Volkswagen Touareg Offroad Review

Can an Option pack make the Touareg an offroader?
By Imthishan Giado

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

Despite being two generations into its life, the Volkswagen Touareg has never really been considered a “proper” offroader.  A luxury SUV? Yes. A fine-driving crossover with a practical, high quality interior? Absolutely. But a mud plugger on the heels of the Range Rover Sport? No one would ever accuse it of that.

[For more adventuring off-road – this time up in the Alps – with Fraser Martin, click here now]

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

But only a fool would dismiss the weight of Volkswagen’s considerable engineering department – after all, they did create the Veyron, a two-fingered salute to the laws of physics. And so it turns out that there is a ‘proper’ offroad version of the Touareg, built for the tough stuff. The offroad Touareg sports a rather handy rear and centre differential lock in addition to the standard low-range transfer case. And as sense would suggest, the wheels are relatively sensible 18-inchers with plenty of meaty Continental rubber, albeit road tyres, not knobbly offroad versions.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

Not a lot of change and truth be told, this looks and feels very much like a standard Touareg. The styling is slightly anonymous and not quite as handsome as the first generation car but it certainly grows on you. Not so clever is the placement of the front fog lamps, dangling low on the front bumper – that’s your approach angle scuppered then.

The interior is typical Germanic Volkswagen – logical to a fault, switches operating with clinical precision and every toy you could possibly want including an excellent Bluetooth audio system. But amazingly, no sat-nav! On an offroad car! Like everything it’s an option and one you’ll want to tick.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

Other than that, I daresay most people would be happy with the inside of a Touareg; it’s comfortable for long journeys and has plenty of oddment spaces for your various bric-a-brac. If anything, it’s a little bit too nice – the lovely white carpets and light coloured leather are guaranteed to get dirty within moments of you hitting the soft stuff.

At 2136kg, the Touareg is no lightweight so the standard 280bhp 3.6-litre V6 engine has got its work cut out for it. Working with a slick-shifting 8-speed auto, the V6 is not blisteringly quick but feels torquey enough to potter around town without incident and pulls well up to highway speeds. Over 120kph, well that’s where’d you feel the benefit of those extra two cylinders but for most, the V6 is a perfectly acceptable inoffensive powertrain.

The same goes for the handling. Lots of safe gentle understeer, not much feel from the steering but quite direct, and a good sharp feel from the brake pedal, adding up to a car-like experience, feeling nowhere anywhere near as ponderous as the Japanese SUVs on the road.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

But can it offroad? I took into the Wadis of the Northern Emirates and briefly into the soft sand. With its urban looks and street-biased rubber, it certainly doesn’t feel as agricultural as a proper offroader should and I was worried that the Touareg would have me making a very frantic call to emergency services, two blown tyres later.

Foolish me.  Spin the circular dial to lift the air suspension to its first setting, switch the other dial to ‘offroad’ and well…that’s all you really have to do. Despite my misgivings about the bumper height, the Touareg was a real surprise on the broken wadi rocks, bounding over the jagged shards like a German billy goat. Whoever calibrated the traction control system and the 4Motion four-wheel drive system should be given a medal – wherever we went the Touareg found purchase and whenever grip was lost, it unobtrusively would brake the offending wheel and send power to the one that needed it the most. Braking? ABS handled everything without issue. You can choose to switch off the ESP and TC systems but when they’re this efficient, why would you bother?

There was other clever touches as well. In most cars when you descend down a steep pass, you have to screech to the halt, hit low range and activate Hill descent – not so in the Touareg, which automatically recognises that you need more engine braking and activates HDC.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

About the only complaint I had were the road-biased tyres. They were actually fine on the rocks (no punctures – yay!) and in the sand but on a very steep ascent (pictured), they would occasionally struggle for grip. It was the only time in the day that I would need low range, albeit briefly. Once engaged (which also engages the centre diff lock) the Touareg continued climbing – in automatic! – like nothing, monstering the offending hill like it was a petulant valet.

A good car should give you confidence to push it harder, rather than intimidate you into holding back  or worrying you with its fragility. After a full day with the Touareg, I came away with a realisation that it was easily capable of dealing with much harsher terrain. Not one grounding out, no scraped bumper, no destroyed tyre – just cool Germanic competence.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

Verdict
I really should have known, shouldn’t I? The last Volkswagen we took into the wilderness wasn’t even a truck and it did just fine, so the Touareg could only build on that reputation.

No, it’s not a hardcore offroader that I would recommend taking into the dunes every weekend. Not without changing the bumper for something sturdier, and perhaps more sand-friendly tyres. But it really is genuinely capable and has the hardware to go much further than your stereotypical beach. So if you were looking to buy a Touareg and wander into the wild, well worry not – it’s got your back.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg Offroad
Specs
Price: AED170,500
Engine: 3.6-litre V6, 280bhp @ 6200rpm, 266lb ft @ 2500pm
Performance: 0-100kph 8.6s, top speed 229kph, 11.7L/100km
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2136kg

4 responses to “Volkswagen Touareg Offroad Review”

  1. UtkManUtd says:

    Half a million+ for a Volkswagen Touareg?! :O
    “Hello? Al Tayer Motors? Yes, I am interesting in owning a new Range Rover ’14…” (If you know what I mean)
    Not saying that Touareg is bad, no way, its a wonderful crossover SUV, but 525k? You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] Oops – looks the Quattroporte price made it in there somehow 😉

      Corrected – Offroad prices start at AED170,500.

  2. Ronster says:

    When it was first launched in 04, the Consensus was that the touareg was the best uni body SUV then on off road capability alone. And with a proper bumpers it’s a heck of climber. Though I think that it does the hard surfaces and even mud a lot better than sand. I’d imagine a stretched 7 seater version would be better on sand, but still you’d have the weight issue.

  3. Ironman says:

    Contacted Al Naboodah for this version of the Touareg with the offroad engineering package.. They say its available only on special order??

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