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VW Race Touareg 3: a desert racer for the road

  1. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    Look what blew in from the desert. This is VW’s Race Touareg 3 concept, based on the endurance monster that took the top three places in this year’s Dakar rally - the two-week race that’s now run across Argentina and Chile’s roughest landscapes. And as you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t some regular showroom-spec Touareg with the body of a real Dakar winner. This is a real Dakar winner, albeit a slightly cosier one, reformatted for us regular civvies.

    Words: Dan Read
    Photos: James Lipman

    This feature was originally published in the March issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    Like the competition version, it’s fully road legal, but thanks to some
    soundproofing, and a new interior with lots of leather and silver stitching on
    the seats, you might actually consider using it as a daily driver. Maybe. It’d
    look good in the office car park, that’s for sure. 

  3. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    But don’t let a few home comforts fool you. It still has a
    full roll cage and deep bucket seats, and, mechanically, it’s undiluted from
    the dune-jumping original. It uses the same 2.5-litre, five-cylinder twin-turbo
    diesel engine with 305bhp that gets it from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds. The
    spaceframe chassis is made from aircraft-grade steel and the suspension and
    brakes are identical to those on the race car, with double-wishbones and two
    shocks per wheel.

    Save for a slightly different gearlever on the five-speed
    sequential ‘box, the drivetrain is exactly the same. In other words, this thing
    can smash across boulders the size of small asteroids and nothing will fall
    off. And if it can handle thousands of miles of maximum-speed blasts - only
    118mph, thanks to close gearing - across sky-high dunes, it’ll probably cope
    fine over some potholes in Bridlington.

  4. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    There are two concessions to bling: the racing decals have
    gone and it’s now painted in ‘Magic Morning’ white - infused with a shimmer of
    gold - and it has 18-inch gold rims designed by BBS, which replace the 16-inch
    race versions. The bodywork is still made from lightweight carbon composite and
    it keeps 95 per cent of the racecar’s shape. Two metres wide, high-riding and
    with short overhangs, it’s designed to sail over the sort of terrain that’d
    knock the wind out of a Land Rover. That is, provided you can squeeze in
    through the tiny door hatches that look like entrances to a space capsule.

  5. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    So why has Volkswagen made it? For the same reason Porsche
    makes a GT3 RS, or Subaru makes an Impreza STI: to celebrate motorsport
    goodness with something similar for the road. Volkswagen doesn’t do F1, or
    rallying, or Le Mans, but it does dominate Dakar and this is how the marketing
    people want to remind us. The only difference is that this Race Touareg isn’t
    just some hardcore homage to the real thing, but a mechanical duplicate. With
    posher seats and a stereo.

  6. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    There’s just one small, slightly frustrating thing: it
    hasn’t been officially confirmed for production. But if you surprise your local
    Volkswagen dealer with an offer he can’t refuse, you never know what might
    happen. Of course, taking it for a Sunday drive here in the UK might be slight
    overkill, like going green laning in a Chieftain. It would make more sense
    somewhere sandy.

  7. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept

    Which is why VW showed it at the Qatar motor show earlier this year - dipping its toe into the oasis to gauge reaction (this Touareg shared the
    stand with another one, based on the regular road car and featuring 24-carat
    gold trim). If it does go on sale, the Middle East is the sort of place where
    it’s likely to find a home, probably with a petrolhead sheikh who’s got a
    hundred-ish grand to spend on a posh dune buggy to go shopping in. Or perhaps
    in Africa, with a playboy prince whose backyard includes a few hundred acres of

    For that to happen, all it
    needs is a suitcase full of cash and some persuasive words. Only then will this
    mirage become a reality.

  8. Volkswagen’s Race Touareg 3 concept


    Engine: 2.5-litre, 5-cylinder twin-turbo diesel, 305bhp
    Performance: 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds,
    118mph max speed
    Transmission: five-speed sequential
    Weight: 1,788kg

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