Nice Jaunt: Argentina to Alaska in a Touareg TDI

VW PanAm

Volkswagen and a bunch of other firms are sponsoring a 14-day, 16,000-mile trip from Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost point of Argentina, to Deadhorse, Alaska, way up at the top of the world. The driver team is led by Rainer Zietlow, known for his long-distance alternative-fuel jaunts, and two German companions who will share 5-hour shifts. You can follow their progress here.

They will be driving a TDI diesel-powered, modified Touareg with 225-hp and 406-lb ft of torque. Sounds like a good car for the trip: Fuel economy averages 25 mpg, and it should handle the difficult terrain they will have to follow.

The trip commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Pan-American Highway and will take them through 14 countries and over a 13,600-foot pass in Chile. They’ll also have to get across the Darien Gap in Panama, which may require a ferry.

The project aims to demonstrate Volkswagen’s clean diesel efficiency and uses something called the AdBlue system to clean its emissions.

This system uses a 4.5-gallon tank of a solution that leaches nitrogen oxide from the car’s exhaust. As the solution in the AdBlue tank needs to be replaced every 6,000 to 10,000 miles, Zietlow’s Touareg will need to undergo at least one tank refill to keep the emissions clean.

One hopes they don’t run out of the stuff at the top of the Atacama Pass in Chile, where the air is too clean to be polluted.

It sounds like an incredible trip, through some of the most challenging and beautiful country in the world. I’ll let you know next week what it was like driving 150 miles through some very good-sized mountains in southern Mexico.

Would you ever want to make a long-distance, high-endurance trip like this?


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  1. A trip with jgoods and tgriffith would be fun! Even if just to listen to them bicker about cars. jgoods: “I love the Porsche 911.” tgriffith, “Why, it’s just a VW Beetle.”
    That’s a contest I’d enter!

  2. I’m in but propose an old VW van instead…at least through Latin America, that seems more appropriate and easier to come across in this part of the world than a souped-up Touareg

  3. I went on a few brake durability runs down Pikes peak. The rotors would be glowing red by the time you got down and you rarely had much braking left. Some of the stability testing we did– J turns at 70mph plus with outriggers. When it went, the truck would climb up on the outriggers and all four wheels would lift off. If you were on the inside, you’d be ten feet in the air or more. Thats enough for me.

  4. @ panayoti
    I’m with you, Senor P., but only if tgriffith drives. You and I will enjoy the food, drink and scenery from the back seat. And perhaps comment on his driving.

  5. Ahhh, jgoods, 50 years ago………in a heartbeat. Now, only if you and tgriffith were along and you guys did all the driving and I did all the eating and drinking.

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