June 08, 2004


(This article first appeared in the Sunday Telegraph)

What happens when a Rolls-Royce and a Tonka truck are cross-mutated in a nuclear accident? You end up with the Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI. Watch it flatten mountains! Listen to it roar! Actually, you don’t hear the twin-turbo five-litre diesel V10 so much as feel it. This engine is a primal force. It’s like having your very own domesticated volcano.

The Touareg’s specifications are a little intimidating: 230 kilowatts of power and 750 Newton metres of torque, which is more metres than Newton ran in his entire life. With that much torque available, grabbing reverse too quickly could snap the continent in two. Or at least launch your drinks out of their holders. Either way, some environmental damage is assured.

So exercise caution. Especially when towing, because these gigantic power reserves can easily make you forget you’ve got something big hooked up behind you -- up to and including objects the size of Randwick.

Or another Touareg. At 2,500 kilos, this unit is equal in mass to the entire Tongan royal family. Behind the wheel, of course, you’d never guess. Steering is light and sharp (helped by tarmac-friendly low-profile tyres), acceleration is extraordinary (0-100kmh in seven seconds or so), and the brakes are outrageous spaceship-sized mega-discs that halt progress more effectively than a Greens-controlled Senate. You haven’t seen calipers this impressive since the last polio outbreak.

Speaking of Greens ... they mightn’t cope too well with the Touareg’s interior. Is walnut an endangered tree species? It might be, after a few years of Touareg production. Global cow stocks seem to be holding, however, so there’s no threat to the Touareg’s delicious seats and other cow-coated trim. Interior quality -- in materials, design, and production -- is world-leading, and soothing in the manner of a English gentlemen’s club. Subsequent upgrades may include a butler.

And then there are all the gadgets! Flipper-style manual override shifters for the six-speed auto. Seats that heat. Variable suspension settings. Independent climate controls for the driver, front passenger, and both rear passengers. Keyless entry and ignition. Sunroof. Enough airbags to refloat the Titanic. Parking beepers to help you avoid unpleasant Hyundai-squashing incidents. Satellite navigation that points out the location of shopping centres, fuel stations (not needed as frequently as might be thought), and the houses of cute women whose husbands are at work (sorry - again, that feature isn’t due until the next upgrade).

Naturally, you can’t expect to buy into all of this with a couple of shopper dockets and a tax refund. The V10-equipped Touareg (an African word meaning: "Two shopper dockets and a tax cheque? Get out of here!") will set you back around $140,000.

Which nonertheless represents tremendous value. The technology supplied in a Touareg would have been inconceivable for a publically-available device only a decade or so ago. Go back a little further, and the only machines capable of transporting so many people in such speed and comfort across continental distances were known as aircraft.

You don’t think we live in a golden age? Consider this: the average worker needs 148 weeks’ earnings to afford a Touareg TDI. In 1960, the same amount of work got you a big Dodge -- with leaf-spring suspension, biscuit-dimension brakes, and a text-based (“map”) navigation system. And a speedometer that ran to perhaps 120 mph, rather than the Touareg’s 320 km/h (!).

One final note. I took a journalist friend -- who has spent considerable time aboard US Air Force One, and in other cashed-up surrounds -- for a brief drive. Afterwards, he didn’t want to get out. "Please," he said, "can I live in this?"

(Previous car items here, here, and here.)

Posted by Tim Blair at June 8, 2004 02:39 AM

Don't know a damn thing about cars but that's the most amazing piece of prose on anything I've read for a while.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 8, 2004 at 02:59 AM

It's an amazing car, Currency. It was fun to load jaded, world-weary folks aboard, vault up a few inclines, and watch them react as if on their first rollercoaster. Massive acceleration.

Posted by: tim at June 8, 2004 at 03:14 AM

Speaking of the Tongan Royal Family, me and the Mrs. sat across the aisle from the King and Queen (I had enough bonus miles to go first class) on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. I think he was going to Stanford for heart surgery or something.

Anyway, one of my great egalitarian moments in life was watching the Queen of a sovereign nation have to wait for me to be done with the first class lavatory.

Posted by: Andrew at June 8, 2004 at 03:16 AM

Well damn, now I really want one.


Posted by: Dash at June 8, 2004 at 03:26 AM

Tim - see if you can score one of the new Dodge Magnums for a review. My wife just scored one (the RT, in Inferno Red). 340 horsepower hemi under the hood. 0-60 in "holy crap!". Road-crushing 18 inch wheels. Mercedes traction and suspension technology. Not quite the well-amenitized monster as your Touareg, but it is an astonishing value at US$33,000. I'd love to read your review; sounds like you's like it.

Posted by: R C Dean at June 8, 2004 at 06:41 AM

Oh, come on Tim. Everyone publishes glowing reviews. How about more like this one?

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at June 8, 2004 at 07:09 AM

I want one.

Of course, you Aussie bastards are lucky enough to have more cool diesels than us.

I mean, a C-class AMG diesel? Bastards.

And I want a BMW 330xd, too.

At least we Amerikans can console ourselves with VWs and an E320CDI.

Posted by: Sigivald at June 8, 2004 at 07:36 AM

Why do they call it toerag that is insult

Posted by: Bilal at June 8, 2004 at 09:14 AM

That engine, gad is that a beast.

I suspect they called it Toureg/Toerag becuase, with that attached to the chassis, you can run over a whole tribe of Towleheaded Islamo-fascist rodent Touregs.

Posted by: d at June 8, 2004 at 09:42 AM

VW makes great cars. both Touareg & Phaeton are bound to win awards both for engineering & styling.
gotta admire balls of VW folks for producing phaton - top line retails for U$94K & change...that's top MB & BMW lines. even prestige brand of VW, Audi barely goes that high...

i wish USA updated its antique laws governing use of diesel engines. TDI is the future & Treg's power is amazing ... and i nearly blinded myself with that small flashlight plugged in cig lighter.

Posted by: niels at June 8, 2004 at 10:23 AM

Bah. This is what I want.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 8, 2004 at 12:54 PM

With what colours and trims Andrea? I know - it could take a while...

Heh heh.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 8, 2004 at 03:16 PM

If a car's look could be changed with css code we'd all be in trouble.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 8, 2004 at 09:06 PM

Seriously considering a Honda CR-V. Opinions welcome

Posted by: waz at June 8, 2004 at 09:07 PM

Gad. $140,000 Australian dollars for a Touareg? V10's go in my area (upstate New York, USA) for about $58,000 USD, which is only $85,000 AUD.

Any Aussie considering buying one should fly to the States, let us buy you drinks for a few weeks, buy the car, and ship it back to Australia--you'll come out a lot cheaper. (Unless the import duties are outrageous, of course.)

Posted by: Dictyranger at June 8, 2004 at 11:07 PM

And (cross promotion time, folks) Tim's next road test: The BMW X5.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 12, 2004 at 12:07 AM