VW Touareg Buyer’s Guide & History (1st Generation/7L)

When it first launched, the first-generation Volkswagen Touareg competed against the likes of the Mercedes Benz ML-Class, the BMW X5 and of course the Range Rover.

Despite being up against some stiff competition the Touareg proved to be a formidable SUV that was more than just a school run machine.

Sharing a platform with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne of the time, the first-generation Touareg (often referred to as the “7L” Touareg) was the superior off-roading machine.

Today, the rather unassuming but luxurious SUV is great value for second-hand buyers, however, there is quite a bit of information you need to know before buying one.

While the Touareg is a fairly reliable car if maintained well (watch out for earlier models though), parts can be expensive if they need to be replaced and examples that have previously been maintained poorly can be a bit of a money pit. 

In this first-generation VW Touareg buyer’s guide you will learn everything you need to know about purchasing one of these mighty contraptions and how to not get ripped off while doing so.

How To Use This VW Touareg Buying Guide

This buyer’s guide not only covers common faults and issues with the Touareg, but it also includes information on the history and specifications of the first-generation car.

Use the handy table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read.

The History of the First-Gen Touareg

While the Toareg may have a Volkswagen badge, the original idea for the car actually came from Porsche and their CEO Wendelin Wiedeking. He wanted to expand Porsche’s product range with a vehicle that would not be affected by the fluctuations in the somewhat fickle sports car market.

The luxury car maker decided that the SUV segment would be a prime candidate for their new car. Porsche’s engineers went about designing a chassis that was not only highly capable off road, but also capable on-road and would handle much like a genuine sports car.

This new performance SUV would become known as the Cayenne and it would be the first four door vehicle the company had created. The design team for the Cayenne was located in Weissach, Germany (Porsche’s headquarters), and consisted of over 300 people with Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert heading up the project.

With Porsche’s close ties with the Volkswagen Group (and as a result Audi), they decided to create what would become known as the PL71 platform. This new platform was shared by the VW Touareg, the Audi Q7 and of course Porsche’s own Cayenne model.

Despite all being based on the same platform, the different brands’ vehicles all featured significantly different styling, equipment, and performance. While both the Touareg and the Cayenne featured a five-seat layout, the Audi Q7 was created with a stretched wheelbase that meant the car could accommodate up to 7 people.

The manufacturing location of the cars was also different. Volkswagen manufactured the Touareg and the Audi Q7 at their Bratislava Plant in Slovenia, while the Cayenne was built by Porsche at their purpose-built plant in Leipzig.

The First-Generation VW Touareg

Volkswagen’s first iteration of the Touareg launched globally in 2002. The design of the car somewhat mimicked the Golf, but with much larger proportions and much higher off the ground. Compared to the Cayenne and the Q7, the Touareg’s design was more understated and sensible, but with a smattering of chrome trim pieces to give it a high-end appearance.

At launch, buyers could pick from a range of different petrol and diesel engine offerings. On the petrol side, there was a range topping 4.2-litre V8 engine with 306 bhp and 410 Nm of torque (300 lb ft) and a base model 3.2-litre VR6 engine that produced anywhere from 217 to 238 bhp (depending on the model/where it was sold.

In 2004 a 3.6-litre version of the VR6 was introduced with 276 horsepower and 360 Nm (270 lb ft) of torque. This would be followed by a monstrous 6.0-litre W12 with 444 bhp and 600 Nm (443 lb ft) of torque one year later.

While it is unknown exactly how many of these W12s were produced, it is believed around 500 of them were created with 330 going to the Saudi Arabian market. Performance was said to be incredible for an SUV with an estimated 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time of 5.9 seconds.

When it came to the diesel offerings the Touareg could be kitted out with a 5.0-litre V10 turbo engine that produced as much as 309 bhp and 750 Nm (553 lb ft) of torque at 2,000 rpm. This V10 TDI engine was offered in the United States for a limited time in 2004, however, new emissions regulations meant that it was taken off the road temporarily.

The engine would return to the US in 2006, however, stricter California Air Resources Board (CARB) emissions standards resulted in the engine being cancelled once again in the country, despite being legal in most other states.

For the 2003 model year Volkswagen introduced a 2.5-litre I5 TDI engine that produced anywhere from 161 to 172 bhp and 400 Nm of torque. Another diesel engine was introduced the next year in the form of Volkswagen’s 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 222 bhp and 500 Nm (370 lb ft) of torque. A clean diesel version of this engine would eventually replace the V10 TDI that was removed from the Unites States version of the Touareg.

While on paper the V6 TDI clean diesel met California’s strict CARB emissions standards, it was later discovered that the engine would be part of the Volkswagen emissions scandal and did not meet the regulations.

The vast array of engine options were mated to a permanent four-wheel drive system with low range. Original versions of the car used a gear-type differential to share drive equally between the front and rear axles. The diff locks automatically if any wheel loses traction or it can be locked manually to improve off-road progress.

For those who wanted more off-road performance a locking rear axle differential was made available as an optional extra. A front locking differential was also an option, but was only ever fitted to a small number of Touaregs. Another option that made the car more capable off-road was Adaptive Air Suspension (plus Continuous Damping Control) which allowed the driver to raise the car’s ride height. All Touareg models featured Hill Descent Control, Traction Control and anti-skid technology.

2006 Facelift

An updated version of the Touareg was unveiled at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, with a North American debut the next year at the 2007 New York Auto Show as a 2008 model. Volkswagen gave the facelifted Touareg the grille from their other passenger cars and redesigned more than 2,300 of the car’s components.

Some of the new features in the updated Touareg included ABS Plus, Front Scan and Side Scan technology. ABS Plus worked in conjunction with the traction control system to shorten the braking distance on loose surfaces by to 25%, while Side Scan let the driver know if a car was in their blind spot.

Special Edition Models

Touareg R50 (2007 – 2010)

The R50 was the third car to be given Volkswagen’s ‘R’ treatment (following the Golf and the Passat). It was launched at the 2007 Australian International Motor Show and came with the 5.0-litre V10 diesel engine, but with more power at 345 bhp and 850 Nm (627 lb ft) of torque. This boosted the 0 -100 km/h (62 mph) time to 6.7 seconds.

