Image: Volkswagen

The first generation Volkswagen Touareg launched in 2002, but remains one of my favorite fancy off-roaders of all time because it was a genuine off-road beast and the most luxurious VW SUV ever. Sadly, that swankiness and off-road prowess comes at a cost, as they mean the SUV is filled with wacky luxury features that will make maintenance a true nightmare. Here’s a look at some of those features.

While taking a break from gazing at the new $500 Jeep Cherokee sitting in my backyard, I fired up my YouTube-o-matic, and discovered a video from The Fast Lane Car with possibly the most bait-y thumbnail I’ve ever seen, complete with bold, all caps, the phrase “You won’t believe” and four consecutive question marks. But get past that to discover an awesome video showcasing some of the first-generation Volkswagen Touareg’s incredibly interesting luxury features:

Some of the systems are just mind-bogglingly fancy for a 2004 model-year vehicle (the first model year sold in the U.S.), and especially for one that TFL managed to snag for only $4,600. There are electric seatbelt shoulder height adjusters for the front two seats (which each get a three-position memory function) and there’s four zone climate control, four heated seats with five different temperature settings, and an automatic recirculation system that uses a sensor to cut off air from the outside when the vehicle senses pollutants or when the driver uses the windshield washer.


TFL Car also points out a cigarette lighter port-rechargeable flashlight, three HVAC airflow modes for the rear passengers, and a knob that sends cold air conditioned air into the glovebox to yield a cooler.

But the luxury doesn’t end there. TFL also shows the separate bin in the glovebox for the fancy leather-bound owner’s manual, the digital calendar in the overhead console, the two sun shades for the driver, and the tiny sun shade to cover the glass above the rearview mirror. Then there’s the third cupholder in the center console, the soft-close rear hatch, the steering wheel buttons that turn off the steering wheel backlighting, and the wacky parking proximity alert with green/yellow/red lights on the top of the dash and in the rear just above the cargo area.

Plus there’s the air suspension with its multiple ride height settings, headlight squirters, locking diffs, an available sway bar disconnect, and a second-row pass-through bag for skis! The list goes on and on, so watch the video above to have your mind blown by what was clearly a no-holds-barred engineering exercise for Volkswagen.

Image: Volkswagen

But before you go out and snag a Volkswagen Touareg to chauffeur yourself around an off-road course in high luxury, just think about how difficult it will be to maintain all of these fancy features once they inevitably fail. After all, we’ve already established that more complexity often yields a sacrifice in reliability.

To help you understand why you should reconsider pulling the trigger on that dirt cheap VW off-roader on your local Craigslist, my coworker Raphael Orlove wrote all about the vehicle’s hellish upkeep needs in his story titled “The Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI Was More Of A Nightmare Than You Can Possibly Imagine.” In it, he talked about how the Touareg—which came out at a time when VW exec Ferdinand Piëch was obsessively trying to show off the company’s engineering skills with over-designed but awesome cars like the Bugatti Veyron and VW Phaeton—was too expensive because it was “too luxurious inside and too meticulously engineered.”


He goes on to quote owners who describe just how nightmarish it is to maintain the V10 powertrain. And though the vehicle came with other engine options (the car in the video above has a V8), the point remains that Touaregs may be awesome, but they weren’t designed to be cheap and easy to maintain. So consider yourself warned, though if you still want to go out and buy a Touareg, I wouldn’t blame you. The car is awesome.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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