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I’ve had a ‘65 plate Touareg Escape for about 6 months now. I always bought it with the intention of taking it off-road, mainly on green lanes but also the odd pay and play day and also to generally have a more capable vehicle ready for the zombie apocalypse (or maybe just the odd deep snowy day). 99% of the time it will be on road though so I didn’t want to ruin the ability to cruise on the motorway in comfort or massively impact the re-sale value. I thought I’d just share what 6 months of ownership has revealed so far, maybe of help to another or a completely boring and pointless read!

The Escape model was in my price range (it’s the facelift model with 262bhp engine), the R-line and plus models are really nice but were just too much for me (as was a LR disco sport or Disco 4). Plus it still falls within a company’s car policy (which is nice as I get a fuel card and filling a 100litre fuel tank is expensive!). It's a very nice to drive, generally just lazily meandering around (had a Seat Leon Cupra previously which was loud and a one way ticket to losing my licence). The gearbox is great and it has ample torque and power to floor it to get up to speed and overtake. It is a weighty beast though and you can feel its mass under braking and cornering. I can fit loads in the boot as well which is great.

I bought the car during the pandemic and was very limited as to test drives, etc (plus it was 2 hrs away). However, I wanted the Escape model due to the low transfer box and option to lock the centre and rear differentials. Ideally I wanted the air suspension but these are like hen’s teeth (ironically an air suspension Escape came up once I’d put a deposit on mine but it was a private sale and I needed to part-ex plus it was like 200 miles away – someone picked up a bargain though as it was snapped up within about a week and was reasonably priced with low mileage). Mine seemed ok when I drove it and it’s largely remained fault free. I wouldn’t have spotted any of the issues with it at the time as I don’t know enough about cars. HPI report was all clear.

The front NOX sensor faulted after a week of ownership. A local garage replaced it and to be fair, although I paid for the labour, the dealer refunded the cost of the sensor (£400 as it has a processor on it) so was happy about the result as it was completely impractical for me to return the car to the dealer for them to do the repair.

Coolant light came on and having topped it up a couple of times with deionised water only, decided to get it flushed through and replaced. Local garage did a good job but still had the issue, so following another check the coolant was topped up again and no issues for several months now. The previous owner looks to have had a leak at some point as there was evidence of an additive, but it’s a vacuum sealed system apparently which is why it is important not to let the tank go dry and let air into the system. Pressure test revealed no leaks either. The coolant tank is stained so you cannot see the level from the outside. So that is on the list to get replaced at some point (£90 quid for the part apparently).

The service manual recommends an oil change every 2 yrs, but the garage has recommended every year or 10000 miles which sounds sensible to me. The service history was full but slightly inconsistent so felt better about it being done even though the car’s computer advised otherwise.

Washer fluid - car is parked on a sloping driveway, engine at the top, and when I fill the washer fluid bottle to the top, it over-spills when the car levels out. Just must be a quirk of the shape of the swan neck on the bottle. Cue lots of puzzled looks when fluid is dripping out underneath and I couldn’t work out why. As long as I don’t fill it right up, its fine. Not sure if anyone else has this issue...

Automatic Gearbox - I decided to get the ATF fluid replaced. Garage was confused as to why as it’s not a serviceable item, but I just wanted it replacing to ensure it was all topped up. They were also able to check the old fluid and no metal shavings, etc. in it so gearbox all seems healthy. Took about 7.5 litres from memory (cost about £300).

I asked about the other two big items that you see on the forums, the prop shaft bearings and timing chain. However, the local garage deals with these cars and hasn’t heard of anything. They are adamant that you will either hear a change in the engine or vibrations so decided to stop worrying about it (as there was no reason to worry in the first place other than what I’d read) and deal with it if it happens. Wonder if it is more characteristic on the Mk1 and has been updated on the newer models… no doubt someone on here will know. Mechanic was slightly bemused as he seemed to think I was wishing problems upon it!

One thing that I haven’t been able to work out is a slight intermittent whining noise that comes and goes and appears to be almost inside the cabin. It sometimes matches the revs for short periods and is sometimes out of sync with the revs. I though it might have been an electric server fan / flap related to the climate control but it still happens with the fan turned off. I wonder if it’s related to the ad-blue system, possible a pump on it’s way out but to be fair I haven’t checked the ad-blue layout in the car. It’s sort of annoying but at the same time nothing seems broken and mechanic couldn’t identify it (or hear it). Any suggestions?

I also bought a warranty but it was eventually revoked due to inconsistent service history and the fact I was planning to take it off-road (figured I needed to be honest). Does anyone on here have a warranty that covers 4wding?