Along with the bump in engine performance, the R50 also featured 21-inch Omanyt wheels, sport-tuned air suspension, special trim pieces and a four-zone climate control system.

Touareg Lux Limited (2009 – 2010)

Based on the V6 TDI Clean Diesel, the V6 FSI, and the V8 FSI models, the Lux Limited was a special edition model for the US market. It was given 20-inch alloy “Mountain” wheels that were wrapped in 275 all-season tyres.

Four body colours were available: Biscay Blue, Black Magic Pearl, Campanella White and Galapagos Grey. The body selected extended to the special aerodynamic body kit that gave the car a sporty appearance.

Other features of the R50 include dual power front seats, touch screen navigation with Bluetooth audio, a 320 watt 11-speaker sond system, adaptive high intensity discharge headlights, and a two-tone leather interior.

Touareg V6 TSI Hybrid (2009)

With hybrid technology becoming increasingly popular, Volkswagen decided to make a prototype version of the Touareg with a hybrid powertrain. The car featured a 328 bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine that was mated to a 51 bhp (38 kW) electric motor for a combined power output of 369 bhp and 550 Nm (406 lb ft) of torque. This power was sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The four-wheel drive system itself was replaced by a lighter Torsen centre differential setup from the Audi Q7 to save weight. On electric power alone, the hybrid Touareg could hit 50 km/h (31 mph) and it also featured regenerative braking technology.

The End of the First-Gen Touareg

By 2010 the first-generation Touareg was getting a bit long in the tooth and Volkswagen decided to replace it with a second-generation model passed on the PL72 platform.

VW Touareg First-Generation Specifications

ModelFirst-Gen Touareg
Year of production2002 – 2010
LayoutFront-engine, four-wheel drive
Brakes (front)308 to 330 mm or 350 mm for the V10 TDI
Brakes (rear)314 to 330 mm or 350 mm for the V10 TDI
Tyres235/70 R16

235/65 R17

 275/40 R20

295/35 R21

Weight (Kerb)2,047 (4,512 lbs)
Wheelbase2,855 mm (112.4 in)
Length4,754 mm (187.2 in)
Width 1,928 mm (75.9 in)
Height1,726 mm (68.0 in)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)5.9 – 12.5 seconds (depending on the power unit selected)
Top speed194 km/h (121 mph) to 250 km/h (155 mph) limited

Engine & Transmission Specifications


ModelYearEngine SizePower TorqueTransmission Options
3.2 VR62002–20073.2-litres (3,189 cc)217 bhp (162 kW)

238 bhp (177 kW)

 6-speed automatic
3.6 VR62004–20063.6-litres (3,597 cc)276 bhp (206 kW)360 Nm (270 lb ft)6-speed automatic
4.2 V82002–20084.2-litres (4,163 cc)306 bhp (228 kW)410 Nm (300 lb ft)6-speed automatic
6.0 W122005–20106.0-litres (5,998 cc)444 bhp (331 kW)600 Nm (443 lb ft)6-speed automatic


ModelYearEngine SizePower & Torque TorqueTransmission Options
2.5 R5 TDI2003–20102.5-litres (2,461 cc)161 bhp (120 kW)

172 bhp (128 kW)

400 Nm (295 lb ft)6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
3.0 V6 TDI2007–20103.0-litres (2,967 cc)237 bhp (177 kW)Manual – 500 Nm (369 lb ft)

Auto -550 Nm (406 lb ft)

6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
3.0 V6 TDI BlueMotion2009 – 2010 (continued to the next generation)3.0-litres (2,967 cc)222 bhp (165 kW)550 Nm (406 lb ft)6-speed automatic
5.0 V10 TDI2002–20105.0-litres (4,921 cc)309 bhp (230 kW)750 Nm (553 lb ft)6-speed automatic
R50 5.0 V10 TDI2007–20105.0-litres (4,921 cc)345 bhp (257 kW)850 Nm (627 lb ft)6-speed automatic

First-Gen VW Touareg Buying Guide

Now that we have covered the history and specifications of the Touareg, let’s take a look at what you need to know about buying one.

Touaregs were not cheap cars when they were new so they can be very expensive to repair if something goes wrong. Additionally, it can be hard to find a specialist that is competent with them, so in most circumstances you will be in the hands of a Volkswagen dealer and their rather pricey labour rates.

It is incredibly important that you inspect any Touareg you are interested in as thoroughly as possible. For the reasons stated above many of them have not been maintained properly and this problem is only further exasperated by the fact that they can be purchased for quite a low price.

Despite this, the first-generation Touareg is an excellent car but you need to remember that they can be expensive to maintain if you do decide to purchase one. You should buy the best car you can find and afford and then get a warranty.

Setting Up an Inspection of a First Gen Touareg

While setting up an inspection of a first-generation Touareg may seem like a fairly straight forward process, there are a number of things you need to consider.

It is a good idea to try and arrange an inspection at the seller’s house or location (dealership for example) for a time in the morning. This not only gives you the chance to inspect the area that they live/work in, but it also means that the car is less likely to be warmed up when you inspect it.

A Touareg’s engine that is pre-warmed can hide a number of problems, so keep this in mind. If the engine is warm when you go to inspect the car it doesn’t necessarily mean that the seller/owner is trying to hide something from you (they may have gone to the shops or made some other sort of trip).

It is also a good idea to avoid inspecting a Touareg in the rain as water on the bodywork can cover up several issues from accident damage to rust. This also applies if the owner/seller has just washed the car before your arrival (another good reason to arrange a viewing for early in the morning).

The last tip here is to find a reliable friend or third party to go to the inspection with you. They may be able to find something that you missed, and it is always a good idea to get a second opinion on a vehicle.

How Much Should You Pay for a First Gen Touareg?

This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on a number of different factors from what sort of condition the car is in, to its specifications and where it is being sold. For example, a low mileage first-generation Touareg with a V8 engine is going to be worth more than a 3.2-litre V6 model that is in poor condition.

To work out how much you should spend on a Touareg we suggest that you jump on your local dealer and auction/classifieds websites to see what they go for. You can then use these prices to work out how much money you should spend on a specific model/condition level.

Original (T1) vs Facelift (T2) Models

Without a doubt the facelift (T2) model is the most sought after when it comes to the first generation Touareg. Very early models from 2002 to about 2004 are the least desirable as they had a number of problems with them.

