I just flew out to Seattle to buy a 2006 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI, a vehicle so infamously expensive to repair that any one visit to the dealership could cost as much as a whole new car. Not only did the Touareg make it the 2,100 miles home, but it did it without even triggering a check engine light. And, I should mention, the engine under the hood of this SUV has the power to corrupt even the best drivers.
Like many car enthusiasts, I spent my formative years watching car-focused television and videos. One of the videos that’s still vivid in my memory is watching a blue Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI pull a decommissioned Boeing 747 down a runway at a leisurely pace. That story is incredible in itself, as VW added 15,498 pounds of ballast weight to the already nearly 6,000 pound SUV before hitching it up to the 747.
Since I recently got news that my Passat W8 has met an unfortunate end, I decided to replace it with something even more stupid. I took the gamble and picked up the V10 TDI sight unseen with the only promise being that it didn’t have a check engine light. And what I found out in my 2,100-mile drive home is that the marketing for the V10 TDI isn’t just hype. This thing is as ridiculous in real life as it appeared to be in promotional videos.
New, they were expensive. The starting price for the V10 in 2006 was $67,750, or $91,240 in today’s money.
On the outside and even the inside, the Touareg V10 TDI isn’t much different than its VR6 or V8 siblings. We’ve written about the mind-boggling first-generation Volkswagen Touareg and the technology VW put into it before. You can get the same stuff without opting for V10 power. Here’s the V10 TDI compared to the VR6:
Your first sign that something is different about this Touareg is the V10 TDI badge on the back.
Things change once you hop behind the wheel and fire up that V10. American diesels back in 2006 still sounded a bit like a big rig, but this? It’s quiet. It even idles smooth like a well-tuned V6 or V8. But open up the throttle and the engine will take you on an adventure.
The Touareg V10 TDI weighs about 6,000 pounds. It even looks heavy. So when you put the throttle down you don’t expect it to launch like a sports car. But stomp it and you’ll hear those twin turbos spool up followed by a surge of power that keeps you in your seat.
The power in itself is bewildering because it’ll keep you in your seat through every gear and past every speed limit in the land. You’ll run out of road before the V10 runs out of power.
It’s weird, too, because on paper, the V10 TDI isn’t all that impressive. It makes 310-HP and 553 lb-ft torque. Those are similar numbers to the Ford 6.0-liter Power Stroke V8 of the same year, and those don’t make you feel like you can pull down a mountain or tow a jumbo jet. And, the V10 TDI is able to dispatch 0-60 times in about 7 seconds in the real world.
Where the V10 TDI really shines is on the highway. See a mountain up ahead? The V10 TDI will climb it without breaking a sweat or downshifting. Need to make a pass? It’ll pass anything in your way faster than you can say Ferdinand Piëch.
On my trip home I scored 20 mpg while scooting through the Rockies and it wasn’t like I was trying to be conservative with the go pedal, either.
There have to be some downsides, right? Of course there are!
You have to remove the engine to do what would be minor repairs on smaller engines. Alternator? Engine removal. Turbos? Engine removal. Starter? Engine removal, or disassemble much of the right side of the car. As you can imagine, that makes anything related to the engine a hilariously expensive repair.
Still, despite the endless warnings from former owners and even our own articles, I couldn’t resist the temptation.
I’m glad, because I’ve never driven an SUV this fun. The V10 TDI is irresponsibly fast and the intoxication of driving it is so corrupting that it could turn Superman into Lex Luthor. It’s a vehicle that somehow doesn’t run out of power; at least, so long as it’s working right. The accelerator pedal is like a gateway drug and somehow, it’s packaged up in a SUV body that can tow around 8,000 pounds and off-road like a beast.
I paid $5,000 for this one and as far as I can tell, it only needs a new dial for the air suspension, a little touch up paint on the tailgate and new tires. Otherwise, everything works as it should. But even after my trip would I recommend you buy one? Absolutely not, unless you have like 10 other cars to drive when it breaks.