16,000 miles, 14 countries, 3 people, 1 record

By now, you know that Rainer Zietlow and his team Carlos Fernandez and Marius Biela completed the TDI-Panamericana Challenge ahead of schedule. But did you know that they also set a new world record for driving the length of the Pan-American Highway? The challenge was their way of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the world’s longest road, because nothing says “I love you” quite like crossing through 14 countries and covering nearly 16,000 miles in a 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI® Clean Diesel SUV—and doing so in only 12 days, three full days fewer than the previous record-holder.

After a few weather-related delays, the drive kicked off July 2nd at the southern tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina. Thanks to the team’s hard work and round-the-clock driving schedule, they went from southern to northern hemisphere—and winter to summer—in just 12 days. Along the way, they passed through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States and Canada, ending their journey in Deadhorse, Alaska. The team overcame several logistical nightmares, triumphed over foot-deep potholes and dealt with more than a few challenges courtesy of Mother Nature, including (but not limited to) icy roads, a blinding sandstorm in the Chilean Desert and dense fog in coastal Ecuador. All in a day’s work for the team. (OK, 12 days’ work, but who’s counting?)

But there was more to this drive than proving the Touareg’s mettle: as with all of his previous challenges, Rainer donated 10 Euro cents for each kilometer driven during this trip to two villages in Latin America managed byPlan International, a charity organization that works in 48 developing countries to promote children’s rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.

Tell us: what was your favorite part of the tour?

Remember: you can always relive Rainer’s adventures online at www.tdi-panamericana.com, where you’ll find photos and videos documenting the journey from start to finish.

Rainer’s team drove 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