Not just a desert nomad
Much has been said about the VW Touareg’s off-road capability and the comfort it provides even on difficult terrain. I for one have been able to take it to the extremes of its off-road capabilities that it will make modified trucks cringe at the thought of having a plush sport utility vehicle (SUV) keeping up on the trails.
Recently, the local VW distributor launched the new sports variant – a more road performance oriented variant with 20-inch wheels and road-oriented performance tires, and aerodynamic enhancements. Its exterior enhancements compliments the already fluid lines of the Touareg that at its on-road setting, it is mistaken as a sporty station wagon than an SUV.
I had the opportunity to take the Touareg Sport for a quick jaunt from Manila to Baguio and back to test its sports mode/on-road capabilities. No off-roading this time since I am quite familiar with that side of the Touareg’s personality. Intentionally, I opted to place the vehicle settings in the most awkward for road use, by placing the suspension setting not in “sports mode” but in “comfort.” Since the ride height of its air suspension system is set at a really low position, I placed at its highest so as not to get paranoid on scrapping the bottom of the SUV from our notoriously uneven paved roads.
One may ask why I would set the vehicle in the most awkward setting for a road trip? First and foremost, it would be the most comfortable for a long road trip with the suspension in normal mode. The ride height was set at maximum to provide maximum ground clearance because of our imperfect road conditions. This setting also allowed me to test how well the vehicle handled despite it not at its most optimum setting for sporty driving. Also, I still get the best comfort and convenience possible for the long trip.
Traversing the expressways
On the way up to Baguio along probably the best road network our country has to offer, particularly NLEX and TPLEX, stability and handling was impeccable even at speeds that will remain unmentionable on the straights. On the TPLEX at the legal road limits, it will take a vehicle about 30 minutes to get from end to end. Thirty minutes at a constant 100 kilometers per hour can be quite an effort on lesser vehicles, but for the Touareg the problem is how much you just want t push the vehicle to its limits. It’s actually quite easy for the vehicle to hit 180 kph and instantly drop down to legal speeds without any drama, many thanks to its finely tuned brakes.
The six-cylinder diesel common rail injected engine delivers enormous amounts of torque and is so well-tuned that acceleration is very linear. It’s quite difficult for the layman to distinguish the sound of its diesel engine from a petrol engine, especially at higher revolutions per minute. This makes for a stress free ride because of the low noise level, and this is also complimented by the vehicle’s sound-proofing from the glass and the obsessive amounts of noise insulation on the body panels.
After the highways, the climb up Kennon road is where the sports car DNA of the vehicle starts to come into play. The fast sharp turns and climbs of the old road up to Baguio was just effortless and uneventful, and the engine’s ability to pull like a train makes the climbs effortless. The chassis and brakes invites fast turning fast and yet inspires confidence to go further. The aggressive traction control system and stability control almost ensures that an aggressive effort won’t get you into trouble.
Volkswagen in the English language means “people’s car” and carries with it a very proletarian tone. But as I pulled up on the driveway of the Baguio Country Club, the Touareg Sport’s presence clearly demonstrates the literal term of the brand becomes so far from its intended meaning.