The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg is remarkably similar to the modern Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is why this recent off-road comparison by TFL Car is so fascinating. Watch the two machines—separated by 13 model-years—strut their stuff on the rocks.
Here’s a video I’ve been meaning to share with readers. It’s from last week, but it’s a good one. Tommy from TFL Car—a man well-versed in the world of off-roading—took his 2004 VW Touareg off-road in Colorado, pitting the German SUV’s capabilities against those of a lightly modified 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
I find the video so fascinating because I remember when that first-generation Touareg first came out. All the car magazines were taking it on ridiculously tough off-road trails, highlighting its nearly one-foot of ground clearance, its impressive 33 degree approach and departure angles, and its nice 27 degree breakover angle.
Somehow, a Bratislava, Slovakia-built German SUV ended up being an off-road monster. When equipped with the V10 diesel and air suspension, it was out-of-this world—a “moon shot,” as Tommy calls the V8 model he’s driving in the video below.
The clip is great because the Jeep Grand Cherokee is incredibly similar to the old Touareg. This wasn’t the case in the early 2000s when the Touareg debuted. Back in 2004, the first model year for the Touareg in the U.S., the Jeep Grand Cherokee looked like this:
It was called the “WJ,” and while it made for a great off-road platform for mods, especially compared to later Grand Cherokees, it was relatively archaic when placed beside the Touareg. Sure, the Jeep was cheaper, but it showed. The interior was bland, the suspension consisted of two basic stick axles and coil springs, and the engine options—an old 4.0-liter inline six and an iron-block 4.7-liter V8 that made up to 265 horsepower—were unimpressive.
It wasn’t until the new “WK2" generation of Jeep Grand Cherokee showed up in 2011 that it morphed into what is, essentially, the same thing as a first-gen VW Touareg. That’s why this comparison to a 2018 model—which still sits on the same bones as the vehicle that debuted for the 2011 model year—is so interesting. The vehicles are incredibly well matched, with Tommy saying in the video:
Both of these vehicles are surprisingly similar. They’re both unibody. They’re both V8s. They’re both independent suspension. They both have air suspension. They’re both luxurious, comfortable, off-road oriented vehicles.
In some ways, the 306 horsepower 4.2-liter V8 Touareg is better equipped than the 360 horsepower 5.7-liter Jeep, as the VW has true, selectable locking differentials. But its lack of stock underbody armor is a big vulnerability, and a strange one considering how otherwise off-road ready the Touareg is. I also don’t see any obvious tow-points on the Touareg, whereas the Grand Cherokee has those prominent recovery hooks.
The difference in capability seems minuscule in this video, though I assume that, in rougher terrain, the Jeep’s armor would give it an advantage. Still, it’s wild to see a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee built in Detroit sharing so much in common with a 2004 Volkswagen built in Slovakia. And seeing them go toe-to-toe on the rocks is just awesome.