LONG-TERM WRAP: TopCar's Peter Frost says farewell to his VW Touareg long-termer but not before going on an epic road trip. Image: TopCar
Ups: Peerless cruiser, useful battering ram.
Downs: Spending R1200 filling the tank.
Cape Town - It sounded like the fall of Jericho, genuine. A tumble of rubble, plenty of dust, then that horrible, silence, the quiet of the aftershock. The less than imperceptible 3.0-litre TDI grumbled away, moaning about Grahamstown’s legendary freezing temperatures, and I sat there contemplating the damage such a din would suggest.
Resigned, I slipped out the seat, made my way to the right front wheel arch past the plumber and assorted friends - only to find the tiniest of scratches. I know the Touareg has a rep for toughness but this was ridiculous.
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The remnants of the boundary wall lay testament to the scale of the disaster (and the weight), but seemingly the big Teuton had no interest in spoiling its ice blue makeup. A touch up to the mirror housing and it’ll be right as rain.
True people carrier
The Touareg was in Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival, having galloped across the Little Karoo to get there. Both helped illustrate its positives; as an urban carry-all it’s ideal, with plenty of room for five and a decent sized boot, and as a tourer it eats distance for breakfast, restful to pilot, quiet and authoritative in overtaking thanks to the meaty diesel motor.
It is pretty terrifying coughing up R1200 every time you fill up, even if, on long trips anyway, you manage 1100km on a tank. Speaking of which, the trip to Grahamstown returned an average of 8.4-litres/100km, worthy of a round of applause we reckon, given that the journey home only clocked 10-litres/100km.
The difference? On the return we chose a series of dirt road B-routes and the cruise control was hardly ever engaged. That showed up two things: fast, constant speeds equal excellent economy, and that the big Veedub has a suspension system right up there with the best. It has the optional air system, configurable from the cabin, though we found no reason to ever change it up from Comfort mode, the other settings being less than useful.
Sport serves to make the ride uncomfortable, without much dynamic benefit and Normal seemed to offer no discernible advantage over Comfort, other than a slightly reduced ride height that is no issue on tar or reasonably well maintained dirt.
Not all perfect
There were a few issues. The cabin, spacious as it is, has developed a number of squeaks and rattles, notably the driver’s seat, which creaks at the slightest movement. The dash offers a collection of noises, none of which seem easily traceable, and while some disappeared as the Karoo winter temperature contrasts levelled out (a common cause of rattles as materials expand and contract), others stayed the course.
Dynamically too there are quirks – the Touareg’s Tiptronic gearbox is a lethargic creature, especially off the mark when it takes a while for the munchkins to alert the drivetrain that the shifter has indeed moved from R to D. And turbo lag is an issue, again off the mark when there is much noise but not much movement until the turbine works its magic. Together gearbox and lag can make for slightly frustrating urban driving.
Overall the big car gave a decent account of itself, shrinking on the open road and offering the kind of floating, magic carpet ride that works so well in distance driving. And it’s deceptively large; luggage and extras for four people are easily swallowed by the 686-litre boot. It’s out there that these large SUVs make the most sense - in the city the bulk seemingly returns, evident in every parallel parking manoeuvre and narrow driveway. Yes, those…
Logbook VW Touareg Luxury 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion R-Line
Odo reading start/now: 1 204km/15 130km
Distance covered: 13 926km
Fuel consumed: 1441.16 litres
Average fuel consumption: 9.8 litres/100km
Service interval: 15 000km
Service cost: Covered by the 5-year/100 000km service plan
Total Fuel cost: R16 028.38
Running cost: 1.10c/km