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  • 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 V8 FSI

    Posted on September 20th, 2007 ninarussin

    Second-generation Touareg sports a more powerful engine and enhanced safety features.
    By Nina Russin

    2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2

    2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2

    The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg bridged the gap between performance sport-utility vehicles like the BMW X5, and technical off-road machines such as the Hummer. The new model improves on the original formula with a restyled body, more powerful V8 engine, and new safety technology.

    While the V8 Touareg 2 can’t match the twin-turbo V10 model for fuel economy, it comes much closer to the TDI’s low-end power and steering response. The Touareg V10 TDI is the only sport-utility vehicle I’d race a Porsche in. While I wouldn’t go after a 911 in the V8, I might chase down an Audi TT.

    One reason for the boost in performance is FSI fuel injection: a technology borrowed from Audi. The system delivers metered amounts of fuel directly into the combustion chambers, the result being faster throttle response than traditional port fuel injection.

    The gasoline V8 has 324 foot-pounds of torque as opposed to 553 for the turbo diesel. But it mirrors the TDI’s seat-of-the-pants acceleration, especially off the line and in the critical twenty-to-fifty mile-per-hour range.

    Jack be nimble…

    Steering feedback is one of the biggest areas of improvement on the Touareg 2. Nineteen-inch wheels, standard on the V8 model, give the Touareg a large footprint, made more stable with low profile, R-rated tires. The Touareg has 8.3 inches of ground clearance for off-road driving (over 9 with the optional air suspension), but handles like a car with a much lower center of gravity. The chassis stays absolutely flat during aggressive cornering.

    The six-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly. I didn’t notice any shift shock, even on grades. Drivers have the option of manually selecting gears for sportier performance.

    Standard four-wheel double wishbone suspension on the test car provides a nice combination of road response and compliance. Air suspension is available as an option, but I wouldn’t recommend the extra expense, except for people who plan to tow a trailer and would take advantage of its auto leveling functions.

    Permanent four-wheel drive automatically transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction. Electronic stabilization program eliminates excessive yaw, helping the driver to
    maintain directional control in turns.
    A new type of antilock braking improves the Touareg’s stopping ability on gravel, by pushing a small amount of road surface ahead of the wheel to create a wedge that slows the vehicle down. Active rollover protection keeps the Touareg from rolling during extreme off-road maneuvers.

    All of this is delightfully invisible to the driver, who simply knows that the car goes where he puts it regardless of speed, rocks, inclines, or sheer ice. It’s the equivalent of combining cushioning, rock guards, and arch support in a lightweight track spike.

    Lighting the corners:

    The test car comes with the luxury option package that includes bi-xenon headlamps with adaptive lighting: a technology that makes it easier to see on winding roads. The bi-xenon headlamps are brighter than halogen. They throw a long beam that’s closer to daylight.

    The adaptive lighting illuminates an additional lamp to the side when the driver is cornering. It makes a huge difference on poorly lit side streets and two-lane roads. Not only is it easier to see the road, but the edges of intersections, where there might be a pedestrian or cyclist crossing.

    Luxurious interior

    The Touareg interior is what one would expect from a European luxury car: high-quality leather upholstery, an overwhelming information display, and state-of-the-art sound system. Some of this works well for athletes, some doesn’t.

    For example, in order to fold the second-row seats flat, one must first move the seat cushion out of the way and remove the headrest. The thicker cushion makes the seat more comfortable, but it’s an inconvenience for somebody who loads equipment into the back on a regular basis.

    The twelve-way adjustable driver’s seat is extremely comfortable, with excellent lower lumbar support. There are three memory positions that are quite easy to program. In order to accommodate larger people, the seat moves to the back every time the driver enters the car. As a smaller person, I’d rather have the seat remain in the position I put it in, rather than using the memory control to reposition it.

    On the other hand, the information displays are well designed and on the whole, user friendly. The test car has the optional DVD-based navigation system with rear backup camera. While I rarely use navigation systems, I find the backup camera invaluable, especially in crowded parking lots. It’s also a great aid for people who need to parallel park. There’s also an audible and visual warning system to alert the driver about obstacles in the front of the car: great for avoiding concrete parking barriers below the sight line.

    As a runner, I like the ambient temperature display on the instrument panel. Functions such as the average speed readout are less useful. The information displays are clear and easy to read.

    Keyless ignition, standard with the technology package, is something I don’t see much value in, but at least the engineers give the option of using a conventional key-in ignition switch.

    Automatic temperature controls have separate dials for the driver and passenger so both can be comfortable. Second-row passengers get their own set of controls. Second-row seats are very comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom. The sunroof allows lots of ambient light into the back row.

    The optional upgraded sound system on the test car includes a MP3 plug-in. Sirius satellite radio is standard on all models. I prefer in-dash CD changers to the remote holder on the Touareg because they are easier to load on the go.

    While German car companies aren’t big on cupholders, the ones in the Touareg are adequate. I found plenty of bins and cubbies in front for stashing paperwork, compact discs, and small electronic devices. The deep bin in the center console is especially well designed.

    A power rear liftgate is standard on all models: it’s invaluable for anyone who has to load large cargo into the back. There’s a 115-volt power point in the cargo area, in case the driver needs to plug in the laptop away from home.

    A tonneau keeps cargo in the back shielded from sight. It’s easy to remove in order to load up taller items. The cargo area has enough tie-down hooks to secure larger items so they don’t shift in transit.

    Towing capacity is 7716 pounds, far in excess of our 3500-pound ALV minimum.

    The Touareg 2 comes with three engine choices: a fuel efficient V6, V8 and the turbo diesel V10. Base price on the V8 test car is $48,320: luxury and technology option packages raise the total to $55,750. Expect to pay just over $3000 per year for fuel as well, according to the EPA estimates.

    Is the new Touareg worth its luxury price tag? It is, if the driver uses all of the technology under the hood. The Touareg is one of the few luxury sport utility vehicles with enough off-road capability to complete the legendary Dakar rally, and on-road performance worthy of a sports car. Simply put, it’s the ultimate Swiss army knife, as only the Germans could build it.

    Likes: Exceptional off-road capability and sporty on-road performance. The new fuel injection technology gives the V8 Touareg a broader power band, similar in feel to the legendary V10 turbo diesel.

    Dislikes: Having to reposition the driver’s seat every time I enter the car. Fuel economy is poor: 12/17 miles per gallon average for city/highway driving.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Touareg 2 V8 FSI
    Year: 2008
    Base price: $48,320
    As tested: $55,750
    Horsepower: 350 Hp @ 6700 r.p.m.
    Torque: 324 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 r.p.m.
    Zero-to-sixty: 7.6 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Not available
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road capability: Yes
    Fuel economy: 12/17 m.p.g. city/highway
    Comments: Base price does not include a $680 destination charge

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