Traditionally, Volkswagen has been seen as a budget, entry-level brand. It's hasn't been until the last decade that it’s been seen at all as upmarket or aspirational. One of the key models to VW's image transformation has been the Touareg SUV. Serving as the basis for the Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg helped elevate VW as a brand from basic and humble to stylish and premium. Since its debut, more than 700,000 Touaregs have been sold worldwide, and 70,000 were sold in 2013. VW chose the newly car-crazy China market to debut a refreshed 2015 Volkswagen Touareg at the Beijing Auto Show.

As is often the case with mid-cycle refreshes, many enhancements to the Touareg are focused on improving efficiency, with additional enhancements to safety and improvements to cabin tech features. Stylistically, the biggest difference is a new front end design with an A-shaped lower grille compared to last year's V-shaped design, and standard bi-xenon headlights across the board. The ’15 Touareg also features five new exterior colors out of a total of 12 available hues. The new colors are Light Silver Metallic, Sand Gold Metallic, Moonlight Blue Metallic, Black Oak Brown Metallic, and Reef Blue Metallic. Alloy wheels ranging from 17 to 21 inches also get new designs.

To eke the most out of each gallon of fuel, all ’15 Touaregs get an auto stop-start system, and automatic transmission de-coupling at speeds, allowing the vehicle to "coast" when on a flat road or downhill grade. The engine choices on global models are unchanged and, likewise, powertrains for U.S. models are expected to remain the 3.6L naturally aspirated 280hp VR6 as the base engine, the 3.0L TDI turbodiesel V-6, and supercharged V-6 Hybrid model. Global models of the Touareg are also offered with optional V-8 gas and diesel engines, but the U.S. lineup is expected to remain six-cylinder only. Euro-spec Touareg TDIs now get the urea SCR catalyst system utilized on U.S.-spec models to help them meet tougher EU6 emissions standards. The cumulative effect of the efficiency enhancements is projected to yield a 6 percent increase in fuel economy.

The ’15 Touareg has the full complement of expected safety aids, including lane assist to keep the vehicle in its correct lane, side assist to warn of a vehicle approaching from behind, adaptive cruise control with city emergency braking and stop-and-go function, and an enhanced PreCrash occupant protection system that can close the windows and sunroof if a collision or rollover is deemed imminent.

Interior cabin tech gets an upgrade with Google Street View, Earth, and Points-of-Interest services, launching initially in Europe next fall. The Touareg will launch this summer in Europe and will likely reach U.S. showrooms shortly afterward in the fall.