Facelift models tend to be a bit more expensive than earlier ones, but they are also better built and come with more features. Additionally, if you do decide to sell your Touareg in the future, facelifted models will hold their value better.

VW Touareg Inspection Guide

In the following section you will find everything you need to know about inspecting a first-generation VW Touareg.

Checking the VIN

The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a series of numbers and characters that car manufacturers such as VW assign to an individual vehicle. A Touareg’s VIN can tell you quite a lot of information about the car such as its model year, engine size and much more. It is also possible to use the VIN to check if the car has been in a major accident or has been written off (this isn’t always the case, but it’s worth a try).

There are loads of different VIN checkup/decoder websites and services available, but remember that they tend to be country specific. Volkswagen also has a database that holds information on things such as a car’s service history, so we suggest that you check that. However, as the first-generation Touareg is now quite old many of them have been serviced at non-official service centres or mechanics, so the information in Volkswagen’s database may not be up-to-date.

The VIN can be found in a number of different locations on a first gen Touareg including the following:

  • Inside the engine bay
  • Lower edge of the windscreen (when looking from outside)
  • On a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door shut

Engine & Exhaust

The engine is going to be one of your primary areas of concern when inspecting a Touareg, so take your time here. Volkswagen fitted the first-generation Touareg with a vast array of different engine options and some of them are more reliable than others.

The 5.0-litre V10 TDI engine is insanely expensive to repair and replace, so if you are on a budget avoid this power unit at all costs.

When you open the bonnet of the Touareg you are inspecting check for the following:

  • Cleanliness – is it dirty or does it look clean and well maintained?
  • Broken or damaged components – this is a big problem especially if the owner has not mentioned anything about it before.
  • Modifications – while not always a problem, modifications can lead to their own set of problems.

If the engine bay looks completely spotless it is either a sign of a really fastidious owner or it is a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up (like an oil leak for example). If the engine bay and underside of the car is wet when you inspect it then it may be a sign that the owner/seller has washed the car to hide a leak.

You should also check to see if the engine is cold. If it is not and the owner has not driven to the inspection point, it may be an indication that they have heated up the car to hide an issue.

Checking the Fluid Levels

With the above out of the way, move onto checking the fluid levels as if they are the incorrect height (both too low and too high) it suggests that the Touareg you are inspecting has been poorly maintained.

It is a good idea to check the fluid levels both before and after a test drive to make sure they are roughly the same height (however, expect to see a small change).

Service Intervals for Engine Oil & Oil Filter on a First Gen Touareg

As with any internal combustion engined car it is important to make sure that the oil and oil filter are changed regularly on a VW Touareg. Don’t forget to check with the owner/seller to see when the oil and oil filter were last replaced and if they have been changed regularly. Back this information up by having a look at the service history.

If the engine oil and oil filter have not been changed regularly it is a big problem. Old oil can become contaminated and diluted overtime, leading to poor engine performance and possibly even engine damage.

Engine Oil

Volkswagen’s recommended service interval for the engine oil is every 16,000 km (10,000) miles or every 12 months. Many owners like to change the oil more frequently with some even changing it at half that distance.

If the owner has changed the oil more frequently than Volkswagen’s recommended service interval it shows that they are probably a good owner. Avoid any Touareg that is well passed the 16,000 km mark and has not had its oil changed.

What Is the Correct Engine Oil?

This depends on a number of factors, but the most important thing to check when selecting an oil for a Touareg is the spec. It must be a “Volkswagen Approved” 502.00, 503.00, 504.00 or 505.00 spec engine oil (basically 502.00 and above). Most top of the range oils from the likes of Castrol, Mobil and Amsoil will be perfect for the Touareg, but just double check the spec rating to be sure.

When it comes to the engine oil weight and type it is recommended that you use a synthetic SAE oil with a weight of 5W-40, 5W30 or 0W-40. A good choice for Touareg owners is Castrol Edge’s 5W-30 Advanced Fully Synthetic Motor Oil.

Oil Filter

It is recommended that you replace the oil filter with every oil change and use an OEM filter from Volkswagen. If you do want to use an aftermarket oil filter you should purchase one from Mann or Mahle as they supply filters to VW. Mann or Mahle oil filters will also have the benefit of being much cheaper than ones purchased from an official Volkswagen dealership or service centre.

Don’t Forget to Check the Condition of the Oil

When you check the oil level, make sure you have a good look at the dipstick. If you notice any metallic particles or grit on it then you should move onto another Touareg. Alternatively, if you notice that the dipstick is frothy then it may be a sign that the vehicle has overheated or is suffering from a blown head gasket.

Oil Leaks from a First Gen Touareg

Oil leaks aren’t that common on these cars, so if you notice any on the Touareg you are inspecting proceed with caution. The main area to watch out for is the oil drain plug. If the crushable gasket/seal is not replaced at each oil change it will almost certainly lead to a leak. This is not a major problem, but you would have to question why the owner has not got it fixed before an inspection.

Another area of concern is the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve. A bad one may cause oil leaks (around the valve cover gasket) or oil burning problems, so keep this in mind. Additionally, a PCV valve that is not functioning as intended may also lead to poor acceleration or strange idle.

Sourcing a PCV valve is fairly inexpensive, but the labour to fit it can be pretty pricey, especially if you go to a Volkswagen dealership. The valve can be installed yourself, but some technical knowledge is needed.

The valve cover gasket itself can leak as well. Heat from the engine can harden the rubber overtime and oil will seep out from the valve cover, which may lead to a burning smell if it drips onto the header. Here is a good video of the process.

Another common leak is due to the sealing ring on the engine speed sensor. The sensor is in between the vacuum/fuel pump and water pump behind the engine. You will not be able to see the leak directly unless you remove the engine from the car, so get under the vehicle and have a look.

If you Touareg you are inspecting does have this problem you should find a small flow of oil down to the top of the transmission, down the transmission pipes and then down to the oil pan of the transmission.

The o-ring is inexpensive to buy, but replacing it is a bit of a task as you need the proper tools to remove the sensor from the back of the engine. Additionally, it is quite a tight fit at the back of the engine, so you need a long pair of arms and small hands.

