the V10 TDI scores standard satellite navigation and a 5-inch LCD television – both were missing on our early delivery test vehicle.

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The V10 TDI driver is fronted by a distinctive purple-glow instrument cluster comprising a 320 km/h speedo, tacho, oil and coolant temperature, fuel level and battery voltage gauges. All instruments are clear and simple. The pedals are aluminium and the leather-bound steering wheel comes with a wood rim around its perimeter – it looks good but we don’t like the feel. Our only other interior gripe is that the up/downchange paddles for the sequential transmission impair access to the indicator stalk.

The Touareg’s safety is enhanced with no less than eight airbags, a high-strength body with crumple zones, high driving position and large exterior mirrors. However, we did remove the centre rear headrest after only a few kilometres of driving – it gobbles up a lot of rearward visibility.

The Touareg’s rear cargo area offers generous floor space, a first aid kit, under-floor space-saver spare, dual 12-volt outlets, tie-down hooks, a trim blind and generous lighting. The load lip is also low and the tailgate is easy to close thanks to the V10 TDI’s auto-close feature. A huge cargo volume can be accommodated by folding the split rear backrest forward.

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The Touareg V10 TDI certainly stands out amid the band of urban SUVs. The Touareg has a clean overall form with muscular guards, bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, indicators in the exterior mirrors, chrome grille and twin tailpipes. And it’s not likely you’ll overlook the standard 19-inch alloy wheels clad in supercar 275/45 P-Zeros - glad we don’t have to shell out for a replacement set of those!

Our test vehicle had very impressive overall build quality. Panel fit is excellent, there’s minimal orange peel in the paint, the doors shut well and provide excellent sealing and everything has a quality feel. The steel sections of the body are also fully galvanised for corrosion protection – the bonnet is made from aluminium and the front guards are a high-tech plastic. Our only quality concern in our test car was a clunk from the front-end while tackling speed humps.

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Volkswagen must be applauded for having the guts to release the Touareg V10 TDI in Australia. Nobody could expect huge sales for such a niche vehicle, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the market. Retailing for $138,900 it’s easy to point to the cheaper V6 and V8 Touareg models (162 and 228kW respectively) and assume that the extra $39,000 - $71,000 buys you only that stonking engine. But there’s more to it than that. The V10 TDI also brings equipment such as 19-inch wheels, 4-zone climate control, air suspension, sunroof, standard satellite navigation and more.

Is it good value? Well it’s slightly cheaper than the Mercedes ML55 AMG, about 15k cheaper than the top-line BMW X5 4.6is and almost 20k cheaper than the Range Rover V8 Vogue (with ‘just’ 210kW and 440Nm). Interestingly, the Porsche Cayenne – which shares the same platform as the Touareg – starts at around $130,000 and reaches beyond $200,000... Certainly, the Touareg V10 TDI is relatively cheap in this segment – but we’d stop short of calling it a bargain. We also have some concerns about depreciation.

Still, it’s great to see such an A-grade monster on the market!

Why You Would...

  • Huge amount of effortless performance
  • Impressive fuel economy when driven sedately
  • Awesome brakes – 6-pot at the front
  • Good grip
  • Very comfortable and refined
  • Long list of features

Why You Wouldn’t...

  • Not quite a serious off-roader
  • Steering lacks finesse
  • Occasionally blows a cloud of black smoke at wide-open throttle
  • Cheapest in category - but still no screaming bargain
The Touareg V10 TDI was provided for this test by Volkswagen Australia.

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