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23 February 2012

When it comes to visual bang for the buck, nothing beats a new set of wheels to improve the look of your car. This is especially the case for our Lux package Touareg TDI and its bid to drop some of that vanilla appearance for something acutely more sporting.

gtd aWe mentioned a few weeks ago in our introduction that we were looking to go more OE+ in our planning. For those enthusiasts living under a rock, this means building it in a way that looks as if the factory may have built it themselves… would they have seen the need.

With our rather strict interpretation of OE+, this meant finding wheels that looked factory. As we began to consider our options, we realized our choices were surprisingly limited given our self-imposed constraints.

We flirted briefly with the idea of Porsche Cayenne turbo wheels. We even photoshopped a few fantastic looking mockups of our Touareg with the Cayenne Turbo alloys, but these wheels are simply nonexistent on the used market and the $6K pricetag from the dealer was a bit rich for our project budget. Also, they’re not actually a VW design and an imagined Touareg GTD model would never come from the factory with Porsche kit. Yes, there’s a history in the enthusiast world of fitting Porsche wheels on VWs, so we may try it someday. For now the Porsche wheels are out.

Size was another question. Though there are a fair number of Porsche (Cayenne) and Audi (Q7) replica designs on the market, most are in 22” diameter. That’s an inch bigger than the largest factory fitment from any of the Volkswagen Group brands and 22s would likely sap that much more efficiency from our TDI drivetrain with the added weight. We decided to limit ourselves to 21” diameter, consistent with the largest stock fitment on the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Audi Q7 S-line.

We also found a new wheel design from UK wheel manufacturer Kahn Design. The Kahn wheel bears a strong resemblance to the Golf R’s “tri-five” wheel and is made in several fitments for the Cayenne and Panamera, meaning it could fit the Touareg as well. Renders also revealed the wheel would look fantastic on the Touareg, but still wouldn’t look factory.

We briefly considered trying to inspire a replica company to create something new for Touareg owners. As replica factories are already making the “tri-five” wheel design from the Golf R. We figured a 21-inch fitment of this wheel would be a home run for any Touareg and had no doubt we could rally enough owners to amass enough for an initial run. The renders of our project with such a setup looked fantastic, but in the end we couldn’t find a replica wheel company interested in making our plan happen.

gtd 1

Left unclear on where to proceed, we made a chance visit to Volkswagen’s German market website and downloaded a PDF accessories catalog for the current Touareg. To our surprise, VW themselves offer a good-looking 5-spoke design wheel with 21” diameter called “Dolomit”. That Volkswagen manufactured the wheel for the Touareg was confidence inspiring, making us sure it would fit correctly and also stand up to the abuse of potential towing, etc. Even better, a quick call to Volkswagen Accessories in the States confirmed that the wheel was available via dealerships here.

The Dolomit design is a different take on the old 5-spoke formula, with offset split spokes. From an appearance standpoint, the 21-inch Dolomite transforms the Touareg, making it instantly more dynamic, much less vanilla bean.

Jumping two inches in diameter, there are some side effects. On the up side, handling is improved – not harsh and with less roll in the corners. On the downside, we’re noticing about a mile per gallon loss in efficiency and up to two less miles per gallon in city as measured by regular monitoring of the Touareg’s onboard multi-function display.

Since the Touareg has lug locks, we highly recommend using an air gun when removing the lugs. Lug wrenches work on the side of a road but without firm, even placement on the lock lug you risk stripping it… or worse the key.

The Touareg with Everests was also fitted with VW’s new plastic lug covers. Unlike old designs, this one fits both the lug lock and the standard lug. They also look good so we retained them after installing the Dolomits.

Having retained our Touareg’s Lux package 19-inch Everest 5-spoke alloys as backup and winter use, we had no concern going with high performance tires for this new setup. Yes, our Touareg will see its fair share of wintery mix, and we’ll consider snow tires fitments for the Everests. For now though, performance was our concern so we went with the Dunlop SP SportMaxx in the manufacturer’s recommended size of 275-40-ZR21 – a suitable rubber setup for our invented high-performance Touareg GTD package.

We invested in a set of factory TPMS sensors since we wanted to be able to retain all the factory features.

As mentioned, the lower profile sidewalls really sharpen the car’s handling. Frankly, while we’ve been considering some sort of performance suspension option and have been seriously curious about fitting Cayenne springs, we’re not sure if it’s still needed… at least for handling. Yes, our Touareg will look better if it is lowered, especially with these new wheels in place. Still, handling seems on par with other high performance SUVs we’ve driven recently thanks in part to the more aggressive wheel and tire combo.

(4) 21” x 9.5” Dolomit Wheel $849.00 ea. MSRP (Part #7P0-071-491- -QQ9)

(4) Dunlop SP SportMaxx Tires 275-40-ZR21

Next Up: Following the wheel and tire changes, we’re going to continue on our exterior visual improvement thread with a few external upgrades first from Volkswagen Accessories. Watch for it soon.



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