Does the First Gen Touareg Use a Timing Chain or Belt?

The answer to this question really comes down to what engine is inside the Touareg you are inspecting. Here quick rundown of what each engine in the first-generation Touareg has.

R5 – This engine is all gear driven. There is no chain or belt, it is a physical gear connection. No parts need to be replaced, but keeping the engine oil topped up and replacing it regularly is vital as the gears are lubricated by it.

VR6 – Both 3.2-litre and 3.6-litre engines from all model years use a timing chain. There is no specified interval for replacing the timing chain or any preventative maintenance.

V8 Up to 2006 – These earlier V8 engines were driven by a timing belt. The recommended service interval for the timing belt replacement is every 128,000 km (80,000 miles) or every 5 years, so make sure this has been done. When replacing the timing belt it is also a good idea to change out the water pump and the serpentine belt. Remember to check the service history to make sure the belt has been replaced at the recommended interval.

V8 FSI 2007 Onwards – Volkswagen changed the V8 engine to a timing chain for the 2007 model year and onwards. There is no specified interval for replacing the timing chain or any preventative maintenance.

V6 TDI – All V6 TDI engines are driven by a timing chain and as such there is no specified replacement interval or preventative maintenance.

V10 TDI – Like the R5, the V10 TDU is all gear driven. There is no belt or chain and there is nothing that needs to be replaced. However, remember that the engine oil lubricates the gears so keep it topped up and replace it regularly.

While engines with a timing chain do not have a service schedule, the timing chain tensioner/guides may have to be replaced or re-primed at some point (keep an ear out for a rattling sound).

Additionally, the timing chain can stretch overtime, especially if regular oil changes have not been carried out (the timing chain is lubricated by the engine oil). A stretched timing chain can produce a range of symptoms from a Check Engine Light (CEL) to a barely perceptible skip in idle or even a sound like marbles in a can (this indicates that the problem is quite serious).

If the Touareg you are looking at has problems with the timing chain, belt or timing chain tensioner/guides you should proceed with caution. If you do want to purchase the car make sure you get a heavy discount and get the work done immediately.

Inspecting the Spark Plugs on a First Gen Touareg (Petrol models)

If possible, try to get a look at the spark plugs on the Touareg you are inspecting (if it is a petrol/gas engined car of course). The appearance of the spark plugs can tell you quite a bit of information about a Touareg’s engine and how it is running. We recommended that you check out this guide for more information on spark plug analysis.

When Should the Spark Plugs Be Replaced?
  • V6 – 65,000 km (40,000 miles)
  • V8 – 96,000 km (60,000 miles)

Bad Coil Packs

Poor coil packs are one of the more problematic ignition issues that can occur with the first-generation Touareg (especially early petrol models). A coil pack in really bad condition can make a Touareg almost undrivable. On the other end of the spectrum, they may have almost no effect at all on the engine’s ability to run.

The symptoms of bad coil packs are almost exactly the same as those of bad spark plugs. For this reason, it is a better idea to take a look at and replace the spark plugs first (they are also cheaper to replace). Here are some of the signs of bad coil packs:

  • CEL
  • Poor or strange acceleration
  • Reduced fuel economy
  • Misfiring
  • Rough Idle

Checking the Cooling System

Problems with the cooling system on anyone of the engines fitted to the first-generation Touareg spells major trouble. Here are the main components that make up the cooling system in a first gen Touareg:

  • Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
  • Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
  • Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine (should be replaced with the timing belt). Water pump failure is quite common on 2.5 TDI models.
  • Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
  • Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system

If any one of these cooling components fails it can lead to overheating and possibly even total engine failure.

We recommend that you check the cooling system both before and after a test drive. This way you can see if there are any major changes or problems that become more apparent when the engine heats up. Additionally, if the coolant height changes a lot then there is a problem, however, a small change is perfectly normal.

What Are the Signs of an Overheating Touareg?

It is important to watch out for any of the following signs that indicate the Touareg you are looking at is overheating.

  • Engine oil that smells of coolant
  • Sweet exhaust smell
  • Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • Oil that is white and milky
  • Fouled spark plugs
  • Low cooling system integrity

If the temperature gauge is showing a surprisingly low number once the car has been driven for a while it may be a sign that the thermostat has gone bad. Alternatively, if the temperature gauge is on the high end of the spectrum it indicates that the engine is overheating.

Checking the Exhaust

There are no specific problems when it comes to the exhaust on a first-generation Touareg, but you should still try to inspect as much of the system as possible (and the rest of the underside of the car). During you inspection of the exhaust system, keep an eye out for the following:

  • Black sooty stains – This is a sign of a leak which may be expensive to repair.
  • Corrosion – While this really shouldn’t be a problem on a first-generation Touareg, it is always a good idea to keep an eye out for it. If the car you are looking at does have bad rust problems on the exhaust you should move onto another Touareg as there is probably lots of rust elsewhere. Note: it is quite common for first gen Touaregs to rust in other places (we will cover that later in the article).
  • Cracks or accident damage – This is often a sign of a careless owner. If the owner/seller takes their Touareg off-roading a lot there is a higher chance of the exhaust being damaged in some.
  • Bad repairs – There is nothing wrong with a repaired exhaust, but if the work was done on the cheap it is an issue.

Start Up of a First Gen Touareg

We recommend that you get the owner/seller to start their Touareg for you for the first time. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • So, you can see what comes out the back (smoke, vapour, etc.)
  • To see if the owner revs the car hard when it is still cold (if they do that pass on the vehicle)

If the Touareg you are inspecting struggles to start or fails to do so at all it may have a number of issues from major to minor (a bad battery for example).

Later in the inspection you should also turn off and turn back on the car yourself. This way you can see what warning lights come up on the dash.

What Should the Idle Speed be on a First Gen Touareg?

While the first-generation Touareg was fitted with a wide range of engines, they should all idle around the 750 – 850 rpm mark. You will find that the idle speed is higher on initial start-up but it should drop back after around 30 seconds.

Additionally, if you turn on all of the electronics (air con, heated seats, etc.) expect the idle speed to increase. If the car stalls or sounds like it is struggling when the electronics are turned on there is a problem.

