For the past week I've been driving around in one of the more remarkable - and desirable - vehicles on the South African market. It's a VW Touareg V10, kindly lent to me by VWSA.
As the only way I'm ever likely to be able to afford one will be through winning the lottery (whenever that comes back) I thought the least I could do in the meantime would be to write about it. Rest assured though, this won't be a PR piece. Anyone who read my review of my own Peugeot 407 will know that this will be as honest an assessment as I can make it.
The heart of the Touareg is its engine. That mighty V10 turbodiesel has to be the best reason to stump up R750 000 to buy this top-of-the range Touareg. It doesn't sound like a diesel unless you're standing right next to it with the bonnet up, and it certainly doesn't perform like any other diesel, except maybe the one in the 5 Series BMW.
Floor the throttle and, despite the vast weight of revolving ironmongery over the front wheels, this 3-ton behemoth lifts its nose and takes off with a huge whoosh of power. The closest comparison, taking into account the Touareg's massive weight, is to a Jumbo Jet blasting down the runway.
At this point you're probably expecting me to moan about the horrendous fuel bill resulting from such driving. But here's the thing; despite all the robot-to-robot fun I've been having, the average consumption this past week is around 12 l/100 km. And this morning, after my regular commute to Pretoria, I found a function which gives data for a specific journey and realised, to my absolute amazement, that I'd averaged 8.6 l/100 km over 57 km door to door!
That's nothing short of mind-boggling for such a gigantic engine and heavyweight vehicle. Add that to the 100 litre tank capacity and you've got a useable highway range of well over 1000 kilometres!
What can I say about the interior, except that it's luxury wood and leather, with all the features you'd expect in a vehicle of this price. Positives far outweigh the negatives, but there are negatives.
These include less than generous headroom and rear seat legroom, shocking rear visibility due to low rear window and the position of the rear-seat headrests and externally-mounted spare wheel, a sound system which genuinely isn't as good as the one in my 407, and door mirrors that don't fold when you switch off the ignition. This is a seriously wide car, so you tend to hear the park-distance tones a lot.
Worthy of mention is what Jeremy Clarkson terms the "flappy-paddle gearbox". I defy any V10 Touareg driver to tell me that the Tiptronic paddles are necessary in a car with such huge torque and a six-speed autobox which shifts so seamlessly that the only way to tell what gear you're in is to refer to the dashboard display. They're a complete waste of space, they interfere with the indicator stalk and result in the light-switch being an old-fashioned dashboard dial rather than a steering wheel stalk.
The Touareg does have a low-range box, but it would be a brave owner who would contemplate serious off-road driving. The tyres would look more at home on a Formula One car than an off-roader and the sheer weight of the Touareg would make it unsuitable for anything soft and mushy.
Would I have one? Well if VW said "take it, it's yours," I'd say "yes, yes! A thousand times yes!" and I'd revel in its superb long-distance road qualities and the invincible feeling you get driving such a big, powerful 4X4.
But if I actually had to spend R750 000, I'd think very hard before deciding probably on a Range Rover, which may not have quite the power, but has all the features and is also a genuine off-roader. Or better still, save a couple of hundred thousand and go for a Discovery, Prado or Pajero.
But then, a little voice would be constantly reminding me about the delights of that Touareg V10 and I'd be thinking... "Maybe the Touareg would have been a better bet after all!"