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2004 4x4 Truck Of The Year Winner 2004 Volkswagen Touareg

Posted in Features on February 1, 2004
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The Scorecard

Previous 4x4 of the Year Winners
2003 Lexus GX 470
2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee(4.7 HO V-8)
2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee(five-speed auto transmission)
2000 Toyota Tundra
1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee(4.7 V-8 Limited)
1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee(5.9 V-8 Limited)
1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport
1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee(with center diff lock)
1995 Dodge Ram (2500 V-10 longbed Club Cab)
1994 Dodge Ram (1500 V-8 shortbed regular cab)
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1992 Chevrolet Blazer (fullsize)
1991 Dodge Dakota
1990 Nissan Pathfinder (four-door)
1989 Toyota pickup
1988 Jeep Cherokee (4.0L engine)
1987 Nissan Pathfinder (two-door)
1986 Ford Ranger
1985 Isuzu Trooper II
1984 Jeep Cherokee (2.8L engine)
1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer

Test Structure
Category Ranked
Ride & Drive-30% of total points
*Urban {{{Touareg}}}
*Highway Touareg
*Sand GX 470
*Rockcrawling Touareg
*Hillclimbing {{{Titan}}}
*Braking quality Touareg
Overall GX 470
Empirical-25% of total points
*Torque/weight ratio {{{Durango}}}
*1¼4-mile acceleration {{{Axiom}}}
*60-0 braking {{{Armada}}}
*Load-carrying capacity {{{F-150}}}
*Miles per gallon {{{Colorado}}}
*Price as tested Colorado
Overall Titan
Mechanical-15% of total points
*Engine's available power Titan
*Transmission Touareg
*4WD/low-range engage GX 470
*Steering Touareg
*{{{Fit}}} and finish Touareg
*Drivetrain performance Titan
Overall Touareg
Interior-15% of total points
*Ergonomics GX 470
*Appearance, fit and finish Touareg
*Appointments GX 470
*Perceived noise level Touareg
Overall Touareg
Exterior-15% of total points
*Body styling Touareg
*Cargo Titan
*Four-wheeling attributes Titan
*Fit and finish Touareg
Overall F-150

Volkswagen Touareg V-8Winner!To win the coveted 4x4 of the Year trophy a manufacturer has to deliver a 4x4 that is capable on all terrains. One that can jump, scale, and crawl the dunes, the rocks, and the backcountry roads with comfort and convenience. Sometimes this test has a landslide victor when we get an ace off-roader mixed in with a weak group of weekend warrior wannabes. But not this time. In fact, this year's test was the closest ever. With so many well-rounded 4x4s eligible for our test, the top-ranked V-8-powered Volkswagen Touareg only won by a dozen points. And while that may not seem like a decisive victory to you, trust us when we say we'd bet the farm on the mighty VW against any of the past winners of this test.

Don't worry if you can't pronounce Touareg right ("Tour-egg"); few of us could at the beginning of the test. The Touareg isn't about a name or an image-this machine is all about hardware, as we learned right away when Volkswagen delivered its ringer to our Los Angeles offices in Offroad Grey paint. We crawled all over the new SUV to check out the air spring suspension that adjusts the ride height of the vehicle from 6.3 inches off the ground for loading to 11.8 inches off the ground for extreme wheeling. We knew to look for the new technology that New Venture Gear whipped into the full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case and scanned the window sticker to see if our test unit had the rear selectable locker. Score! It did. Everywhere we looked the Touareg exuded off-road thinking and total package development. For example, on most vehicles the underbody skidplating is limited because it traps exhaust and drivetrain heat under the vehicle. Volkswagen got around this by adding air ducts to its skidplates for better cooling with protection. And don't get us started on the screw-in tow hooks that use left-hand threaded bodies to force the hooks to tighten when you pull on them. Cool idea!

When we hit the road for the first leg of our test, judges were comparing notes on which mode to put the Tiptronic shifter in for the best canyon carving. We all scrolled through the six different suspension heights and got a kick out of the way the Xenon HID headlights will automatically level themselves to compensate. Over the course of our weeklong test some judges were hard pressed to choose between the killer stereo and the wild sounds coming from the dual exhaust of the 40-valve V-8 engine. In the end, the engine always seemed to win out. Our only regret with a 4x4 like this is that many of us wouldn't be able to afford the $50-grand price tag. We look forward to evaluating the Touareg over the next year so that we can learn how to operate all of the interior gizmos and get more seat time to try it out in the snow and the mud. We have yet to experience the automatic suspension's "high speed II" mode which is activated over 118 mph. Wonder if we can ship one to the Autobahn for further testing?

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