Under closer inspection the previous owner has been a little careless with it. The front left headlight mists up as it has had a knock by something and there is a small crack in the bumper. Plus I subsequently found out the left side of the front bumper and wheel trim are stuck on with windscreen adhesive. Not a problem unless you ever have to take the bumper off. The washer fluid for this headlight was also disconnected so they were able to re-connect without having to take the bumper off. So I may eventually deal with this or just leave it until I need to deal with it – pretty sure VW will charge a small fortune for the bumper. The same goes for the rear driver side wheel trim, stuck on in places; and the driver side wing mirror needs the cover replacing as it’s had a knock. Front driver side fog light is also misted up. All things I did not notice when buying the car!

Got a couple spare parts from VW that were also missing – 2no. Towing eyes and the fire extinguisher. I was going to order a 5th alloy as I wanted a full size spare in case I had a puncture off-roading and couldn’t put on the space saver. VW quoted £860 for one wheel. Managed to find a different style alloy online for £145 which was a bargain. It’s only ever going to be on the car for a short period of time so I don’t care that it doesn’t match.

So about the off-roading modifications / aspirations -

I researched what you could do with a Touareg in the way of off-road updates before getting one, but unfortunately I have since discovered that the majority of these apply to the Mk 1 model, not the Mk 2.

So for example, I haven’t seen a snorkel on a Mk2 model. The bonnet is much wider and the snorkels I’ve seen on Mk1s exit on top of the front wing as opposed to the side of the wing which is where mine would have to go. I’ve basically given up on the snorkel idea, especially when you see the changes inside the engine you’d have to make to accommodate plus some of them are not exactly aesthetically pleasing to the eye and cutting into the wing and fixing into the windscreen pillar is quite a commitment. I appreciate some people might think why bother as it already has a 500mm wading depth and you certainly wouldn’t want to be sat in deep water for long with the possible ingress of water into the cabin affecting the electrics, plus the battery is under the passenger seat (daft if you ask me). It was more about splashing into medium - deep water and preventing splashes from entering the air intake, or entering at a steep angle and the opening in the wheel arch being submerged temporarily. But anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point really as I’m not planning on doing it any more unless I see something new in the future.

I’ve changed the tyres; it has 18in alloys and had Avon AV7s 255 / 55 tyres. I’ve changed these to Grabber AT3s 255 / 60. Tried to find the AT3 variant with the best wet weather and acoustic properties. I’m really happy with them, they look good on the car and have added about an inch of clearance which was more than expected. They will affect the gearing and speedo readout slightly, but there are websites that help you understand what adjustments you need to make when driving (e.g. Tire Size Comparison). I’d have liked to put on a 255 / 65 but it seems the AT tyre is basically not available in this size for an 18in alloy or is very rare. I didn’t want to drop to a 17in alloy as I didn’t want to spend the money and I’m not sure it would have fit over the rear brakes or would have been very tight. A 255 / 70 ended up being a 32in tyre (I think from memory) and reckoned these would be too big for the wheel arches so didn’t want to risk it.

As the car doesn’t have air suspension, I wanted to lift the suspension. I would have preferred about an inch only, but the only kit I could find was from Eurowise from the states and it was a 2in lift kit. Realised it was probably going to be a bit of punt getting this kit and expecting it to fit but was willing to take the risk (the kit cost about £350 including postage). Ideally, I would have liked to raise the car with a proprietary type kit e.g. longer springs and shocks or the opposite of coil-overs but could not find anything online that is available and not too much. Even thought about getting air suspension fitted, but reckon that would have cost about £5k minimum.

The 2in kit is a quality piece of kit with machined alloy spacers, strut extenders and bolts included. The plan was to remove the front struts and simply insert the spacer between the strut and engine body and use the longer bolts to fix. The rears are more complicated in that the strut has to be dismantled and the spacer added directly against the spring with the strut extender screwed in and then the whole lengthened strut refitted.

However, not many garages were interested in trying and the one I managed to find fitted a front spacer first and immediately identified clash issues with the brake line bracket, brake line and stretch on the abs sensor. It basically worried me and we aborted the install. Having looked at Freelander 2 kits, they seem to have to fit extensions to the brake hoses as standard which I’m assuming you would have to do to mine, and possibly fit after-market brake hose brackets. The issues identified were only at full articulation, so for most driving situations it wouldn’t be an issue but if off-road when full articulation is more likely, it would have rubbed away at the brake hose holder and potentially trapped the line in between the spring coils. Also it could have needed after market alterations to bring the camber back in, the existing camber bolts might not have had enough adjustment – again you could leave it slightly out of camber if you wanted to but probably not recommended.

