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Super tanker. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Super tanker
Volkswagen ups the power of its mighty V10 turbodiesel engine to create the mightier Touareg R50.

 



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| First Drive | Luton, England | Volkswagen Touareg R50 |

Volkswagen adds another R model to the range with its R50 Touareg. V10 turbodiesel power, tugboat-rivalling toque and an in-yer-face makeover means it's the polar opposite of the more conservative Touaregs in the line up.

In the Metal

Close cousin of the Porsche fell-out-of-the-ugly-tree-and-hit-every-branch Cayenne, the Touareg has long been the choice of those wanting a stylish yet discrete luxury SUV. Not so with the R50, the Touareg getting a makeover to match that other R badged model in the VW range - the R32 Golf. The R50's wider wheel arches are filled by enormous 21-inch alloy wheels, the big rims themselves overflowing with huge, purposeful-looking brake discs and blue callipers. There's a matte-chrome surrounded front grille, deeper front and rear bumpers, fat oval exhausts and a roof spoiler. It's certainly a Touareg from the more overt school of styling...

What you get for your Money

Aside from the visual makeover, the Touareg R50 comes with a number of detail enhancements to increase the sporting appeal of the driving experience. The adjustable air suspension is 20mm lower, but it's the engine where the most interesting modifications have taken place. VW's 5.0-litre V10 TDI powerhouse has been fiddled with to create more power and torque, specifically 36bhp more power and 74lb.ft more torque. It's that later figure that's pertinent, the R50 developing 627lb.ft from just 2,000rpm. Given the standard Touareg V10 TDI showed off its 553lb.ft of twisting force by hauling a Boeing 747 along a runway, the R50 could be used around the docks to help moor supertankers. Being the range topper, it's fully loaded with kit, but then at 61,990 so it should be.

Driving it

The standard V10 Touareg is a comical enough machine to drive, so our expectations of the R50 were raised significantly. Surprisingly, it didn't feel quite as big a step up over the standard car as expected. The 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds is a ridiculous figure for something so big and bulky, but the way it goes about delivering that performance makes it feel slower than it is. There's no brutality about it, the massive torque merely winding up the transmission and pushing you forward in a linear surge. It's not the engine that dominates the driving experience, instead the rather compromised suspension that's the defining feature.

Three suspension settings are offered: auto, comfort and sport. Only those with private access to a chiropractor will opt for sport, the ride overly fidgety and harsh. In any setting the Touareg never really feels settled, there being too much body roll for something that's supposed to be sporting. There's some heft to the steering, but precious little information. The R50 might be fast, but it's not a car you'll enjoy stringing a series of bends together in.

Worth Noting

Off-roaders are in the environmentalists' firing line and the R50 isn't going to win you any friends in the green community. It might say TDI on the boot lid, but this isn't a turbodiesel that has been fettled for economy. Performance is the goal here - as the frankly appalling 22.4mpg combined cycle figure suggests. Emitting 333g/km of CO2 is pretty difficult to justify these days, too. Volkswagen will only be bringing in a handful of the R50s though, so if you're unconcerned by such things and want the maddest, baddest Touareg VW makes, then the R50 might be just the thing.

Summary

Some of the Touareg's key appeal remains in the R50. The cabin, though featuring a sporting makeover, is still among the best in class. Opt for the R50 in black and you might just still slip under the radar discretely. But the R50 sends out mixed messages; it's a TDI with petrol-like consumption; a big-engined, sporting looker that the chassis simply cannot deliver on. We'd have a regular V10 TDI Touareg if big, rapid easy torque delivery and towing capability were on our agenda, or a V6 TDI Touareg and a Golf R32 if we really wanted to fulfil the R50's mixed brief properly.

Kyle Fortune - 12 May 2008









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2008 Volkswagen Touareg specifications:
Price: 61,885 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Top speed: 146mph
Combined economy: 22.4mpg
Emissions: 333g/km
Kerb weight: 2602kg

Full technical specifications

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by SMMT.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by VW.
 

2008 VW Touareg R50. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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