Watch Out for Smoke

Large amounts of smoke or vapour from the exhaust (or anywhere else for that matter) is a very serious issue and we suggest that you avoid any Touareg with the problem. However, it is perfectly normal for a small amount of vapour to come out of the exhaust on engine start-up, especially if it is a cold day. The vapour is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust, so if it does not disappear after a short while there may be a problem.

Below we have put together a quick guide on what the different colours of smoke mean:

White smoke – This is usually caused by water in the cylinders and could indicate a blown head gasket. If the smoke smells sweet, it is probably coolant.

Blue/Grey smoke – Can be caused by wear to the pistons, piston rings, and/or worn valve seals. To check for blue smoke, ask a friend to follow you while drive the vehicle and take it through the rev range. Alternatively, get the owner to drive the car for a bit and watch out the back. Blue smoke on start-up and overrun is a sign that the car has been thrashed. This colour of smoke can also be a sign of an issue with the turbocharger.

Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things you should check is the air-filter and other intake components.

While Test Driving a Touareg

When you test drive a Touareg it is important to let the car warm up before giving it some revs. Once the car is up to temperature make sure you test the engine under both light and hard acceleration conditions. Bucking, hesitation or excessive amounts of lag suggest that there is an issue with the power unit (or possibly even the transmission).

Signs of a Failing Turbocharger on a First Gen Touareg

All TDI engines in the Touareg range feature a turbocharger (it is in the name), so it is important to keep an eye out for signs of a poorly functioning turbo. Getting the turbocharger replaced can be very expensive, so keep this in mind when you are looking at a TDI engined model. Here are some signs of a failing turbo:

  • Distinctive blue/grey smoke – This usually indicates that the seals are worn, however, it can also be a sign of a cracked turbo housing (fairly unlikely). If the seals have failed a blue/grey coloured smoke will exit the exhaust.
  • Burning lots of oil – This is a hard one to judge during a short inspection, so you will have to ask the owner about their Touareg’s oil consumption habits.
  • Slow acceleration – While a big SUV like the Touareg won’t set the performance world alight (although the larger engined ones are pretty speedy), acceleration that feels very slow can be an indication of turbocharger problems. We recommend that you drive a few different Touaregs with the same engine to get an idea of their performance level. If one feels particularly slower than the other ones it may have an issue.
  • If the boost pressure comes on late – Boost pressure that comes at higher than normal rpms could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger.
  • Check Engine Warning Light – The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo is failing/has failed.
Turbo Actuator Fault

A failing turbo actuator is the main thing to watch out for when it comes to turbo issues on TDI engined Touaregs. The fault causes the engine to lose power or sometimes even judder under acceleration.

Turning off the ignition and letting the engine cool down before restarting can temporarily fix the problem, but the issue can become more permanent with time.

Replacing the turbo actuator can be a bit of a nightmare as they are not available to purchase separately from the Volkswagen. This means that you may have to replace the whole turbo setup just to solve the issue, very expensive!

A cheaper option is to send the actuator to a specialist who should be able to rebuild it, but this is not a guarantee.

Engine Swaps & Rebuilds

Volkswagen offered the first-generation Touareg with a surprisingly good range of power units, so you are unlikely to find a car with a non-stock engine swapped into it. It is far more likely to find one with a swapped engine that is either the same as the one that first came with the car or one of the other stock Touareg engines.

If the engine has been replaced at any point you should thoroughly inspect the service history for any receipts or paperwork relating to the work. Replacing a Touareg’s engine is a very time consuming and expensive process, and it should be done by a specialist. Try to find out who did the work and see if they seem competent (find reviews, etc.).

We also recommend that you ask the owner why the engine was replaced. Was it because the timing belt snapped (on Touaregs with one)? Or was it some sort of other issue?

If the timing belt snapped than it suggests that the car may have been poorly maintained before the swap (other components could be in bad condition as well).

Rebuilt Engines

When it comes to Touaregs with rebuilt engines, we suggest that you look for a car that has travelled a few more miles than one with a fresh rebuild. For example, an engine with 10,000 km on it is more of a known than one with only 100 km on it.

Should I Get a Compression Test Done

While a compression test is never necessary when purchasing a used car, they can be a very useful tool in your arsenal when conducting an inspection. However, doing a compression test will only indicate that there is a problem and won’t necessarily tell you what that problem is.


The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg was offered with either an automatic or a manual transmission, depending on the engine option selected.

Automatic Touaregs

Most first-generation Touaregs were sold with automatic gearboxes. This was largely down to the fact that more customers wanted automatic transmissions and that the 6-speed manual gearbox only came with a couple of engine options.

When it comes to problems with a first gen Toureg’s auto gearbox, the main thing to watch out for is smoothness. If the transmission feels rough or doesn’t kick down smoothly there is a problem. However, V10 and V8 versions of the Touareg are quite slow to change gear, so keep that in mind. Any banging, knocking or jumping during gear changes is a major problem that should be an instant dismissal.

A thumping sound coming from a Touareg when changing down from fifth to fourth could indicate that the valve chest is failing. This problem usually starts to occur around the 100,000 km (60,000 mile) mark and is expensive to repair. If you are looking at a higher mileage Touareg, check to see if this work has been done and expect to do it in the future if it hasn’t.

While Volkswagen originally said that the transmission fluid was a “lifetime fill”, it is now recommended that you get it changed every 130,000 – 160,000 km (80,000 to 100,000 miles). Some owners like to follow the second-gen Touareg service schedule and change the automatic transmission fluid every 100,000 km (60,000 miles).  

It is also recommended that you get a Volkswagen dealer or specialist to replace the automatic transmission fluid for you, however, it can be done at home as well with the right tools and experience (see this thread).

Below we have listed some of the parts you will need to/should replace if you do decide to change the automatic transmission oil yourself (along with the diff & transfer case fluid).

