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Oh, forget about all that talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Instead, let’s talk about versatility for that is what the Touareg is. It’s not about duality of character; it’s about all the roles the Touareg can play. Mud plugger? Given the right tyres, sure. Expressway cruiser? Easy as can be. Barnstormer? That too.

So, what are the antecedents of Wolfsburg’s first 4×4? It was developed to complete the VW range, which had until then been all about hatchbacks, family estates and executive saloons. VW and Porsche collaborated on the design and engineering. Indeed, under the skin, the humble Touareg shares a lot with its high society cousin – the Porsche Cayenne. The world got its first taste of the Touareg back in 2003, at a time when Volkswagen wasn’t even vaguely on the Indian car buyer’s radar. Now, seven years later, we get to drive it.

The Touareg’s stance leaves you in no doubt about its off-road credentials. It does appear rather utilitarian though, and the styling won’t attract comment. It’s as bland as cotton wool. The nose does have a dull chrome centrepiece, which immediately draws the family lineage to the Passat. Step inside and it feels plain ho-hum. It’s really well put together, no doubt about it, but the cabin lacks verve or flair. Sober dual tones and plain lines dominate. The steering wheel with its array of buttons really feels a decade old in 2010. 

The engine cranks to life mutedly and indeed, this is a brilliantly refined motor. In fact, it’s the same 240PS 3.0-litre V6 that lurks under the bonnet of the Q7, the Q5 and lately, the Cayenne diesel. It is mated to a six-speed Tiptronic gearbox and Volkswagen’s version of an all-wheel drive called 4XMotion. An electronic centre differential and low range are part of the package, endowing the Touareg with considerable off-road ability, as you can see from our photographs. The Touareg also has sophisticated traction control and hill descent control which are worked by the brakes. Sensors on each wheel detect slippage and slow each wheel automatically. It’s not entirely foolproof however, and if driven spiritedly, you can feel the Touareg scrabbling for grip with mild oversteer.

The flat floor and high ground clearance give the Touareg true off-road credentials. Our test car was hampered by tyres which were biased for tarmac use. Yet it still managed to scale a muddy hillside at 29 degrees, which is quite good, although VW claim the Touareg can manage 45 degree slopes. The claimed side slope angle of 35 degrees isn’t to be taken lightly either. Low range is selected by a rotary knob on the centre tunnel and you have the option of locking the centre diff as well.

 

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