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2007 Volkswagen Touareg

Upscale Volkswagen SUV fails the test of time Add to ...

At this fall's AJAC TestFest, the winner in the SUV/CUV over $50,000 category was the VW Touareg. No arguments here. I voted for it myself. But how has this upscale SUV stood the test of time? Not great, as it turns out.

But first, a few words about the Touareg's four-wheel-drive system. While lots of SUVs claim they can get through the rough stuff, in this case, it wasn't an idle boast. Thanks to VW's 4XMotion all-wheel-drive system, this particular SUV could handle any gradient up to 45 degrees and forge through water as deep as 580 mm.

VW's 4XMotion arrangement is a permanent all-wheel-drive system that distributes torque between the front and rear driving wheels, depending upon conditions and vehicle load. Not a particularly unusual arrangement - lots of other utes have something similar.

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However, the Touareg also had a locking centre differential, and, if you ordered it, a locking rear differential as well. Combine this with the traction control system and optional air suspension package, which gave the vehicle six different ride heights, and you had a mountain goat of an SUV.

When it came to handling truly wicked off-road conditions, the only other upscale SUVs that compared were the Range Rover and possibly the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Although more than adequate around town, the Touareg really came into its own when the pavement ended and the rough stuff began.

In 2007, it came in two varieties: V-6 and V-8. There was also a short-lived V-10 version, but it was withdrawn from the Canadian market the year before, although kept in VW's lineup in the United States.

The V-6 displaced 3.6 litres and developed 280 horsepower, while the 4.2-litre V-8 belted out 340 hp. Among other things, this powertrain featured hill descent and hill ascent settings that automatically engaged low when climbing and kept the vehicle in low while descending - in low range. These two features were standard equipment on all models and meant for off-road duty only.

The Touareg was, and is, a luxury ute. Standard equipment included dual zone climate control, heated front seats, tire-pressure monitoring system, 17-inch wheels and tires, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 60/40-folding rear seat, rear passenger ventilation , and one-touch-up/down power windows. Five adults fit reasonably comfortably, and you could also order "cricket" leather upholstery, upgraded sound system, the air suspension, parking assist, navigation system and a heated steering wheel.

Just one safety recall to report for 2007 Touaregs. Apparently, the roof-mounted spoiler may break away from the body and "could cause injury by striking persons outside the vehicle or could become an obstacle to other drivers, possibly resulting in a crash." We should also add a much more serious recall for 2008 models, even though this report doesn't cover them. Apparently, both Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have discovered a potential fuel line leak in the engine bay that could lead to an engine fire. Dealers will fix this gratis.

NHTSA also has 23 technical service bulletins on file for this vintage of Touareg. Some examples: malfunctioning ignition coils, doors that don't close properly, poor throttle response from a rolling stop, questionable fuel gauge levels, incorrect tire monitor readings and various electrical gremlins.

Consumer Reports seems to be less than impressed with the Touareg, describing its reliability as "subpar." Owners seem to have a love/hate relationship with this particular SUV, and some comments include: "trim peeling, tires gauges annoying," "too many electrical issues and maintenance costs," "gas guzzler." The Touareg also requires premium grade gas, which adds to the cost of ownership. As well, notes Consumer Reports, the Touareg has slightly less interior cargo space than the VW Passat.

A mixed bag of results from market research firm J.D. Power. While the Touareg's initial quality and powertrain dependability are below average, it gets high marks for style, comfort and overall performance and design. Still, the best it can garner for dependability from this organization is a below-average rating. It's also worth remembering that the Touareg was specifically designed for off-road activity, and some of the older models that have made their way onto the used car market may have been run hard and put up wet, as they say.

From a base price of just over $51,000, a three-year-old Touareg has dropped to about half of what it cost new, ranging from the mid-$20,000 neighbourhood for a V-6 to the low-$30,000s for a loaded V-8.

2007 Volkswagen Touareg

Original Base Price: $51,525; Black Book Value: $29,175-$33,500; Red Book Value: $22,650-$27,500

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6/4.2-litre V-8

Horsepower/Torque: 280 hp/266 lb-ft for V-6

350 hp/325 lb-ft for V-8

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.1 city/11.0 highway (V-6); premium gas

Alternatives: Acura MDX, Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW X5 3.0, Land Rover LR3, Mercedes ML350, Audi Q7

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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