VW Touareg vs. Porsche Cayenne Turbo Off-Road Review. Same Platform, Similar Tech, Different Results?

The VW has a low transfer case, the Porsche has 500 horsepower

VW Touareg Porsche Cayenne Turbo

With the trails starting to emerge from a long winter in the Colorado Rockies, Tommy and Roman decided to see how TFL’s two AWD project vehicles, the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, compared on the Ironclad off-road test in the snowy, icy, muddy slop called “mud season” around here.

Both vehicles share similar DNA, from platforms, adjustable air-suspension, and programmable off-road modes. We outfitted both with the beefiest all-terrain tires we could fit on each: BF Goodrich KO2‘s for the VW and Falken Wildpeaks for the Porsche. But after that, each SUV takes subtly different route to its respective off-road worthiness.

2004 Volkswagen Touareg

Touareg, the “Tough T”

As we’ve demonstrated in Moab and off-road adventures around the Rockies, our Tough T packs an incredible ability to scoot up and over and through almost anything—it can tread where Jeep Wrangler Rubicons dare to play. That’s partly due to a low-speed transfer case and AWD.

But the 2004 VW lacks some critical features compared to its cousin, the 2012 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, namely the engine. Our naturally aspirated Touareg’s 4.2-liter V8 puts out 310 hp and 302 ft-lbs. torque to move a hefty 5,300 curb weight. The Cayenne, being a turbo, has no problem tapping nearly all of its 4.8-liter V8’s 500 hp and 526 ft-lbs. of torque at roughly 9,000 feet above sea level where the Ironclad is situated. This despite being 1,000 pounds heavier than the VW.

Part of the secret sauce to each SUV’s off-road worthiness is their air suspension. The VW’s can raise itself to tops out at nearly 12 inches, while the Porsche tops out at nearly 11 inches. The other part: locking rear differentials and center locks to evenly allocate power.

2012 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Porsche Cayenne Turbo: Needs, Wants, Desires

OK, so the Cayenne doesn’t really want for anything. Its screaming V8 and chassis can handle nearly anything a Jeep Grand Cherokee can and then clock 170 mph on the Autobahn, if you want.

Desires: To make it a better off-roader we do wish it had a low-range transfer case. Porsche addressed this, somewhat, by making 1st gear more of a lower crawling gear. Combined with the Cayenne Turbo’s grunt it does the job on the Ironclad.

Needs: What the Porsche truly needs is underbody skid plates and protection. The same goes for our Tough T. It’s disappointing that two supremely capable off-road vehicles don’t have this protection, especially when both vehicles are so expensive to repair.

But don’t take my word for it, check on the video below and see just how goat-like these German SUVs can get.