The TDI-Panamericana Challenge hits North America

If it seems like Rainer Zietlow and team were just in South America, it’s because they were just in South America. But this event isn’t called the TDI-Panamericana Sunday Drive—it’s called the TDI-Panamericana Challenge, and these people are pushing their Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel (and themselves) to the limit. Just this morning, they crossed into British Columbia, Canada.

Their progress speaks for itself, but Rainer would like to say a few words, too:

Days 8-10, July 9th to 11th, Central America to North America

We got through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in record time. The biggest problems we had in Guatemala were the road conditions. At one point, a two-lane highway simply ended with gap into a dirt road. We were very surprised when the Touareg dropped into a foot-deep pothole in the middle of the night, but fortunately, it handled this perfectly. Surviving numerous more potholes and terrible road conditions, we finally arrived at the VW factory in Mexico. Originally, we had only planned to change the oil, fuel, air filter, brakes and rotors, but to be on the safe side, we checked the Touareg’s undercarriage and suspension, as well. We found that everything was in top conditions, and we were assured once again that the Touareg TDI was the right vehicle for the Panamericana Challenge. 

Continuing our drive from Mexico was a bit more relaxing because we were able to make our scheduled driver changes. In the smaller countries, this was not always possible due to the challenging conditions that required the most experienced driver to be behind the wheel all times. Inching closer to towards the U.S. border, the anticipation could be felt in the vehicle, as this would be the most challenging border stop of the entire trip. Many drug deals are being conducted at the U.S.-Mexico Border, so we had to be extra careful that no one had attached anything to our vehicle prior to reaching the border crossing. Thankfully, we had some help at the crossing from our logistics partner, Kuehne & Nagel, who not only assisted us at every border crossing, but also provided us with food and drink throughout the entire journey. Within an hour and a half, we were through the border and Mexico was in our rearview mirror.

- Rainer

Tell us: how many borders have you crossed in a week?

Be sure to check back later this week for his next update from the Pan-American Highway. And remember: you can follow Rainer’s adventures online at, where you’ll find a map and live streaming video to show the Touareg’s real-time progress on the route, as well as photos and videos documenting the journey from start to finish. Rainer’s team is driving a 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel. The Touareg’s 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 TDI® Clean Diesel engine and 4MOTION® all wheel drive (AWD) system deliver the performance and durability required to tackle the many twists and turns of the Pan-American Highway. The engine provides an impressive maximum torque of 406 lbs.-ft. at 1,750 to 2,250 rpm while producing 225 horsepower at 3,500 to 4,000 rpm.

In order to account for the demands of the TDI-Panamericana Endurance Challenge, Rainer’s Touareg has been modified to include:

  • Innovative Inmarsat satellite technology for live communication, even in the most remote areas
  • The largest tires that fit the Touareg to better address bumpy roads throughout South America
  • An additional 300-liter fuel tank to extend the distance the vehicle can travel between refueling