The standard springs are well-balanced steel coils that provide ride comfort on or off highway, decent handling, and 9.5-inch ground clearance. Air suspension is a $2300 option and gives 6.4-12-inch clearance. This system uses a quiet underhood compressor and a multitude of valves, sensors, and switches to control ride height, automatically or manually. The Touareg's ground clearance drops at speeds most Americans won't cruise at and retains ride comfort up to that point. The air system includes adjustable shock damping in three settings, just in case you don't like how it's set by the Touareg. Wheels are 17 inch on the V-6 and 18 inch on the V-8, and 19-inch wheels are optional on the V-8.

Any vehicle developed in conjunction with Porsche will have good brakes; the Touareg has four-piston vented Brembo 13.2-inch discs in back and six-piston 14.0-inch units in front. As the VW rep says, "It's not that hard to call Brembo," and, as a result, the Touareg has so much braking in reserve that you could take European delivery and never have to worry about stopping. A drum-in-hat parking brake proved capable of holding a 35-percent slope in neutral.

All Touaregs have 4XMotion four-wheel drive with a 50/50 torque split, a center differential lock as standard equipment, and an optional rear lock; unless you make a habit of driving through sloppy mud, you'll probably never need both. Shift-on-the-fly low-range is 2.66:1 with a crawl ratio of 50:1, superior to most new 4x4s. Electronic driving aids include ABS with brake assist and off-road programming that will lock the front wheels to build a wedge of material ahead of them, the best way to slow on soft surfaces. Also on board are traction control, stability control, hill-decline assist, and hillclimb assist. Like most of the Touareg's systems, they're designed to make progress as simple as possible, but can be overridden if you have a preference.

With fully independent suspension, the Touareg has little in the way of articulation, but does offer decent travel. However, with its stubby body overhangs, approach and departure angle are equal at 28 degrees (with coil springs) or better (up to 33 degrees with air suspension), breakover is 22 degrees or better, and lateral stability is 35 degrees or better (in motion). That translates into running Hell's Revenge at Moab scuff-free, even with the 255/55R18 tires at street pressures. On the highway, the Touareg handles with ease and sticks quite well, though the 50/50 drive split makes steering not as crisp as some (X5), but better than most.

Initial Touareg choices will be VW's narrow-angle four-valve 3.2-liter V-6 with 220 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque, and an Audi-derived five-valve 4.2-liter V-8 with 310 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission offered is a six-speed, wide-ratio automatic; combined with the vehicle's 4.56 axles, the Touareg is built to rev quickly. VW claims 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds for the V-8 and low 9s for the V-6, and we find those believable. At altitude or pulling a trailer, the V-6 will be working hard, but big coolers are standard and European engines are accustomed to revving for hours, so we don't anticipate any problems.