Part NamePart Number
Transmission Filter09D-325-435
Transmission Filter Gasket09D-325-443
Transmission Filter BoltsWHT-000-322
Transmission Pan Gasket09D-321-371
Transmission Pan BoltsWHT-000-326-A
Transmission Fill PlugWHT-000-206-A
Transmission Fill Plug Washer09D-321-181-B
Transmission Drain PlugWHT-000-323-A
Transmission Dain Plug Washer09D-321-379
VW ATF (Other brands such as Toyota ATF Type IV will work as well)G-055-025-A2
Differential Fill & Drain Plug0AA-409-057
Mobil 1 75w90 Differential Fluid (Other fluids will work)104361
Transfer Case Fill & Drain Plug0AD-301-115-A
Transfer Case FluidG-055-515-A2


Remember to ask the owner if this work has been carried out. If it hasn’t and you see no mention of it in the service history you will probably have to get it done in the near future (use this as a bargaining point).

Manual Touaregs

The 6-speed manual transmission fitted to a limited number of these cars is fairly robust and reliable. Once again Volkswagen originally claimed that the manual transmission is sealed for life, but it is now generally recommended that you change the fluid every 65,000 km (40,000 miles) or every 4 years.

During a test drive the main things to watch out for is smoothness through the gears. Graunching/grinding or sloppy/loose shifting indicates a problem. Synchro wear is a possibility, but it is pretty rare on these cars.


When it comes to the manual transmission your biggest area of concern is probably the clutch. Clutches usually last anywhere from 48,000 – 65,000 km (30,000 – 40,000 miles) but can go much longer if they are treated well. If the clutch feels excessively heavy it is probably on its way out.

Below we have listed some methods that will help you determine the condition of the clutch in the first-gen Touareg your are inspecting.

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the Touareg you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The way to check for this is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. Once you have done this, plant your foot on the throttle and watch the revs. If the engine speed goes up but the car doesn’t accelerate the clutch is slipping. Here are some things that can cause slippage

  • Worn clutch
  • Clutch covered in oil
  • Clutch cable is too tight and is not releasing properly

Clutch Drag – Get the Touareg on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the Touareg hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Prop Shaft Mounting

If you feel a vibration from underneath the centre console storage bin area it is most likely a problem with the prop shaft. This issue is quite common and while Volkswagen can fix the problem for you, they will only replace the full shaft (at a hefty expense to you of course). Rather than getting VW to do it, you can get a third-party mechanic or specialist to just replace the bearings for a much lower cost.

This issue with the prop shaft is now considered to be routine maintenance and the work should be carried out every 100,000 km (60,000 miles) or every 5 years.

Steering & Suspension

There are quite a few things to watch out for when it comes to the steering and suspension systems on a first-generation Touareg. Some of these problems are very expensive to fix, so make sure you take your time here. During an inspection/test drive of a first gen Touareg keep an eye and an ear out for the following:

  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive tyre bounce after hitting a bump
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension.
  • Knocking or creaking sounds during a test drive (don’t forget to drive in a tight figure 8) – often a problem with the steering rack or bushes
  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
  • Tipping during turns
  • High speed instability
  • Excessive vibration coming through the steering wheel (could indicate alignment issues or failed ball joints)
  • Juddering on full lock (stepper motor issue)

While you are at the front of the car, push down on the suspension. The front suspension should be hard, and you should have to use a bit of force to push it down. If it moves easily or bounces to much on return, then the suspension is probably a bit worn.

Stepper Motor Issues & Recall 90D7

If you are looking at an earlier first-generation Touareg (start of production to around 2007) check to make sure it has a recall 90D7 sticker in the boot next to the tyre storage area. This recall fixed an issue with juddering on full lock (both left and right) that was caused by problems with the stepper motors.

If the sticker is not there, check with the owner and inspect the service history to see if the work was done. Recall 90D7 also included some other fixes, but this work depended on the chassis number. We would personally avoid any earlier Touareg that has not had this work carried out. You can see information about VW’s recalls here.

Steering Rack & Bushes

Make sure you keep an ear out for any creaking noises during a test drive. Any such noises may indicate that there is a problem with the wishbone or steering rack. In some cases, a full steering rack replacement may be necessary, Not Cheap!

Air Suspension Problems

Air suspension failure is quite common on cars with it fitted, especially on early models, so check that the car’s stance is even. You should also check that the suspension provides the necessary variations in ride height and stays in the selected position. Failure of the air suspension is usually caused by corrosion on the air hoses. The main area to check for corrosion is around the brass pneumatic fittings.

If you do decide to purchase a Touareg with air suspension it is important to remember that it is much more expensive to fix.

Groaning or Grumbling from the Power Steering Pump

A groaning or grumbling sound when the steering is on full lock suggests that the power steering pump is about to fail. If this is the case avoid the car at all costs as replacing the pump is very expensive.

Checking the Wheel Alignment

Find yourself a nice straight and flat section of road to check the wheel alignment. If the first gen Touareg you are test driving doesn’t drive straight without wheel corrections the alignment is probably out. Alternatively, it may be a sign of another problem such as accident damage.

Wheel alignment problems are incredibly common on these cars, so even if it seems good we suggest that you get the wheel alignment checked.


At well over 2,000 kg in weight, the first-generation Touareg absolutely chews through pads and discs. The brake service light will come on about 3,200 km (2,000 miles) before the car has to be booked in, so you have plenty of time to get the brakes serviced (just don’t go over the 3,200 km distance).

Some dealers will claim that you need to get the brakes serviced before this light comes on but it is not necessary.

A dash warning light for the ABS could indicate a number of problems from a failed ABS/EBS module, corrosion on the ABS sensor in one of the wheels or a failed ABS pump. ABS failure isn’t that common on first-generation Touaregs but it is important to check that there isn’t a problem.

Remember to do a good inspection of the brakes and look for the following:

  • Condition of the pads
  • Pitted, scored or grooved discs (this is quite common on first-generation Touaregs)
  • Corrosion
  • Modifications
  • Any leaks in the brake lines (get a helper to press on the brake pedal while you inspect the lines)
  • Fluid level in the brake fluid reservoir
  • Brake fluid changes every 12 – 24 months (check the service history and with the owner for this)

During a Test Drive of a Touareg

Despite being a very heavy car, the brakes on a first gen Touareg should be more than adequate for road use. If they feel spongy or noticeably weak there is a problem. The brakes should be tested under both light and hard braking conditions. Additionally, if it is safe to do so try to do an ‘emergency stop’ to really test the braking system.

Erratic braking such as pulling to one side is usually caused by a sticking/seized caliper. This usually happens if the car has been left unused for a long period of time. Another sign of this problem is a loud thud when you pull away for the first time.