One final thing on suspension, the Escape model has slightly raised suspension compared to the R-line models which I believe have lowered suspension by 15mm. Most of the videos for 2in lift kits are on standard Mk1 models, so it may be possible that whatever is slightly different on the Mk2 Escape has caused this issue, but the supplier was adamant that it should fit regardless (and I guess it did actually fit but the overall affect was wrong). So to be fair, the Escape already has good ground clearance but I wanted to gain a little more, especially at the front end. I guess I could machine down the spacer (e.g. by half) and try again at the front only as this would probably level it out with the rear somewhat (there is about a 50mm rake on the Escape). Watch this space I guess.

The only other change I wanted to make was to fit some metal underbody protection replacing the plastic protection that comes with the vehicle. On my first and only foray green-laning, there was muddy section which my brother-in-law ploughed through in his Disco 3 and I tried to go around as much as possible. Inevitably, it would seem, he got through all ok and I got a section of old timber fence post wedged into the underbody of the car! After much wiggling I managed to free it but it had hit the second NOX sensor which is on a bracket just next to the transfer case. The car drove all ok, I though it might have been for the transfer case but it was going in to the garage for something else so I asked them to check it and it seems ok – the electrical connection looks to have taken a whack but no point in changing it unless it stops working. As a result I’m planning on getting protection. I’ve seen a couple of websites that seem promising so will provide some form of update once it’s fitted.

Finally, planning on getting an air compressor, puncture repair kit, couple of shackles, strops, etc. to help with recovery in case I or another get stuck. Might also consider a Tirfor to aid with hand winch recovery as I’m not interested in getting an electric winch fitted.

Hopefully going to go to the LRO show in Peterborough in a couple of weeks time, so will see how it goes off-road. One other piece of pointless info, I also average about 30 – 35mpg or slightly better when on motorway journeys. MOT is also due next week...

If you have any questions about the above, have done similar modifications and have some advice then please let me know. Hopefully there will be a couple of pics below.

Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Sky


Tire Cloud Wheel Sky Car


Wood Automotive tire Gas Wood stain Tire
 

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Great write-up - I've had a Mk1 (non-Adblue nonsense!) 2013 Escape (my second) and I cannot fault it although I've never had any extreme offroad aspirations. You are correct that the air-suspension is a must for these (IMHO) and the trick gear-box is great in snow and the odd boggy field. I too have been considering an ATF change despite it being suppsedly a sealed "lifetime" unit - 120k looming so will probably have a go at some point - there is a great "how to" vid on YouTube - it does warn against any extreme flushing though - just a drain and top up with fresh a couple of times. That said, the box is as smooth as the day I bought it as is the engine - I do my own oil & filters about every 10k, brakes and fluids as required - got trust issues with dealers and I like to know it's been done "right" so stopped using them at 70k or so - also got one of those VAG diagnostic plugs which are great to help fault-find and/or reset options otherwise fixed etc. I am actually considering a change but I'm finding it extremely difficult to justify as besides the 4x4motion gearbox not being offered on any model now nor a 100 litre tank, nice touches like the remote control parking heater are also no longer an option plus it's running superbly. Good luck with the mods and keep us posted re progress.
 

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You have a Generation 2 T3, not a Mk1!
 

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You have a Generation 2 T3, not a Mk1!
I quite like "Mk1 Escape" - got a classic ring to it........! But yeh, T3 as opposed toT4
 

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For the first 8 years of production every single Touareg, regardless of engine size, was an "Escape" with a hi/lo box and a 100 litre tank!
 
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Good write-up and pics, WB.

I think your 65-plate is actually a 2nd gen T4 (4 chrome grille bars) - similar to mine.

I have a set of 17" wheels for winter use. They definitely have satisfactory clearance around the brakes, and (after 6 winters of use, with frequent trips along quite gnarly forest tracks) I've yet to have any problems with debris getting trapped and scratching the wheels' inside surfaces.

I opted for the steel suspension as I intended the car as a long-termer and didn't want to pay the crippling costs associated with failed air suspension, which is common on any brand of older car.
I've always found it a comfortable drive - perhaps a bit softer and less precise on the 17" winter tyres when pressing on.

Real rolling average mpg, calculated brim-to-brim, is c.29mpg - which I'm perfectly content with. I'm rural based so almost all of my journeys will involve some rural roads, but with fairly frequent trips on motorways. Frequent off-road excursions too, some of it in low ratio. My average journey length is 45-50 miles, with very few trips less than 5 miles.

It's just been serviced and passed its MoT today!

Very little has gone wrong. I had the gas struts replaced on the (manual) tailgate. VW retrofitted the correct (850W) cooling fan. And I've had standard wheel bolts fitted to replace the locking ones, as the key was getting worn.
 
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