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2005 Volkswagen Touareg V-10 TDI Review - Long-Term Report

We Learn What It Is Like To Live With A Super Model

Sean P. HolmanWriterRobin StoverPhotographer

Any guy who reads this knows all about manhood's dirty little secret: Us guys will put up with a lot more from a girlfriend if she's hot. Guys always say that they want to date a super model, but is it really all that it is cracked up to be? Well, we may not be dating Anna, Christie, or Tyra, but we have our own little object of affection in our long-term fleet.

Replacing our beloved (second) long-term Lexus GX470, our super model came in the form of the 2005 VW Touareg V-10 TDI, which won our pageant, the Four Wheeler of the Year competition. As with all of our "of the Year" evaluations, winning manufacturers are required to provide us with a one-year loan of the winning vehicle. However, since VW wasn't able to import any 2005 models due to a last-minute EPA emissions hurdle, they gave us the 2005 V10 TDI model we originally tested, already with nearly 13,000 miles on the clock and one of only about 500 currently in the United States.

We think our rare Touareg, just like an exotic super model, has the right moves, looks, and shape. She turns heads wherever she goes and makes us feel like a million bucks. We aren't used to being so spoiled on the pavement and in the dirt, in the same vehicle. This is one ride you can take home to mom; if only she had the dead-set reliability of our Lexus GX470.

When she is good, she is really good, and we couldn't wait to show her off in public at the highest-profile four-wheeling event of the year-the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. Out on the trail she shined, readily conforming to the slick rock with her adjustable suspension that allowed us to alter her center of gravity on the most precarious side slopes, and lift her up when the need to tip toe over larger obstacles was required.

She made it through the Southern California deluge this past spring and proved her handling in an emergency maneuver on Interstate 5 when, in the wet, two cars collided and spun out in front of her, but her deft reactions to driver input got one of our editors through it untouched.

We just can't stop blabbering about the incredible fast-revving 5.0L V-10 turbodiesel monster lurking under the hood, which churns out horses faster than a Dana 30 sporting 44s spits out axleshafts. With 310 hp and 553 lb-ft of tire-degrading torque clawing at the asphalt, our Touareg doesn't just pass other cars, she launches past them, then settles down to become perfectly docile around town, while averaging over 17 mpg. The ride quality is hands-down the best in the fleet and one of the smoothest we've ever experienced. We should also mention that the stereo is tough to beat when it comes to sound quality and performance.

However, all of this charm has caused a case of tunnel vision, since our love for the Touareg hasn't seemed to diminish much despite frequent trips to the dealer. Just like a high-maintenance girlfriend who must spend hours getting herself fixed up before a night on the town, our Touareg spends a lot of time getting fixed up at the dealership. Love is blind, as they say, and we just seem to overlook the expensive major service, the pricey brake job, the bad airbag sensor, the new ECM, the front-end bind, the warrantied turbos, the new locking diff motor, and the wacky electronics. It seems like every time we blink we are blowing the Four Wheeler long-term budget for her, but we don't seem to care and we just keep saying good things. Fortunately the kind folks at Barber Volkswagen of Ventura, California, have deadened the blows with their topnotch service department.

We even tend to look past the fact that our girl can get a bit annoying, giving us such constant messages as "Airbag Fault," "Flat Tyre," "Driveline Fault-Workshop!," "Check Brake Pads," "Tyre Pressure Monitoring System Fault," and "Faulty Wheel On Board." At least the wheels were fine. We just wish she'd go about her business quietly and without trying to get our attention all of the time with flashing idiot lights, shrill beeps, and annoying alerts. Perhaps its about time for an intervention.

With seemingly so many issues and baggage, you might think we would have dumped her already, but truth is, she does everything so well and she looks so good on us; it's hard for us to resist her good side. We think we'll overlook the flaws for now and keep enjoying her company.

Previous reports: None
Base price: $57,800
Price as tested: $63,365
Four-wheel-drive system: Permanent electronic 4WD with low range

Miles to date: 10,265
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 17.13
Test best tank mpg: 22.00
Test worst tank mpg: 11.35

20,000 -mile service, cost: $526.44
Replace airbag module, cost: None, warranty
Replace ECM, cost: None, warranty
Front brake job, cost: $837.29
Update nav and instrument software, cost: None, warranty
Replace both turbochargers,cost: None, warranty
Replace rear diff lock motor, cost: None, warranty
Problem areas: Front-end bind, airbag module, ECM, turbo wastegate, locking diff motor, tire-pressure monitoring system

Hot: Hot is the sleeper shape and high-zoot V-10 turbodiesel, especially paired with the six-speed automatic transmission. The adjustable air suspension is fun to impress with, and allows the Touareg to hunker down at super-legal speeds, and rise up to meet off-pavement challenges. The interior ergonomics and quality of materials is superb.
Not: Not is all the electronic gadgetry that greets drivers with a confusing learning curve, and constantly beeps whether it is a bad tire-pressure sensor, or a curb too close. We also know our neighborhood Volkswagen dealer on a first name basis since our Touareg spends so much time being serviced. Parts and labor are prohibitively expensive, and having a rare vehicle means long waits for backordered parts.

* "Wouldn't know it was a diesel unless idling next to a wall."
* "On-board air compressor is cool."
* "Four 33-inch tires fit in the rear with seats folded."
* "The Touareg has again convinced itself that it has a flat tire."