When we last spent time in a Volkswagen Touareg, it was during the year-long test of our 2004 Sport/Utility of the Year winner. We'd been impressed with its off-road prowess, highway comfort, and the amenities Volkswagen offered in its first-ever SUV. Now on the verge of bringing its second SUV to market (the Tiguan--pronounced "Tee-Gwan"--just as easy to pronounce as "Two-Reg"), Volkswagen has given the Touareg a nip and tuck for its fifth model year. VW execs assert there are more than 2200 changes to the midsize SUV, but the bottom line is this is the Touareg's midlife refresh.

The Touareg 2's improvements mostly fall under one heading: refinement. It retains most of the same dimensions as the first-gen model (wheelbase, length/width/height, track widths, interior volume) plus identical off-road capability and towing capacity, but this evolution of the Touareg has several improvements worth mentioning.

While referred to as Touareg 2 by the manufacturer, the badges still read "Touareg." Whatever you call it, it now has redesigned headlights, grille, and bumpers, new, larger side mirrors, updated taillights and exhaust tips as well as bigger standard wheels (19 inch) for the V 8 and diesel V 10 models. Inside, there's a new instrument panel, 12 way power driver's seat, and new stereo interface (with standard Sirius Satellite Radio), plus options like keyless access and four-zone climate control.

As to mechanical upgrades, the Touareg 2 gets direct injection (FSI), improving fuel economy while increasing power. Early into the 2007 model year, the 240 horsepower, 3.2 liter V 6 was replaced with a 280 horse, 3.6 liter; that engine returns virtually unchanged for 2008. The FSI 4.2 liter V-8 became available later in the prior model year as well and returns with no modification and offers 350 horsepower and 324 pound-feet of torque. The torque-monster V 10 twin-turbo diesel, gone in 2006 and 2007, is back with 553 pound-feet of torque, but 2008 models will only be 43-state legal. However, there is good news. By the middle of the 2009 model year, the V 10 TDI will be replaced with a 50 state-legal 3.0 liter turbodiesel that uses urea injection (technology shared with Mercedes-Benz and Audi), a system VW claims will be as easy to refill as the windshield washer fluid. The four-wheel independent front and rear suspension systems are essentially the same, as are the four-wheel discs. Volkswagen's 4XMotion four-wheel-drive system, Hill Roll Back Assist, and Hill Descent Assist return essentially untouched, and the Touareg 2 is still offered with an optional air suspension. And, as before, four-wheel drive and ride height are controlled through knobs near the transmission shift lever on the center console.