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Volkswagen is late entering the SUV market, but the Touareg is turning heads.

The saying goes, if you’re going to be late to the party, you had better have a good looking date. In the case of Volkswagen’s Touareg SUV – available to the public as of June – the company may be a bit behind other carmakers in the timing of its launch, but the technology and styling that have gone into VW’s first SUV should help the company catch up quickly.

The Touareg (pronounced tour-regg) is currently offered in two versions.

The V-6 model is equipped with a one a 3.2L, 220 hp at 3200 rpm, gasoline engine. The six-cylinder engine has maximum torque of 224 lbs.-ft. at 3,200 rpm. It has a bore and stroke of 3.31 in x 3.78 and a compression ratio of 11.25:1.

The V-8 model utilizes a 4.2L, 310 hp at 6,200 rpm, V-8-5V gasoline engine. The eight-cylinder engine has a maximum torque of 302 lbs.-ft. at 3,000 rpm. It has a bore and stroke of 3.33 in. x 3.66 in. and a compression ratio of 11:1.

“Touareg literally means ‘free folk’ and is named for a nomadic tribe from the Sahara,” says Frank Maguire, vice president, sales and marketing, at Volkswagen. “The Touareg is a new product in a new segment for us. We don’t think the SUV segment has peaked. I think there will be continued growth in this segment, and Touareg positions us to take advantage of it.”

Volkswagen is projecting just over 25,000 units for 2003, with about 95 percent of the vehicles going to the U.S. For 2004, the company is aiming at 40,000 units, with the capacity to increase production if necessary, says Maguire.

Volkswagen readily admits that the brand is moving upscale and offers the Touareg as confirmation that the Volkswagen brand is in transition.

“The Touareg will continue to build the VW brand to what we call major league status,” says Maguire. “Think about it, we are not what we were 10 years ago. And while our brand is in transition, our DNA remains the same. “We need to keep customers in the brand and this product gives us that ability,” adds Maguire. “However, the Touareg is much more than a way to hold on to our customers. It will attract new buyers to Volkswagen. In this regard, the Touareg, like the Beetle, will become a magnet to our brand — one that draws eyes to our entire product range.” The overall design philosophy for the Touareg came from three characteristics — luxury, sports performance and off-road capability. “The result is a unique combination of features in a luxurious, high performance vehicle with everyday practically without restrictions,” says Matthias Kroell, technical project leader for the Touareg.


Electric drive train management enables the off-road reduction stage to be engaged and the differential locks to be activated. Settings are adjusted using the selector switch located on the center console, below the gear shift. The radio/navigation system found on the Touareg is new to Volkswagen.

The Touareg was co-developed with the Porsche Cayenne and according to VW, the two vehicles share many of the same components. But what helps differentiate the Touareg from the Cayenne and other highend SUVs is its electronically controlled 4XMotion system.

Available in both the V-6 and V-8 models, 4XMotion is a permanent four-wheel drive system that automatically switches power between axles to match driving conditions. A transfer case, equipped with off-road reduction, delivers engine power to the drive wheels via electronically controlled multi-plate differentials. With the optional rear differential lock, up to 100 percent of the torque can be used by any wheel that still has traction.

The 4XMotion system includes an adjustable multi-plate clutch of the center differential that is automatically controlled by the differential control module.

Torque is distributed from the engine to the front and rear axles via the automatic transmission and transfer case. During normal operation, torque is divided equally between the front and rear axles. The 4XMotion system is teamed with two different suspension choices, the standard steel suspension and the available air suspension.

The air suspension includes Continuous Damping Control that adapts the suspension to driving conditions and vehicle speed. The control system for the shock absorber damping regulator uses wheel acceleration sensors to monitor road conditions through vehicle movement. The damping characteristics of the individual shocks are adjusted according to the calculated damping requirements.

At 112 mph or faster, the air suspension automatically lowers the body level 0.4 inches to improve control and wind resistance. The suspension can also be adjusted manually with a rotary switch located on the center counsel. In off-road situations, the air suspension can be adjusted manually to raise the body in two different stages to provide greater ground clearance, taking the vehicle from 6.4 inches of clearance to 12 inches, compared to the 8 inch ground clearance offered by the steel suspension.

The body of the Touareg is a new, self-supporting construction designed to attain as much static and dynamic rigidity as possible, says Volkswagen. To accomplish this, special high-strength sheet metals and tailored blanks are used. Instead of the ladder frame, the body of the Touareg has integrated longitudinal load-bearing members that run through the vehicle.

“Strength and rigidity is designed in,” says Kroell, “not added on. The platform is completely new and the result with the body is extremely high stiffness and torsional rigidity, above 40 Hz. It is designed for speeds up to 170 mph, so the running gear, the brakes, the powertrain and the body have tremendous reserves.”

Because of the off-road capability of the Touareg, some of the engine components were modified. Thanks to a 45 degree maximum climbing ability and 35 degree lateral inclination, the oil pan on the Touareg was made deeper and the oil pump and oil intake have been designed to ensure sufficient oil is being pumped through the engine lubrication system, regardless of the inclination of the vehicle. And thanks to fording depths of 23 inches with the air suspension (20 inches with steel suspension), the accessory belt drive was redesigned for more belt-to-pulley contact to prevent the belt, from slipping when driving through water.

The cargo volume on the Touareg is 31 cubic-ft. with five-passenger seating and 71 cubic-ft. with the rear seats folded.
The Touareg features a six-speed automatic transmission which includes a Tiptronic system for manual-style shifting. The transmission 09D was developed and manufactured by AISIN. The tuning and adaptation of the transmission and the transmission control module to the Touareg was carried out in cooperation with Volkswagen engineers. According to Volkswagen, a six-speed manual transmission will be available in North America at a later date.

“The transmission features a lock up torque converter to improve efficiency,” says Kroell. “The transmission supports the sporty character of the vehicle. The available sport setting automatically selects gears according to a sporty shift characteristic curve. The shift points happen at higher engine speeds, resulting in longer intervals in each gear and brisker acceleration.”

Safety features tailored for off-roading include a hill roll-back control function that prevents the vehicle from rolling back on a steep incline by locking the gearbox, and hill descent control. At speeds less the 15 mph on a decline of 20 percent or more, the hill descent control automatically cuts engine torque to slow the vehicle and enhance engine control. If necessary, the brakes will be applied automatically.

“The hill descent control is easy to use,” says Kroell. “All you have to do is go into first gear via the Tiptronic and remove your foot from the pedal, even if your brain and stomach are telling you to brake.”

Volkswagen plans to offer a diesel version of the Touareg. Available in the first quarter of 2004, it will incorporate a 5.0 I V-10 TDI diesel engine which produces 308 hp and 553 of torque. The engine, built in Salzgitter, Germany, is also used in VW’s Phaeton in Europe. Volkswagen plans to offer a batch of V-10 diesel Touaregs to the U.S. in April.

The power of the Touareg engine is transmitted to the wheels via the fulltime 4-wheel drive, 4XMotion system, a system unique to VW.

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