Good as Any SUV

2008, Volkswagen, Touareg

COUER D' ALENE, Idaho, - The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg sport- utility is definitely tough. VW took us to a rugged off road trail here to show what the Touareg could do. In a phrase, it has enough off road oomph to rival the best sport- utilities in the world.

But we think that's the wrong message. The real story of the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 is its new engines. The gasoline powered versions are direct injection, provide more power and they deliver better fuel efficiency. The 3.6- liter V6 makes 280 horsepower and 265 pounds- feet of torque at 2,500 RPM.

Its bigger V8 sibling makes 350 horsepower and 324 pounds- feet of torque at 3,500 RPM. And the V10 twin turbo diesel makes 310 horsepower and an impressive 553 pounds- feet of torque at 2,000 RPM.

All of the Touareg 2's engines are mated to six- speed transmissions, and all three models have permanent four- wheel- drive systems with low gears and adaptive torque distribution. Oh, Touareg 2 is just for marketing purposes, officially the German sport- utility is simply a Touareg.

Anyway, what this means is that the Touareg is as racy an SUV on the streets, expressways and Interstates as you'll find anywhere. It can be equipped with either an air suspension or and independent wishbone in the front and four- link setup in the rear.

It can also be equipped with a premium sound system that delivers 620 watts of tones through 10 speakers and a 10 channel amplifier. Satellite radio is standard and the first three months of service are free.

Seventeen- inch rims are standard but 19 inch wheels are available and 20- inch wheels can be had on Touaregs equipped with air suspensions. The point is that the Touareg has been overlooked by urban America and that should not be the case.

It has not helped that VW still chooses to market the off road attributes of the Touareg rather than pitch its formidable on road capability. We recently test drove a Touareg and found it more than capable on city streets.

It handled smartly, accelerated with ease, cornered well and didn't full like a lumbering box on wheels. Inside, it was a soothing atmosphere. We were particularly surprised by the quality of its interior.

The 2008 Touareg is as refined as the most sumptuous utility vehicles produced by anybody. We found the exterior design more sophisticated than its predecessor. There's a new grille, head light, new bumpers fore and aft and a new rear spoiler. The 2008 Touareg simply looks better.

Its creature comforts are formidable. Adaptive Xenon headlights, walnut wood trim, leather, four zone climate controls, rearview camera, heated second row seats, keyless entry with push button stop and go, and a navigation system are amongst the options available on the Touareg.

The interior of our test vehicle was impressive: soft leather, clean lines, and it was ergonomically friendly. Although Volkswagen calls the Touareg a premium SUV, its price points range from $40,000 to $76,950suggest and suggest that is a luxury a SUV.

That's indeed steep but the upside is that you won't see yourself all over the place in a Volkswagen Touareg. We told VW o America's product manager that we thought the company should target urban America with its marketing the vehicle needed that stamp of approval. He said that next year, VW would invite aftermarket tuners to trick out the Touareg.

That's great. Meanwhile, the 2008 Touareg is just as good as any luxury SUV and its discerning buyer who knows and can benefit from there. In a word, the Touareg is not an ordinary sport- utility.

By Frank S.  Washington

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Images of the 2008, Volkswagen Touareg

2008 Volksagen Touareg lookin' good on the road
2008 Volksagen Touareg lookin' good on the road
2008 Volksagen Touareg sporty interior
2008 Volksagen Touareg sporty interior
2008 Volksagen Touareg digital display
2008 Volksagen Touareg digital display
2008 Volksagen Touareg from behind
2008 Volksagen Touareg from behind