2008 VW Touareg V8 | road test

Posted on Jun 12, 2008 by

If you’re anything like
me, when you hear the words ‘V’ and ‘8’ said together, you’re
eyes will light up, your smile will broaden and there might even be
some slight tingling as the hairs on the back of your neck stand to
attention.

A powerful V8-engined car
is the stuff of school boy’s dreams…

The throb coming from
under the hood at idle, the effortless acceleration and the visceral
roar as the revs rise; a great V8 can bring immense joy to any
petrol-head’s heart. So when the keyless-entry key to VW’s new
Touareg V8 landed in my already slightly sweaty hand, the first and
only thing on my mind was prodding the engine start button to get
those eight pistons pumping.

Now, at 4.2-litres, the
Touareg’s is not a particularly large capacity V8, and comparisons
in this instance can’t help but be made with my current ran-around
– a Chevrolet Lumina SS, 5.7 litre V8. Our American friends have
perhaps done more than any other car manufacturing nation to cement
the V8 name in high-horsepower-history, and I was keen to see how the
Germans at VW had taken this ‘old’ American technology and
powered it into the present with their famously modern
techno-knowhow. And at 350 bhp, the top-of-the-range VW Touareg is
always going to be fun, right?

Technology is most
certainly present deep inside the aluminium engine casing of this mid
size SUV. Fuel gets gulped at a fairly thirsty pace under the command
of Touareg’s ‘FSI’ fuel injection system. Petrol is fired
directly into its cylinders at 150 bar of high pressure, the
injection rate controlled very precisely by the SUVs engine
management computer – this concise fuelling keeps the VW’s
throttle response on the right side of sharp, much better than the
rather slow throttle command of the lazy, less up to date Lumina V8.

Another must for modern
engines is variable valve timing, another neat trick found under VW
Touareg’s skin. That engine computer continually changes the timing
of the engine inlet and exhaust valves to make sure everything runs
at optimum efficiency and performance. And with the 2-stage intake
manifold carefully feeding the engine the exact amount of air it
needs to breathe freely; you’ve got a beautifully designed, bang
up-to-date, proudly-German V8 engine.

All of this modern-day
magic serves up a very tasty-sounding 350 bhp, 440 Nm of torque, a
7.5 second 100 kph dash, and a top speed of 244 kph.

It all sounds like a
recipe for some serious fun in the Dubai sun, but does it all add up
to that wonderfully wild ride that a V8 engine really must deliver?

The short answer is, no.
The acceleration soundtrack is there, with a deep burble growing to a
throaty roar as the revs pile on, but the Touareg somehow seems to
make rather hard work of it all. Don’t get me wrong, the 6-speed
automatic gearbox is fairly slick and quick with the up-shifts
(although downshifts can get a little ‘confused’), but, as far as
I’m concerned a V8 engine must feel effortless in its rush towards
the shimmering desert horizon, with deep wells of torque available
from right at the bottom of the rev range. That’s the payback for
less than environmentally friendly extra-urban fuel consumption
figure of 10.7 litres per 100 km. But, compared to my 330 bhp Lumina,
the VW just didn’t seem to rocket-off-the-line like the big chrome
‘V8’ badge on the boot lid would have you believe.

Another set of numbers to
note is that at 120 kph, the engine is revving at 2500rpm in top
gear, whereas my Lumina purrs along at the same speed, but at 2000rpm
– those extra engine revolutions making a significant dent in your
already rather low fuel economy expectations.

The excuse for this lack
of pure pace and over zealous drinking habit is most definitely
Touareg’s rather beefy curb weight. At 2332 kg she’s certainly no
waif-like Supermodel – more of a sumo wrestler! And that’s because
this full options VW SUV is lugging along more luxury than a Sheikh’s
super-yacht.

 

 

Supple leather and soft
Alcantara decks out the Touareg literally from head to toe, with the
finest of wood and metal finishes sprinkled around liberally too. The
interior of the 2008 VW Touareg is largely revised from the previous
SUV, and everything has a quality and modern feel to it – although
some might complain that there are simply too many buttons to confuse
the average technophobe. But, having spent 400 km wrapped up inside
the Touareg’s luxury cabin; I can say that the infinitely
adjustable equipment is generally easy to use, once acquainted.

Plus points are: The
reversing camera which points out your predicted path into
obstructions as you turn the steering wheel, the 12-way adjustable
front seats that made even a big 6-footer like me feel completely at
home and the ‘DYNAUDIO Sound’ 10 speaker, 600 watt premium sound
system. If you like comfort, luxury and rumbling bass, the new VW
should definitely be on your test drive list.

Whilst the V8 did
disappoint me a little (maybe I’m used to too much performance?),
as a car to cruise the streets of Dubai, the 2008 VW Touareg comes
together as a great package. In the malls its reasonable size,
respectable turning circle, reversing camera, cornering headlights
and perfectly weighted power steering made multi-story parking a
one-hand-on-the-wheel affair, whilst other drivers seemed to notice
the pedigree of this quality SUV.

Around town the Touareg
commanded the right amount of road presence; essential in a town
where the streets are ruled by armies of beefed-up Patrols and Land
Cruisers – but the Touareg wasn’t scared. If you do feel a little
intimidated just flick the suspension from ‘sport’ to ‘comfort’
and the computer controlled air suspension instantly raises the car
by a full 25 mm. it’s the automotive equivalent of puffing out your
chest!

Stretch her legs on our
many motorways and the ride (switched again to ‘sport’) is
composed and comfortable. The Touareg’s ultra-modern suspension is
self-levelling and speed-dependant damped, so everything from the
tyres up is constantly working to keep things calm – and it works
well. Just sit back in those wonderful seats, find your favourite
radio station on the touch-screen and enjoy the ride. You might
consider a little extra volume to drown out the noticeable (at speed)
wind noise from the jumbo wing mirrors, and the constant ‘bing-bong’
of the over-speed warning.

I even took a little time
to get the VW a little dusty in the desert where the fulltime
four-wheel drive, decent dollops of torque, stunning brakes and
computer controlled suspension all played an impressive part in
mastering the rough stuff.

But surely to most
potential Touareg drivers in Dubai, this car is a spacious, luxury,
larger-than-life limousine that can deliver you in style through
pretty much any situation you’d care to throw at it. Be that on
road, off road, at higher speeds and through fast sweeping corners,
or simply fighting it out for a precious parking space.

Maybe I’m being a
little hard, complaining about the slight lack of engine grunt, but I
believe that V8s should be V8s, and not just a jumped up V6. Given a
touch more thrust and I would have been very pleased with the
Touareg, and I can definitely recommend a test drive, because for
Dubai life, this could be a near-perfect package for you. Me? I’ll
be sticking with the Lumina, for the time being.

Technical Specifications
Body Type4-Door Mid-Size SUV
Engine4.2-litre V8
Power350 Bhp
Torque440 Nm
Transmission6-Speed Automatic

 

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