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Nomadic Thoughts
2004 Volkswagen Touareg
A front view of a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg

In short: A successful, safe, elegant and luxurious crossover that you won't fear taking off-road or vice versa.

Volkswagen has certainly gone upscale lately and we are not even talking about their Bentley, Bugatti or Lamborghini lines. Soon they will issue the Phateon, an absolutely gorgeous $80,000 sedan, but let's focus on the equally good-looking Touareg. The last time we saw Touaregs we were driving from Paris across the Sahara in a 505 Peugeot. These Touaregs were beautiful people on camels patrolling the dessert. We loved that experience and would have also loved to drive VW's all-new SUV. So now the German manufacturer borrows the nomadic tribe's name for its capable all-wheel drive vehicle.

We like the look, the overall size of the car and its manufacturing. It is, simply put, well made. The design, choice of components and attention to details made us appreciate this new offering. Beyond the first look, you've got an agile car with a good turning radius, a smart car loaded with electronics—like the suspension etc. In fact, it was difficult to find anything not to like.

It would be safe to call this a luxury SUV with all its amenities such as individual heating zones, leather and burl wood interior and ambient lighting. And then you have the utility aspect with doors that open wide, and an easy conversion to cargo mode (71 cubic feet) with the split rear seats. The rear cargo area can be reached either by opening the glass window or by opening the hatch door. You may choose to haul your cargo in sport, comfort or automatic mode thanks to the adjustable air suspension system. You can achieve 11.8 inches of ground clearance at the twist of a knob and sail through 22.8 inches of water. You may also use the knob to lower down the car for easy loading of that special cargo and again to achieve better handling at freeway speeds.

There is a V8 option but we found ample power for city or highway driving and felt very safe with the 4XMOTION™ drivetrain. As well, the Touareg has great off-road characteristics. Performance and handling are delivered by ABS, ASR, ESP (electronic stabilization program), HBA (hydraulic brake assist), EBA (engine braking assist), EBD (electronic brake force distribution), and EDL (electronic differential lock)—lots of electronic jargon to tell you that in most situations, this car will take care of you in full comfort and safety. Planning on towing your brand new boat? This Touareg can handle as much as 7,700 pounds.

If you wanted a similar car with a whole bunch of power and the V8 version is not enough you could opt for her cousin, the Porsche Cayenne.

Read a review of the Volkswagen Touareg 2 V10 TDI

Warranty/Service: Four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty; five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty; twelve-year/unlimited-mile warranty against corrosion perforation; four-year/50,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance.

Price as tested: $43,965

Technical Specifications

Performance Data

Engine: 3.2-liter, 24-valve V6
Horsepower: 220 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic®
4XMOTION™ permanent all-wheel drive system with EDL
(Electronic Differential Lock)

Safety: driver and front passenger front airbags and side airbags, inflatable side curtain.

Top Speed: 120 mph
0-60 mph: 6.9 seconds

Braking: n/a

EPA City: 15 mpg
EPA Highway:
20 mpg

Handling: double wishbone front and four-link rear independent steel spring suspension

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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated: 11/18/08 SCV)