2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI Review

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
2008 volkswagen touareg v10 tdi review

The VW Phaeton was the answer to a question no one asked: who wants to buy a $70k Volkswagen? Marketing mishegos aside, "Piech's folly" is a superb car: relatively quick, preposterously quiet and completely comfortable. Lest we forget, VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech is something of a master engineer. He was directly responsible for Porsche's 917; a race car so dominant they canceled the entire race series. Piech also willed the Bugatti Veyron into existence. The Touareg V10 TDI was born from the same world-crushing crucible as the Phaeton and the Veyron. So, how does the uber-oil burner measure up?

NASA's Saturn V rocket burns fuel at the rate of 20 tons per second. The V10 Touareg isn't far behind. Volkswagen laughably lists the 5,825 lbs. SUV's city mileage at 15 mpg. But there's a real time fuel economy meter informing the pilot that even gentle acceleration results in a wallet-draining 3.6 mpg. Get this: it won't display any lower.

The trade off for such irresponsible fuel consumption: power: endless bucketfuls of forward momentum. The Touareg sports a 5.0-liter, 90-degree diesel V10 with an 18:1 compression ratio fed by twin turbochargers. The diesel-fed mega-mill is capable of an impressive-for-a-diesel 310 horsepower. Pfffft. The oil-burning Touareg stumps-up a mind-numbing 553 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2000 rpm.

In any gear, on any incline, on any surface capable of providing what's laughably called "traction," a gentle toe flick sends the Touareg TDI hurtling forward as if it's strapped to the back of a pulling NFL guard. The big VW may not be as quick as the (slightly) lighter Lotus Elise– the TDI Touareg hits 60 mph in 7.5 seconds– but the feeling is equally thrilling. Breaking Newtonian laws always is. And if you're interested, the SUV tops out at 144 mph.

I can read your mind: here we are again in Muscle Car Land. In other words, "stick a monster engine in a Sub-Zero and it'll go like Hell– and handle like a refrigerator." Before 2006– when VW redesigned their off-roader with some 2500 parts– you would have been right. When Farago drove the pre-'06 Touareg TDI, he called it The Mother of All Nose-Heavy Pigs.

I have no clue how the lesser new Touaregs handle, but the big diesel is shockingly competent. True, the steering, brakes, air suspension (and engine) are all over-boosted. There's an artificial numbness to the driving experience that's about as far away from "driver's car" as Lincoln Town Car. That said, I was bombing down curvy roads at 80 to 90 mph in absolute control. Roads that challenge my Subaru WRX at similar speeds.

Much of this surefootedness comes from the mammoth 275/45/R19 tires and the uber-trick AWD (now called 4XMotion) system. But the aforementioned air suspension also deserves maximum credit.

Switching between modes in a car with adjustable suspension is normally an unclothed emperor endeavor. When a professional driver screaming around a test track tells you there's a big difference, you tend to believe them. Not so with the Touareg. Twisting a knob gives you access to six levels of ride height as well as Sport, Auto and Comfort modes.

Select Sport mode and the Touareg hunkers down and amps-up the road feel (to the point where there is some). Comfort raises the car up a few inches. The ride quality goes from pavement-pounding to hydro-cushioned Citroen. Pushing the three-ton hulk over some of North Eastern Los Angeles's worst pavement was surreal. Short of a hovercraft, no vehicle should be that smooth on such crap.

Oh, I almost forgot. When it came time to craft the Touareg's interior, VW's accountants were bound, gagged and stuffed in a broom closet. It's fabulous. From the Porsche-quality leather and stitching to elegant dash materials to the stout switchgear, not a single corner had been cut. Even the glovebox is impressive. Not only is it spacious and air conditioned, but there's a separate compartment for the eight-pound owner's manual.

I can't overemphasize this SUV's all-encompassing solidity. The parking brake pedal sports a re-enforcing piston. Should the trailer hitch fail, I have no doubt the luggage tie downs could substitute.

In sum, the redone Touareg isn't much of a looker, sucks pricey diesel like poets chug wine and (our tester) retails for an astounding, irrecoverable $79,650.

Obviously, the Touareg V10 TDI is a ridiculous anachronism. And yet, aesthetics, badge, environmental responsibility and price aside, it's the finest all around car I've ever driven. Every trip is a special occasion– even if most of them end-up next to a trucker pumping diesel. The pudgy Volksie retains a sense of nobility that comes directly from the hand of Piech. I'm honestly sad that because of gas prices, we'll never see the uncompromising likes of the uber Touareg again. At least until next time.

(Volkswagen furnished the test vehicle, gas and insurance.)

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  • Robuc1 Robuc1 on Aug 25, 2009

    i don't know where these mileage numbers come from, but i've owned my v10 tdi for over a year. the cars fabulous computer gives my mileage since purchase, mileage since refill, and mileage since starting the truck. i'm mostly in town (living on a mountainside), and average 17mpg. since purchase, i'm at 17.1. when driving on the freeway (mixed up and down through mountains) i average 23.5. i am not a feather foot either. this is by far the best suv i've ever driven, however i haven't driven a cayenne.

  • Diesel4me Diesel4me on Oct 24, 2009

    I get a kick from all the strong opinions from people who have never driven this vehicle. I've got 108000k on mine. It's easily the best vehicle I've ever owned. It's quiet, comfortable, powerful, fast, safe and it will go offroad.I've driven it from Vancouver to Cabo twice and to Yukon. It's been through some of the most incredible snowstorms and got me through safely. Where are people coming up with those mileage numbers? I do most driving in the city and use less than 11 litres / 100k. On the highway I use anywhere from 8.5 to 9.5 depending on terrain. I drove from Tijuana to La Paz (over 1400 k) for $75. And that is varied terrain. As far as emissions, I use a bio-diesel blend to help, but that aside, a recent study showed that I'd have to drive 1.12 million miles to spew the same pollution as burning a cord of wood in a fireplace,which don't have. I guess some of you in the US will have to wait for the electric car to feel better. Then you can plug it in every night and your coal fired power plants can work even harder. Out of sight, out of mind. Thanks for letting me rant. Cheers!

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.