We Just Bought The World’s Most Underappreciated And Overengineered Car! Can You Guess What It Is?

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We bet you forgot about this one.

In the early 2000s, we hadn’t quite entered the crossover frenzy we’re currently in today. We had our rugged body-on-frame SUVs, and a couple of today’s best-selling crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V were just gaining steam in the marketplace. And the Germans? With a few exceptions like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class (now the GLE), there were few SUVs or crossovers in sight. But that changed with TFL’s latest acquisition.

You probably already watched the video above by the time you’re reading this, but there’s your hint. For our latest purchase, we bought an underappreciated SUV that’s as good on the road as a BMW X5, as luxurious as a Range Rover, and as capable off-road as a Jeep Wrangler. Better still, it only cost us a fraction of what all of those cost to buy.

And here it is — a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg.

This was an SUV that came about as a joint venture among Volkswagen Group, Audi and Porsche. The goal was to create a capable off-road vehicle that still had the chops to handle sporty on-road driving. The result was the Volkswagen Group PL71 platform, which is the ancestor to Volkswagen Group’s modern SUV offerings. It also gave us the Porsche Cayenne, as well as the Audi Q7.

While Volkswagen is meant as a mainstream brand — the name does mean “people’s car”, after all — this Touareg was not cheap when it first went on sale. We actually have the Monroney sticker for this car, which pegged the price at $53,805 when it was new in 2004. That amounts to $73,000 in today’s money. For a Volkswagen? Yeah, right. In fact, the Touareg has always been a bit of an expensive proposition, which is one of the reasons Volkswagen pulled it from our shores in 2017. Now, in its place, we have the more reasonably-priced Atlas SUV.

2004 Volkswagen Touareg

What makes the Volkswagen Touareg a capable off-roader?

Nevertheless, the Volkswagen Atlas does not come nearly as capable as the Touareg out of the box. The 2004 Volkswagen Touareg mainly had two engine choices. You could either get a 3.6-liter VR6 engine or a 4.2-liter V8 with 306 horsepower, which we have here. If you really wanted to go off the beaten track, you could even get a massive 5.0-liter V10 turbodiesel engine. That put out 309 horsepower and a mountainous 553 lb-ft of torque. Since it was a diesel, it managed decent fuel economy as well, at least for an SUV. European customers could also get the 6.0-liter W12 engine found in the Phaeton sedan and the Bentley Continental GT, though that was a limited version.

What really makes this 2004 Volkswagen Touareg an off-road machine, though, is its air suspension. It has five ride height settings, allowing for up to 11.8 inches of ground clearance, which is better than a new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Of course, the “Extra” clearance setting is only available in low range and at speeds up to 15 mph, so it doesn’t tip over.

Inside, the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg does look a bit dated by modern standards. Even still, it has most of the features you’d find on a modern SUV, particularly when it comes to the suspension. Some models even have an electronic disconnecting sway bar, just like the Jeep Wrangler or Ram Power Wagon. And we managed to get all of this for $4,600.

Torture test coming soon!

As this is TFL’s latest purchase and it’s an off-roader, you can expect plenty more testing in the near future. Stay tuned to TFLcar as we take this Touareg to our newest off-road trail to see how it performs. Let us know what you think of the car in the comments below!