Touareg vs Cayenne

It's not every day that two brand new off-roaders turn up at the same time. So is it a coincidence? No. Porsche's Cayenne and Volkswagen's Touareg are brothers - built on the same platform with many shared parts. And we've got them together in the UK for the first time. So is there more than a badge to differentiate these cars?

No matter how you look at it, an off-roader fits more neatly into VW's line-up than Porsche's. The Touareg is a fine effort and should worry rivals such as the Mercedes ML and Toyota Land Cruiser. The Cayenne is a different matter. It may sell in huge numbers, but it's disappointing to drive and we can't help feeling Porsche has devalued the brand.

It's not every day that two brand new off-roaders turn up at the same time. So is it a coincidence? No. Porsche's Cayenne and Volkswagen's Touareg are brothers - built on the same platform with many shared parts. And we've got them together in the UK for the first time. So is there more than a badge to differentiate these cars?

VW and Porsche have worked together before on the original Beetle, designed by Ferry Porsche. The firms forged closer ties with models such as the VW-Porsche 914 of 1969, but the jointly developed off-roaders take their relationship to another level.

Similar external proportions give away the fact that these two cars are related. Volkswagen's family features sit more easily on the Touareg. It's a tidy, almost handsome car and will slot easily into the 4x4 market alongside rivals such as the Volvo XC90. We're less convinced by the Cayenne's controversial styling, though. Porsche has tried to transfer the 911's looks to an off-roader, but it hasn't worked - the sloping front end and rounded rear haunches look hopelessly out of place.

The sports car firm makes a better fist of things inside. Overlapping circular dials and a three-spoke steering wheel hint at the 911, but otherwise Porsche has tried to craft a distinctive cabin. However, both machines have similar layouts and positioning of controls. Their centre consoles are dominated by a TV screen housing audio and satellite-navigation systems, while twin cup-holders and a large stowage bin are located behind the gearlever. What's more, each has excellent seats and a car-like driving position. Given the identical wheelbase and width, it's no surprise that the Touareg matches the Cayenne in terms of luggage and passenger accommodation.

While not class-leading - that honour belongs to the Range Rover - three adults fit without complaint on the rear bench, giving the pair capacity for five adults. That's a drawback for the VW, which will be hoping to take sales from the seven-seat Volvo XC90. But both newcomers have huge luggage spaces, impressively low load sills and separate opening tailgate windows.

As you'd expect, Porsche wins the power stakes. The 4.5-litre 340bhp V8 in the Cayenne S easily outguns the VW's 217bhp 3.2-litre V6. And don't forget this is the weaker Porsche version - its twin-turbocharged brother produces 450bhp. Of course, other Touaregs will enable you to narrow that gap; the 4.2-litre V8 boasts 306bhp and the V10 diesel delivers 309bhp and 750Nm of torque, while an entry-level 2.5 TDI will appeal to economy-minded drivers. The V6 Touareg is no slouch, covering the 0-60mph dash in 9.9 seconds, but it can't match the awesome pace of the 150mph Cayenne. Accessing the power in each car is made easier thanks to their six-speed automatics, although it's a £1,390 option over the six-speed manual on the Touareg. The auto is very smooth, with the only drawback being rather sudden throttle response at low speeds.

And don't think either model can't handle the rough stuff - both come with a low-ratio gearbox and locking differentials as standard. However, on-road is where they're designed to excel, so how do they fare? The VW is softer and more relaxing to drive. It's also unresponsive, with lots of body roll, but feels comfortable on long journeys. The Cayenne has air suspension - optional on the Touareg - but don't expect a smoother time. The Porsche is the best-handling off-roader you can buy - but it's not soothing. Even with the suspension in its softest setting, the ride is simply too firm.

The Cayenne is comparatively good value at £44,530, though, just undercutting BMW's X5 4.4 Sport. However, at £30,725 the Touareg V6 is priced to match its key challengers.

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