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2004 Volkswagen Touareg V-10 TDI Review

It's A Wrap: 25,000 Miles With The Diesel Diva

Douglas McCollochPhotographer, Writer

OK, we know, we parked her on pavement ... but what better backdrop for our long-term Touareg's swan song? With her fast-lane manners, sleek sense of style, and proven versatility in any number of roles, our now-departed 2004 Four Wheeler of the Year was the leading lady of our long-term test fleet. Elegant as Nicole Kidman on the boulevard, yet stout as Queen Latifah on the trail, our Touareg was the one rig in our stable that was equally at home plying the Sierra backcountry in low-range, or roaming the streets of Tinseltown in search of an Oscar party.

Like many gifted performers, though, our diva had a mercurial side. The last time we left her (Feb. '06), she was having her ECU revamped to put a stop to the barrage of beeps and error codes she was regaling us with on a weekly basis ("Airbag fault!," "Driveline fault!"). Or was she having a wheel sensor replaced so she'd stop telling us we had a flat tire every other day? Or was it the new set of brake pads she needed to replace the ones she'd toasted after 10,000 miles? Or the new set of tires she really did need after 20,000?

But we digress. After a full year of testing, we're still so smitten by our diesel grande dame that we happily overlooked her occasional outbursts, like the rear seatbelts that wouldn't unlatch, or the keyless entry that only worked for one door, or the fold-down rear seats that wouldn't fold up again.

Perhaps it was the lure of her plush leather seats, or the effortless steering feel that let us carve the chicanes of Mulholland Drive with the precision of a Beverly Hills Lasik surgeon. Perhaps it's the V-10's mindboggling torque curve-at peak, virtually flat from spool-up to four grand-that made us feel powerful as a studio mogul when blasting down the Hollywood Freeway for a round of hors d'oeuvres at Spago. Or could it be the adjustable air suspension and selectable diff locks that proved their worth, time and again, on terrain ranging from rain-slick Rodeo Drive to 4-rated rock trails at Moab? Whatever it was, no matter the inconvenience, we just couldn't help being star-struck. We know, after all, that celebrity comes at a price, and it was certainly true for our diva: Two brake jobs, a new set of tires, and $2,950 in parts and labor. Breaking up is hard to do, in more ways than one.

Report: 3 of 3
Previous reports: Sept. '05, Feb. '06
Base price: $57,800
Price as tested: $63,365
Four-wheel-drive system: 4xMotion electronic full-time two-speed

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 25,693
Miles since last report: 10,386
Average mpg (this period): 20.99
Best tank, period (mpg): 25.10
Worst tank, period (mpg): 15.42

30,000-mile service: Fluid and filter changes, tire rotation, et al.
Cost: $374.06
Replaced worn tires with set of Falken S/TZ04s
Cost: $626.95
Replaced front wheel sensor
Cost: $324.05
Replaced rear brake pads
Cost: $247.42
Replaced broken seatbelt guide
Cost: $2.46 (warranty fix)
Added 4 quarts diesel oil
Cost: $16
Problem areas (test period): Tires, rear brakes, tire/wheel sensors, door locks, rear seats, seatbelts, and pretesioners.

What's Hot, What's Not:
Hot: Awe-inspiring powerplant, seamless drivetrain; feather-light steering, tight turning circle; selectable diff-locks; world-class seats; impressive mileage.
Not: Roasts brake parts every 10,000 miles; ECU sensors require routine exorcisms; onboard Nav system needs a CD to operate (which of course we lost); awe-inspiring powerplant currently unavailable in U.S.

Logbook Quotes:
* "High maneuverability makes it capable in traffic or on the trail."
* "Too many alarms, and no manual to see if some can be disabled."
* "A pure pleasure to drive. Tons of passing power!"
* "20 mpg from a V-10?!? Simply amazing."