Watch out for shaking or juddering through the steering wheel when the brakes are applied as this suggests that the discs are warped. This problem usually becomes first apparent under high speed braking.

Other than the above, keep an ear out for any loud bangs, knocks, grinding or other strange sounds when the brakes are applied. A squealing sound could indicate that the pads are near the end of their life.

Electrically Operated Handbrake/Parking Brake Issues

The parking brake pedal should engage in around 5 to 8 clicks. Any more than this and it suggests that the parking brake shoes need to be adjusted or replaced. The parking brae shoes are inside a drum that is incorporated into the rear discs.

As the parking brake is only applied when the car is stationary it can lead to corrosion which will reduce braking performance and could ultimately lead to a WOF/MOT failure. To get around this problem it is recommended that about once a month the car should be driven very slowly with the parking brake partially on for a couple of hundred meters.

Another common issue with the parking brake is if the warning light stays on. This problem can be fixed in a few different ways:

  1. By pulling up the pedal a fraction so that the light turns off
  2. Check that the brake shoes are adjusted correctly and only need 5 to 8 clicks to set the brake
  3. Replace the old hydraulic piston that pushes the pedal back up with a new one
  4. Hold the parking brake for a couple of seconds before you release it

If the parking/handbrake doesn’t hold the vehicle in place on an incline move onto another first gen Touareg. Repairs can be very, very expensive so the Touareg you are looking at is probably not worth your time or money.

Wheels & Tyres

Watch out for Touaregs fitted with aftermarket wheels as they may not have sufficient load bearing capacity for off-roading and other demanding driving. If the Touareg you are looking at does have aftermarket wheels, check with the owner to see if they have the originals. The original wheels will only add value to the car if you decide to sell it in the future (you can also use this point to get a discount on the car).

While you are inspecting the rims take a good look at the tyres and check for the following:

  • Amount of tread
  • Uneven wear (Can be a sign of alignment or suspension issues)
  • Brand (they should be from a good or well-reviewed brand)
  • Same tyre in terms of tyre make, type, size and tread patter on each axle (preferably on all four wheels)

The difference in tread depth between the tyres on the same axle should be no more than 2 mm and no more than 3 mm between the front and rear axles. If the tread difference is greater than these two numbers it can lead to transmissions problems.

Bodywork/Exterior of a First Gen Touareg

Bodywork problems can be a real nightmare, so make sure you go over the exterior of any Touareg you are interested in thoroughly. Below you will find some things you need to watch out for when it comes to the bodywork.


Corrosion isn’t usually a major problem on these cars as the body panels are mainly manufactured from galvanised steel, while the bonnet is aluminium and the front wings are made from durable plastic. However, here are some things that can make rust more likely on a first-generation Touareg.

  • If the car has spent time in countries or areas that salt their roads
  • If the car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
  • If the car has lived by the sea for significant periods of time
  • If the car has always been kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)

If you do happen to come across rust during your inspection try to get a gauge on how bad the issue is. While corroded body panels & parts can be fixed, the problem is usually much more serious than it first appears on the surface. If the Touareg you are inspecting has major rust problems move onto another car.

Common Rust Areas on a First Gen Touareg

The main areas to check for rust are as follows (however, it can also occur in other places as well, just less common):

  • Around the rear doors – open the rear doors and look for bubbling under the paint on the curved inside edge that sits on the door rubber.
  • Wheel arches – not usually a major area for rust to occur on these cars but always worth a look.
  • Footboard – this doesn’t appear to be that common but there are a few reports of rust around the footboards.
Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair. Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Accident Damage on a First-Generation Touareg

This can be quite a big issue on these cars, especially on ones that have been regularly used for off-roading (the bottom side can get damaged). Accident damage is often a very serious issue and many owners will lie about the severity of the damage/incident or flat out claim the car was never in a crash. When it comes to accident damage you should assume the worst and hope for the best.

Below we have listed some signs that the Touareg you are inspecting may have been in an accident:

  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the vehicle and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage. First-generation Touaregs are often used for off-roading, so it is not uncommon to find damage on the underside of one.
  • Rust in strange locations – Could be a sign that the Touareg you are looking at has been in an crash or has some other sort of issue.
  • Paint runs or overspray – Sometimes a factory issue but can also be a sign of a respray due to crash damage.
  • Missing badges or trim – Can be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors, boot/tailgate and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage. If the panels are uneven it could suggest an accident has occurred.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Touareg you are inspecting may have been in a crash.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the Touareg you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).

While accident damage is a major issue, it should not be an instant dismissal of a Touareg (unless the one you are looking at clearly has very series problems). Minor accident damage that is repaired by a skilled panel beater/mechanic is perfectly fine. However, if the accident damage is serious and/or the repairs are poor you should move onto another Touareg.

If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.

Roof Rails

Facelifted (T2) Touaregs had the option of longitudinal roof rails which were a factory fit only. Some Touaregs out there are fitted with non-factory ones that are made to fit into the roof tracks designed for the cross bars.

Most aftermarket roof rails are non-load bearing and are really only for cosmetic purposes. If the roof rails seem slightly too short and you can see the black plastic of the roof channels at each end then they are non-factory ones.

Windscreen Wipers

The windscreen wipers can leave an uncleared streak in the middle of the windscreen in front of the driver. This problem should have been fixed under warranty, but a simple wiper arm replacement should fix it if the warranty hasn’t been actioned on.

Broken Headlight Mounts (Pre-facelift models)

Pre-facelift (T1) Touaregs have a mechanism that clips the whole headlight in place. To release the headlight, it needs to be twisted quite strongly with a special tool. However, too much force can snap or shear the mounting which will mean that a whole new headlight tray is needed (bumper needs to come off). Check that this mounting is intact and that the lights are aligned correctly. Facelifted (T2) models do not have this mounting.


Overall, the interior of the first-generation Touareg is fairly robust but there are a few things to watch out for. Remember to check the seats and other trim pieces for any scuffs, rips or stains as getting them repaired or replaced can be expensive.

If the seats move under braking or acceleration it is a major problem and will be a WOF/MOT failure.

Excessive wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage may indicate that the car’s odometer has been wound back. Alternately, the car may simple have had a hard life. Either way, this is a bad sign.

