2009 Volkswagen Touareg R50 Quick Review
By James Wong
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of deliberation, Singapore has finally lowered the tax on diesels. It’s now financially more sensible to own a diesel car than ever before, but even so it attracts a tax that is 2.25 times that of petrol equivalent models. But, with its high torque as well as better consumption figures, it’s something that might be worth paying for.
Of course, for the latter, you may have to excuse the new Touareg R50.
It’s an extreme, V10 turbodiesel which does the century run (0-62 mph) in 6.7 seconds and has enough power to pull a 747 (no kidding). Its consumption is an average of 16.7L/100km (about 14 mpg US), not too bad for the power, but the car’s weight does mar some of that performance. More on that later.
On the outside, this car looks fabulously low-key. The rims looks like they were taken off of a Phaeton (an Omanyt, if you wanted to know the name), but they’re nice anyway, except maybe VW could have used more imagination to come up with a rim exclusive to the R50. The dual pipes hint of the enormous power beneath, and its lowered suspension means it sits closer to the ground like a tank. In fact, it does look like a tank, except with more civilised looks of course.
Open the doors and the tanklike sensation continues. The doors are solid, as is the interior, with its opulence and build quality. A new R510 navigation system came with my test vehicle (it’s imported from Australia) and it works brilliantly, I just wished VW made it standard across all VW models. It’s a joy to use, and even rivals the MMI, Comand or iDrive. Leather is sprawled all over the interior, and while it feels plush, it doesn’t feel much of an improvement over the standard Treg.
Well, now to the test drive. Turn on the engine and it settles into a hum in the background. Diesel clatter? Forget about it, there’s none at all. This sounds and feels just like a finely tuned petrol engine. Put some throttle into it and the car goes and goes – and you can’t really feel the speed because it does its business in a no-nonsense and effortless way. Despite the 850Nm (627 lb-ft) torque however, the car doesn’t immediately let you appreciate the power. The nearly 3 ton curb weight does nothing for the car except to make its engine feel just adequate for spirited driving, and the 6.7 seconds sprint is actually believable despite what its impressive output figures would have you believe.
But of course, it isn’t a disappointment at all. It’s just that the weight makes a spectacular engine, well, feel just normal in a Treg. But let’s not forget, this is an SUV here. And the way it takes speed on its stride, it feels like a sports car. So that should be justification enough on why you’d want this over a Cayenne Turbo.
Handling’s not that great either. You still get that floaty feeling around corners, and your foot can’t help but tap the brakes when your brain alerts you that you’re taking it too fast. The suspension isn’t firm enough on the normal setting, but does offer a superb ride that rivals any luxury sedan. I didn’t try the Sport mode, which I expect would firm the ride up a bit and make it better around the bends. The brakes are decent, not too bad, but not mind-blowing either.
For the price, you can barely get a Cayenne S and you can’t yet afford a Range Rover Sport Supercharged. In fact, it’s probably the cheapest performance (and I mean hardcore performance) SUVs you can buy today. Coupled with the good consumption and overall feel-good factor of the R50, there’s little reason why you shouldn’t get this hulking machine if you’re in the market for an SUV.
Of course, do you really need all that power? In mind a 3.0TDI comes to mind. More sensible, less insane and makes you look more environmentally friendly.
Oh, I forgot to mention though, the road tax for the R50? SGD11,000 ($7,400 USD). So, in just about 30 years you’ve paid up for your R50 in taxes…
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