Last July, we reported that the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg would likely become a more efficient vehicle, with improved powertrains, a lighter curb weight, and third-row seating. We've just gotten our first glimpse of the 2011 Touareg, and while it remains a five-seat SUV, the all-new version is both lighter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. The changes start with the Touareg's dimensions. While the SUV's width remains identical to the current model, the 2011 version gains just over 1.5-inches both in length and wheelbase, while being 0.75-inches shorter in height. Still, Volkswagen was able to reduce weight by more than 400 pounds in the base model, while improving torsional rigidity by five percent and lowering the coefficient of drag courtesy of reduced height and reduced frontal area, made possible with the grafting of the current Volkswagen face, first seen in the MkVI Golf, to the front of the vehicle.

While specific U.S.-spec powertrains have not yet been confirmed, European customers will have the option of three engines, each paired to Volkswagen's new eight-speed automatic transmission -- a first in class, VW reports. The big news is the 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid setup, utilizing the 333-horsepower twin-supercharged V-6 found in Audi's S4. The Touareg utilizes the same hybrid powertrain that will be found on the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, and this version will certainly find its way Stateside. Meanwhile, the familiar 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine remains in the lineup, producing 238 horsepower in European guise, along with 405 pound-feet of torque. The euro-exclusive 4.2-liter V-8 TDI engine also makes a return, producing 335 horsepower and a staggering 590 pound-feet of torque.

Two versions of all-wheel drive are being offered on the 2011 Touareg -- the base-level 4Motion system with a Torsen limited-slip differential and an off-road driving mode that recalibrates various stability controls for off-road duty. 4Motion allows for climbing ability up to 31-degrees. Optional with the V-6 TDI engine is a "Terrain Tech Packet" that eschews the Torsen unit for a more rugged transfer case specifically designed with off-road driving in mind. It offers up to 100 percent locking ability and features reduction gearing, along with center and rear differentials to allow for up to a 45-degree climbing ability. A five-position rotary switch provides control over varying degrees of terrain -- from on-road driving to the roughest of off-road trails.