Electronics, Lights & Air Conditioning

Electronic issues are fairly common on these cars and while most of them are fairly harmless, some can be a real nightmare to fix. During an inspection make sure that all the switches, knobs and buttons work as intended. Make sure that you check that the warning lights come on when the engine is started. If they don’t it may suggest that the owner/seller has disconnected them to cover up an issue.

Watch out for the passenger airbag warning light as there can be a problem where it comes on when nobody is in the seat. Some owners disconnect the sensor/light to fix this problem, but by doing so it will lead to an airbag error and the airbag itself may not work correctly.

Checking the Lights

While you are inspecting the car make sure that the lights and indicators work as intended. This is where it is handy to have a helper as they can check the lights while you turn them on and off. Check that the lights are clear and they give off enough light.

Xenon lights

If the owner/seller advertises the car with Xenon lights check that they are the genuine factory ones and not aftermarket ones. Xenons are required by law in most places to have auto levelling and headlight washers as standard. Aftermarket Xenon lights will not have auto levelling, making them illegal in most countries.

If the Touareg you are looking at has genuine factory Xenon lights check that the auto levelling and washers work as it will be a WOF/MOT failure if they don’t.

To check that the levelling system works, switch on the lights and make sure that they raise and lower themselves. If they do not raise and lower themselves the auto levelling is broken. The washers should come on when the lights are on and the washer stalk is held for more than 4 seconds.

Air Conditioning

If the air conditioning/climate control doesn’t work don’t let the owner convince you it just needs a re-gas. It is quite common to find that one side of the dual zone climate control (if fitted) is not operating as intended. To check for this, set the system so that cold air comes out one side and hot air comes out the other.

If the air conditioning is not working at all it may be a compressor issue which will be expensive to fix. A clicking sound from the HVAC system is an expensive repair as the dashboard needs to be removed and the heater flap servo moto needs to be replaced.

Water Leaks

Water can cause issues in a load of different areas on a first-gen Touareg, so we have given this issue its own section. The main areas to watch out for are as follows:

Pipe to the rear washer – Water in the pipe can freeze during colder months, which can cause the pipe itself to burst. This problem usually occurs in the rear roof lining on the driver’s side between the rear door and the boot/tailgate. To check for the issue open the boot and look to the right for water stains. This is a common issue that requires the lining to be removed to fix it. It is usually recommended that you get a dealer to fix this issue.

Sunroof drains – There is an issue where the sunroof drains become blocked. Water stains down the pillars between the front and rear seats is a sign of this problem. Volkswagen did conduct a recall for some vehicles that included fixing this problem, but some cars slipped through the net. If the issue wasn’t fixed during the recall Volkswagen suggests blowing air through the drains to unclog them (use an air compressor).

Blocked bulkhead drains – The bulkhead dreams can become blocked with leaves overtime. To check for this problem, put a hose at the bottom of the windscreen and see if water runs out of the front wheel arches where the drains emerge. If the water does not drain, remove the wheel arch linings and pull the rubber drain bungs out and clean the drains on each side.

If this blockage is not cleared water can come in through the pollen filter onto the passenger bulkhead and run under the carpet, damaging the electronics and ECU. As this is the case it is incredibly important that you lift the carpets and check for any moisture during an inspection.

Blocked Air Conditioning Condensate Pipe – check around the driver’s side carpet for this issue. Below you can see a video of the draining process.

Sloshing sound during acceleration or braking – this is quite a common issue but is an easy fix. There are three grommets in each of the sills that run underneath the doors on each side of the car. Remove one of these grommets on each side to let the water drain out.

General Car Buying Advice the First-Generation Touareg

How to Get the Best Deal on a VW Touareg

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research, research, research – Prior to starting your search for a first gen Touareg , figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. There are loads of Touaregs out there, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Test drive multiple cars – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad first gen Touareg.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a Touareg for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple first-generation Touaregs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine in a Touareg to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Mileage will never decrease with age, so go out and drive your car!   

Service History and Other Documentation

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent VW specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work).

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Touareg you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any first-generation Touareg and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • Has the car been used for off-roading at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a VW Touareg First Gen

Here are some things that would make as walk away from a Touareg. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems
  • Significant Crash Damage
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant off-road use
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their first-generation Volkswagen Touareg (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the first gen Touareg and the model they are selling?
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another first-generation Touareg.



  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

6 thoughts on “VW Touareg Buyer’s Guide & History (1st Generation/7L)”

  1. Very comprehensive report, and accurate. (I own a 06 V8) maybe could include the very common issue with the intake flaps, easy to fix.

    • Hi Hone,

      Thanks for the positive feedback. We will look at that issue and update the buyer’s guide accordingly!

      I actually have an 07 V6 (which has had a few issues since buying) which is why we decided to do this buyer’s guide.

  2. This is a FANTASTIC post!

    I’m currently shopping for a used second generation Touareg TDI, any chance you have a similar guide for the 2011-2016 model?

    • Hi Andrew, thank you so much for your kind comment. It means a great deal to us when our readers leave such positive comments.

      We haven’t done a 2nd gen Touareg guide yet, but can look to do so.

      The 2nd gen was a very different car (I actually have a first gen like in this buyer’s guide, just a “poverty spec” 3.2 v6). It is more of a luxury “SUV” as opposed to a 4×4; this comes with both positives and negatives.

  3. Hi, Ben, what an amazing report so far! Simply rich in details.
    I have my 4.2 V8 2008 and it matches part of this issue list. It got engine oil leak, water pump, front air suspension boots and fuel system issues.
    This latest one made me replace filters and flange, high pressure fuel pump and injector valves (these are to come ans so the dealer can finish the job).
    The car is fantastic, but there is a price to pay.
    A question I have is if transmission fluids are the same for automatic and manual tapes (a friend of mine has a manual one).
    Many thanks.

    • We only have an automatic Touareg, but I believe that the fluids are different between the manual and automatic gearboxes. Give your local VW dealer or service centre a call to see exactly what fluid is used in the manual version of the car (I think it is G 052171A2, but definitely check with VW first as I am not 100% sure). Other options will work as well, but they need to be GL4 spec I believe and it is generally recommended that the original VW stuff is best for these cars.


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