After decades of bringing almost every class of car, from the humble economical Bug through the van to the near-luxury Passat W8, Volkswagen will finally bring an SUV to the U.S. This places VW somewhere between fashionably late and very late to the party, but the Touareg may be worth the wait.

The number of people who've owned a VW, have a good friend with one, or have a sentimental story about one probably ranks right up there with full-size-pickup sales, and VW is hoping these Volkswagen fans shop for SUVs at VW dealerships. Because of that, the Touareg is designed to be recognizable, friendly, and competent. Any notion that this SUV is economical as a Bug should be immediately removed from your psyche.

As they did years before, VW and Porsche worked together on this project, making the Touareg a sibling to the Cayenne. The rigid body structure and track-inspired brakes are much the same, but the vehicles share little dynamic tuning and no engines.

A cursory glance under a Touareg shows the fully independent suspension is not responsible for much weight; neither are the aluminum engines. Most of the 5000 pounds (5300 for the more extensively equipped V-8) comes from the steel structure, safety equipment, and amenities.

However, the weight is put to good use, with a structure so stiff you can park it on two opposing wheels with enough clearance to crawl underneath, and the doors and rear hatch can still open and close easily. In motion, such extension causes no creaks, groans, or buzzes inside, and the multilayered door sealing keeps out fine dust and 20-inch-deep water.

The other benefit of chassis stiffness is freedom for suspension tuning and a solid baseline to begin with. A fork-like strut, which straddles the driveshaft, upper and lower A-arms, anti-roll bar, and rack-and-pinion steering, works with a subframe and large strut retainer to control the front. In the rear, a similar theme is used, except the strut is a conventional design and the upper control arm is replaced by two single pieces and track rods.