• Volkswagen Touareg: The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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    The 4x4 system of the Range Rover provides excellent traction even when there are no roads

    The 4×4 system of the Range Rover provides excellent traction even when there are no roads

    At first glance, this sport utility vehicle (SUV) has little resemblance to its desert dwelling namesake. It actually looks more like an urbane family estate car used as daily transport for the kids going to school or a short hop to the supermarket. When the dampers are set in ‘comfort mode,’ the Touareg provides for a very comfortable ride. Moreover, its solid build quality just communicates confidence as a family runabout. Like the good Dr. Jekyll its no nonsense practicality and sedate manners is unassuming but very far from spartan.

    The Touareg screams with teutonic elegance with its very smooth and refined manners when you get behind the wheel and drive it around town. But that’s as far sedate as the Touareg can get. In on-road conditions, its Mr. Hyde qualities begin to peek once ‘sport mode’ is set wherein the SUV lower’s its ride height and tightens up its suspension play for tackling smooth paved roads at speeds one only will do on dedicated sports touring cars.

    Its precise steering and good balance makes for great fun while chucking it around sweeping and twisty roads. Its excellent throttle response coming from its V6 diesel engine (yes it’s a diesel) makes for great acceleration especially in the mid to high range of its RPM ban–and one actually forgets what the vehicle is a true-blooded, very capable SUV off-roader that will tackle the most difficult of terrain with great confidence. Again it shows it darker more dangerous side once the terrain gets really rough–so rough that other supposedly real 4WD’s not dare venture into without some form of modification or upgrade.

    This darker side of Mr Hyde begins once the roads disappear and you start the transformation from sports tourer to off-roader beginning with a switch that actually raises the SUV’s ride height to over four inches giving it better ground clearance and enhancing its approach, break-over and departure angles found only in true 4WD off-road vehicles. But it doesn’t end with ground clearance. Another switch sets the SUV to ‘off-road’ mode and sets the vehicles gear ratios and rear differential locks for true off-road work. And to continue the transformation, there’s another button that engages the front and rear axle to spin at the same time–qualities that only a true off-roader, has. It also comes equipped with the most aggressive electronic traction control system I have ever seen on a SUV. Aside from capabilities it also comes equipped with sensors that warn you of impending body contact to the terrain which is quite handy in protecting the Touareg from body damage.

    Going back to its Dr. Jekyll personality, the Touareg after being driven hard on or off-road, has a little surprise for you. It’s quite frugal in its fuel consumption. Despite its weight handicap which, will only reveals itself on the scale but not in manners, the engine has the capacity to make an easy sprint to nearly 200 kph on open roads and various off-road driving conditions. Its frugality was also a surprise as I was able to travel 500 kilometers on just a 3/4 of a tank of diesel fuel. My estimate for the consumption conscious crowd would peg the Touareg at traveling around 10 to 11 kilometers per liter of diesel.

    One must also keep in mind that this is basically a Porsche Cayenne in a more subtle and sedate styling. Truly not for the mid-aged boy racer, but more for the more mature in mind set that demands bang from the buck in all aspects of what the vehicle is.

    So what fault does it have? To this grizzled off-road gear grinder who has to to be objective in making an un biased opinion it would be its manually adjustable seats. In this price range, one may look for such creature comforts but bear in mind that this is a SUV to be driven by the owner and not the family chaufer. It is meant to be a pleasurable driving experience even when making those school and grocery runs in the worst of Manila traffic. So power-seats maybe of little consequence to its owner because dad probably has his own car and junior wouldn’t want to be caught alive driving in it in Dr. Jekyll form.

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