DETROIT - After a few days with the V6 powered Volkswagen Touareg we started calling it Touareg Lite.
This Touareg has always been in the shadows. When Volkswagen's sport- utility first came to the market, it was powered by a V8, had great off road capability and was engineered by Porsche which builds the vaunted Cayenne on the same chassis.
The V6 came later and most wags think it was to boost sales by giving the Touareg a lower entry point for buyers. But the V6 was quickly followed by the more powerful, twin turbo V10 diesel Touareg.
Thus, our test vehicle was sandwiched between two vehicles that got a lot more ink. Still it may be the best bargain of the bunch. The bottom line is that the Touareg V6 has a smaller engine that wasn't all that small. And it was housed in a vehicle that can cost more than $50k but starts at less than $40k.
Its V6 generated 276 horsepower out of its 3.6- liters and made 266 pounds- feet of torque at a respectfully low 2,750 RPM. What that meant was that our Touareg was fairly nimble on the road for a vehicle that weighed more than 5,100 lbs.
Acceleration was decent, the Touareg cornered really well and of course with that kind of weight the ride was smooth because the independent steel spring suspension readily handled the heft. Although the Touareg was weighty, it didn't lumber along. The five- passenger vehicle didn't seem oversized in traffic.
The Touareg had a six- speed automatic transmission and it had permanent four- wheel- drive with a low range gear. In other words, we could have taken it off road for some fairly serious sloshing through the woods that we didn't' even think about doing.
But here was thing that struck us about our test vehicle. Most times when manufacturers provide vehicles for testing, their loaded up with all sorts of stuff. In other words, we get the high- end version of the model. However, our Touareg didn't have any options. There was no satellite radio, no navigation system, no heated seats, heck it didn't' even have power seats. But it was still very comfortable.
The interior was beige perforated leatherette, and though the front seats were not power operated they could be manually adjusted eight ways. Our test vehicle had four 12- volt power outlets and a 115- volt outlet in the cargo area. It had power mirrors that were heated and retractable.
And though there was no satellite radio or auxiliary jack for an iPod, the sound quality of the audio system was premium grade. There was an in- dash single disc CD player but we didn't even try it. The sound quality of the regular radio was sufficient.
Safety equipment included side air bags as well as curtain airbags for both front and back seat passengers. Our Touareg had brakes galore including engine brake assist, hydraulic brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and of course antilock brakes and anti- slip differential. We particularly liked the inflatable spare tire with compressor that thankfully we did not have to use.
Here's the deal: the V6 powered Touareg is a de- contented version of the V8 and Turbo Diesel model. But there's just so much content that could be removed. And for $38,660, our Touareg had the DNA of a vehicle that cost about $15,000 more.
We can only hope that for 2008, the Touareg 2 holds true to the same formula.