Project Touareg GTD: Introduction

On the surface of it, Volkswagen’s latest Touareg TDI already has a lot to offer. With interior quality on par with its Audi or Porsche platform siblings, an improved infotainment platform, increased interior space and creature comforts like power-releasing rear seat row, it rather deftly makes the very subtle shift from quirky off-road badass to more livable family hauler. With a taught suspension and simpler all-wheel drive system, this latest Touareg may give up on its Moab-conquering roots, but it marks substantial gains in livability and efficiency. Dropping 460 lbs over the so-called Touareg 2, the current Touareg makes a big-yet-stylish push for efficiency. That push is capped off even further if you opt for the hybrid or TDI models, the latter of which caught Esquire Magazine’s editorial eye alongside cars like the Ferrari FF as an intriguing “third car to have” story. Frankly, the TDI caught our attention as well… not as a third car, but as a primary mode of transportation and the subject of a new VWvortex project series.

Fact of the matter is, the Touareg fit the bill on the family list of requirements when it came time to replace the aging Volvo XC90 in the garage – itself a project over on our sister website Swedespeed. With two kids, we never used the third row of seats anyway and wanted something more fuel efficient. Enter the Touareg TDI fitted with Audi’s 3.0 turbo direct injection diesel V6 and 8-speed transmission. Within the Volkswagen Group SUV options, the Touareg TDI was really the perfect answer. Too small was the Audi Q5, too big the Q7. While the Cayenne was just right and just like the Touareg in size, it was also a bit more expensive and isn’t available Stateside as a diesel.

No, the Touareg TDI in “Lux” trim met the family budget and also the list of needs with the exception of just one. To a Volkswagen enthusiast owner, our Campanella White Touareg was just a tad too vanilla in more than just hue. The new lines of the Touareg and the handsome new face courtesy of Walter da Silva seemed to be a bit watered down by small simple wheels and little visual flair. We looked at the Touareg and saw potential, and thus the impetus for this project.

Now to be clear, we’re not looking for a crazy build with our Touareg project. A wide-body-kitted, slammed, stanced or heavily-boosted SUV doesn’t really match the car’s higher-brow feel and would likely detract from the package – both the design and the SUV’s overall functionality. Instead, our Touareg will go in the OEplus direction. We’re hoping to look at Volkswagen’s portfolio of performance cars like the GTI and the Golf R and add some of that flair to the Touareg. In the process, we’re looking to create something that might be a credible diesel alternative to the Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5M while staying true to the Volkswagen brand look and feel.

So where to begin? We’ve already begun scouring the Volkswagen range for inspiration and have zeroed in on the Euro market Golf GTD. Essentially, the Golf GTD is a diesel version of the GTI just as the GLI is the sedan version of VW’s performance icon. And while the GTI badge has moved to other models such as Polo and Lupo in the past with varying degrees of success, we believe the GLI and GTD badges aren’t so rigidly associated with the small car or hot hatch (in the case of the GTD) form. We believe a Touareg GTD would be a worthy name for a performance diesel SUV within the Volkswagen lexicon and we intend to test this hypothesis with our Touareg. While our Lux-spec ‘Reg may be attractive to a Lexus cross-shopper, we expect a Touareg GTD would instead be more of a grownup alternative for people who may have grown out of a GTI. Anyway, that’s our goal as we play armchair product planner and define the long-term direction of our latest project series.

In the near term, we’re going to focus on some of the usual upgrades any owner might face, whether looking to create a faux new performance model or just hoping to improve upon their ride. This means our first few installments will focus on the already rich range of accessories available from Volkswagen. Wheels and tires are an obvious launching point. So are other more functional needs like a trailer hitch for those looking to take advantage of the Touareg’s substantial towing capabilities.

Those who attended H20 International in September already got a quick preview of some of what we’re planning when our Touareg took up a position in the VWvortex display, though it’s progressed even further than that. Look for our first update soon as we move to vastly improve the looks of our Touareg project with a new set of wheels and tires. Stay tuned.


For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums to the left.
For more photos related to this story, click on the link to our gallery at the right.