Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Volkswagen Touareg
The Mk1 Touareg offers an awful lot of SUV for the money, but you might want to think twice about buying a V10 or W12. John Evans dishes the dirt
5 mins read
29 October 2018

Talk of the Volkswagen Touareg Mk1 of 2003-10 often starts with the outrageous 5.0 V10 diesel.

This sleeping giant of an SUV can, when roused, do 0-62mph in 7.5sec. Prices start at around £2000 for an early high-miler (the example we’re thinking of has done 195,000 miles, been owned for two years by the dealer selling it and, he claims, has a full service history and been maintained regardless of cost).

As a flag-waver, it certainly did its bit to get VW’s big workaday 4x4 talked about in the same breath as its more glamorous Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne sister cars, and even more so when ordered in uprated R50 spec.

But really it’s the lesser-known W12 version that should kick-start a Touareg chat. This limited-edition left-hooker used the 6.0-litre W12 from the VW Phaeton. Developing the same power as a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, it could hurl the 2542kg SUV from 0-62mph in 5.8sec.

Find a used Volkswagen Touareg on PistonHeads

A 2009-registered example with 13,000 miles was sold recently by a dealer for around £30,000. However, despite its awesome Q-car appeal, he was glad to see the back of it.

“I could see it would cost a bomb in workshop hours to service because you couldn’t get to anything without dismantling half the engine,” he told me. “I could see that the designers were so short of space, they’d had to locate the battery under one of the seats. I know this because I had to change it and doing so cost me £400.

It was a stupidly quick car, though!” So the V10 and W12 are the Kray twins of the Mk1 Touareg range. Fortunately, the rest of the family is a lot cuddlier. At the bottom of the line- up sit the popular 2.5 TDI and rarely sold 3.2 V6 petrol engines, available with manual or Tiptronic automatic transmissions. They suit easy-going drivers with a bit of towing to do (all Touaregs can tug 3500kg). If you need a little more heft, there’s the 4.2 V8 petrol auto. The better balanced 3.0 V6 TDI auto arrived in 2005, combining livelier performance with decent economy, and it and the 2.5 TDI accounted for the bulk of sales.


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These and all later versions of the Touareg are four-wheel drive with a manual or automatic locking centre differential (a locking rear diff was an option) and hill descent control. The midlife facelift in 2007heralded no less than 2300 changes, a figure that included boiling down the petrol line-up to one 3.6 V6. The 2.5 and 5.0-litre diesels soldiered on but the 3.0-litre was heavily revised, only to be tinkered with the following year when its power was raised from 221bhp to 236bhp and economy improved by some margin. If you’re shopping for a 2008-reg 3.0 TDI, make sure you check which of the two versions you’re being offered.

For its heated leather seats, satellite navigation and cruise control, SE is the pick of the trims. A clean, 100,000-mile 2008 ‘high-power’ Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI SE with full VW service history for around £5450 is just the ticket.

How to get one in your garage: 

An expert’s view, BARRY BABISTER, CCM VW SPECIALISTS: “We rate the Mk1 Touareg engines. The 3.0 V6 TDI is bulletproof, with the right balance of power and economy. Check that oil and filter changes have been done on time. Oil pressure may be unaffected by poor maintenance and you won’t see the oil light flash but tired oil doesn’t penetrate the engine deeply enough. We see failed timing chain tensioners and bearings so know it’s an issue. Propshaft failure is a talking point. We have a cost-effective repair, but tremors or rumbles could just as easily be poor wheel alignment, which even for an experienced technician is difficult to resolve.”

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Buyer beware:

ENGINE - A V10’s DPF light could mean a 13-hour gearbox removal to replace the sensor. On all engines, check for caramelised oil on the block caused by poor injector seating. Variable inlet manifold issues on 3.0 TDIs can trigger limp-home mode; a repair kit is £300. On the 2.5 TDI, check for water pump leaks; on the 3.0 TDI, listen for timing chain rattles. Ignition coil issues hit early petrols.

TRANSMISSION - Check for smooth operation of the auto’ box, although hesitation on V10s and V8s is normal. Check tyres for hard-to-resolve misalignment issues. On cars over 60k miles, thumping when the auto shifts from fifth to fourth could be a failing valve chest (£800 for a specialist fix).

TYRES AND BRAKES - The Touareg’s 2500kg eats discs and pads. Seized calipers and pitted discs are common. Expect just 10,000 miles from tyres. Check the electronic handbrake – repairs are expensive. On older cars with air suspension, check for corroded pipework and the vehicle sitting awkwardly. Listen for steering pump noises on full lock. Check the tyre pressure monitoring system works – it can cause endless trouble.

ELECTRICS - Battery voltage problems can spread throughout the electrics, causing instrument and airbag failures. Check everything works because diagnosis is complex and expensive.

BODY - Corrosion is rare but check for off-road damage underneath.

Also worth knowing:

On a full or trailing throttle, a grumbling noise or a hammer-like banging could be a failing propshaft bearing. It can flare up from around 50k miles. The solution used to be a new shaft but it’s now possible to have the affected parts replaced and the shaft rebuilt.

How much to spend:

£1500-£2995: High-mile 2003-05 2.5 TDIs plus a 2003 5.0 V10 with 150k miles.

£3000-£4995: 2004-07 2.5s, low-power 3.0 TDIs.

£5000-£6995: Early high-power 3.0 TDIs but mostly 06-09 2.5s and sub-100k low-power 3.0 TDIs. Some low-mile 07 3.2 petrols and early, reasonable-mile V10 diesels.

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£7000-£8995: More of the same; plenty of circa-100k- mile2009-10high-power 3.0TDIs.

£9000-£11,995: Mainly 2009-10 high-power 3.0 TDIs.

£12,000 AND ABOVE: Most expensive examples topping out at £19k for a 2008 V10 R50.

One we found:

VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG, 5.0 V10 TDI, 2005/05, 80K MILES, £6789: Full history and two owners, this cherished V10 has unmarked 20in alloys, leather seats, a sat-nav and parking sensors. Sold with a 15-month warranty but check the small print.

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29 October 2018
Wasn't there a 4.2 V8 TDI option as well?

29 October 2018

10,000 miles for tyres - is a mis-print - my Touareg has already done 20,000 and only half worn.

General advice - stick with the 3.0 V6 TDi - that's expensive enough to fix major issues but the others are eye-watering.


29 October 2018

.....I have a leaning towards a Touareg (albeit I hate diesels), the guide does throw-up quite a number of common failures....all of which pretty expensive which is a little off-putting.


29 October 2018
Why focus on the mk1 touareg when the mk2 has been replaced and was a far superior and more reliable beast than the mk1?

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