Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI | The brave pill
The risk of labeling anything a peak is that an even more extreme example of the topic under discussion will appear shortly after. Barring the slim chance of a leggy Cat N Bugatti Veyron showing up in the classifieds, or a V12 Ferrari with an ongoing fire in its engine bay, it’s almost impossible to see how anything could top this week’s Brave Pill. This is a well used V10 TDI Volkswagen Touareg with 185,000 miles and the pictures indicate that it has either had a hard life or a very dirty life.
That’s an XXL risk right there, but what looks like an equal or possibly even greater reward makes up for it. Because our Pill is being offered for just £6,495, which feels like a ridiculously low amount for one of the most powerful diesel-powered passenger cars ever built – even if it could easily produce bills to rival the cost of a fire in a banknote warehouse . The last time Pill launched a V10 Touareg, it was offered for £9,995 in June 2020 – and ended up being the most popular offer of the year too. Can lightning strike twice?
The Touareg V10 TDI is one of those cars that only got the green light because the then boss of the Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piech, was able to bend reality to his will. After taking control of the group in the 1990s, we were soon rushing to accommodate his every whim of product development – and fire anyone who didn’t realize their craziest ideas fast enough. The V10 dates from the same era as the Volkswagen-Bentley W12 and Bugatti quad-turbo W16, both of which looked almost reasonable in comparison.
The early noughties were the diesel age and no company was more associated with this trend than Volkswagen. We know, of course, how that ended — with billions of dollars in fines and compensation, and several senior executives at the company having bars in their bedroom windows. But long before these executives cautiously walked around the prison showers, diesel was being touted as something of a miracle fuel for cars, the easiest way to cut CO2 emissions and increase torque. Under Piech, Volkswagen would always lead this trend.
Trouble was, diesel was too sensible back then – way better at MPG than speed and excitement. Prior to the introduction of the V10, the VW Group‘s most powerful oil burner was the 3.3-liter V8 TDI, offered exclusively in the D2-generation Audi A8, peaking at 222 hp and 354 lb-ft. Which was definitely not enough for the halo that Piech was aiming for. As the company began work on the W12 petrol engine that would power both the Phaeton and new-era Bentleys, development of a V10 TDI began in parallel. The brief was simple: to build the world’s most powerful passenger car diesel engine.
He succeeded, albeit briefly. The V10 was related to both the 3.0-liter V6 TDI and 4.0-liter V8 TDI that were being developed at the same time, but outperformed both, peaking at 346 hp and 627 lb-ft. The size of this latter figure meant that the only car sold with more torque at the time was the Bentley Arnage. While the new V10 was designed for the Phaeton, it was also fitted to the new Touareg due to the limited sales of the luxury sedan. This brought a twist to the plot: the SUV was not designed for this. The huge engine was crammed in, but packed so tightly that anything but simple maintenance would require it to be dislodged or even dropped.
Despite its headline-grabbing figures, the V10 in the Touareg was not a huge success. It cost 60 per cent more than the 2.5-litre TDI version, which was good at preventing jams from forming – but the big car’s cushion air suspension and lack of dynamic focus meant it was never particularly inclined, with so much power to deal with The 5.0-litre wasn’t particularly economical either, 22mpg combined was 4mpg better than the V8 petrol version, but hardly good enough to get Greenpeace endorsement. Curiously, one of the markets where the V10 was loved the most was actually the US, where VW even brought out a cleaner version when the first iteration was scrapped due to tighter emissions standards.
A bigger problem for the V10 was the bitter bloody war raging within the Volkswagen Group, probably to Piech’s amusement. Competing engineers vied to outdo each other and, having not been given access to the V10, Audi soon developed a more powerful 349 hp version of the 4.2-litre V8 TDI. Volkswagen responded by boosting the larger engine to 351 hp in the Touareg R50, which arrived with a facelift in 2007. Then Audi laughed last – or ended up bald with a comb and a Titanic deckchair concession – with the outrageously expensive 6.0-liter V12 TDI that was briefly offered in the Q7.
Despite the implied promise of its private license plate, our Pill is too early to be a Touareg R50 as it’s a 2005 model. The dealer who sells it in beautiful Bolton (twin city: Le Mans) has written the ad with seemingly understated Lancastrian brevity, the standout details being the promise of two keys, HPI cleanliness and a promise of 12 months MOT. That may have been true when the car first went up for sale, but now it has just under five months of ticket left unless the seller submits it for another.
There are some conversation starters in the MOT story, most notably the recent finding that no fewer than four “subframe pins or sockets” are “worn but do not result in excessive movement.” Last time there was also a not excessive leak from the power steering. Despite more cynical expectations, earlier online history is far from terrifying, with a string of three clean passes before the last, and the most recent failure in 2018 was an ineffective parking brake.
All V10s were well loaded with gear and this one has leather, walnut and a period nav. There also appears to be a ceiling-mounted DVD player for rear-seat occupants. There’s both a tow bar at the rear – it would be very surprising if there wasn’t one given the V10’s proven ability to tow Boeing 747s – and a swing-out spare tire carrier, which seems to have been an original option. But that’s also pretty disgusting.
The fact that our pill managed to travel almost exactly a light second is implicit proof that love and money have been spent on it over the last 17 years. But beyond the ad’s promise of “runs and drives great,” there are no mentions of the kind of weighty service history that would reassure potential bettors. It’s also clearly been a while since he’s last seen a sponge, making it difficult to assess the condition beneath the dirt. But even if it’s pristine, its next owner’s bank balance probably won’t sit idle for long.
So over to you – is this the bravest pill yet?