In the automotive world, if a vehicle can't adapt to a changing market, it dies. That threat looms over SUVs and is a fate the Touareg wants to avoid. Enter the Touareg 2. Volkswagen's revisions to the fifth-year model aren't all apparent to the eye, and most fall under one heading-refinement. It retains many of the same dimensions-wheelbase, length/width/height, track widths, and interior volume-plus identical off-road capability and towing capacity, but this evolution of the Touareg has several new and improved features worth mentioning.
The Touareg 2 (that "2" only shows up in VW materials, not in chrome badging) has reshaped headlights, grille, and bumper, new, larger side mirrors, and updated taillights and exhaust tips. Careful revisions also were made in the cabin: There's a new instrument panel, 12-way-adjustable driver's seat, and new stereo interface with LCD screen, plus options like keyless access and four-zone climate control.
Mechanical updates were made months before the Touareg 2 went on sale. Volkswagen integrated direct injection (FSI) into the 2007 model's engine lineup, improving fuel economy while increasing power. Midyear, a 276-horse FSI 3.6 V-6 replaced the 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter, and the FSI 4.2-liter V-8 became available later in 2007, both return virtually unchanged for 2008. The torque-happy (553 pound-feet!) V-10 twin-turbo diesel is back, but 2008 TDI models are legal in only 43 states. However, those seven lonely states can rejoice: By the middle of the 2009 model year, the V-10 TDI will be replaced with a 50-state-legal 3.0-liter turbodiesel that uses urea injection, a system VW claims will be as easy to replenish as the windshield washer fluid. Front and rear suspension systems are essentially the same, as are the four-wheel discs. ESP now adds active rollover protection, ESP dry-braking (removes water from brake pads, for shorter stops on wet surfaces), and ABSPlus, for better braking on loose surfaces like gravel or sand.
We drove the Touareg 2 on twisting roads and wide-open highways, and off-road, where terrain varied from soft dirt to off-camber slick rock. Our topline tester was equipped with the 4.2-liter V-8, four-corner air suspension, and towing and off-road options for a total price of $59,020. The new V-8 is smoother and more refined, with more pep off the line. It has a subtle growl when passing slow movers on the road, but the transmission lags before downshifts at freeway speeds. The ride is compliant yet provides plenty of road feel, and the fairly responsive steering feels artificial at low speed. The cabin is noticeably quieter, suggesting a healthy dose of sound-deadening material added throughout. That, plus the firm yet comfortable resculpted seats and restyled layout, makes the interior more luxurious than before. Off-road, the Touareg continues to impress, tackling obstacles most owners of $60,000 sport/utilities will never even see. Their loss.
The Touareg's in a tough spot-gas prices have scared off some SUV buyers, and many who do look at full-size sport/utilities want three rows. Yet the updates to this highly capable model, along with the added fuel efficiency of FSI and an upcoming affordable diesel, could be enough to keep this Volkswagen from going the way of the passenger pigeon.
| 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 |
| Base price range || $40,000-$69,000 |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, 4WD,5-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engines || 3.6L/280-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 4.2L/350-hp/324-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8; 5.0L/310-hp/553-lbft twin-turbo diesel SOHC 20-valve V-10 |
| Transmission || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight || 5100-5800 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 112.4 in |
| Length x width x height || 187.2 x 75.9 x 68.0 in |
| 0-60 mph || 7.5-8.2 sec (MT est) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 12-15/17-20 mpg* |
| CO 2 emissions || 1.2-1.4 lb/mile |
| On sale in U.S. || Currently |
| *2008 EPA test standards|