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.
In addition to being more capable, the 2011 Touareg is also more comfortable. While third-row seating remains absent in the Touareg, there is more room for second-row passengers, made possible in part by the slightly longer wheelbase. The rear bench now offers greater longitudinal adjustment, while the backrest angle is capable of being adjusted. Fold the rear bench flat (electrical adjustment is an option) and 58 cubic-feet of cargo room is available. Up front, a standard radio-CD infotainment system is included, displayed on a 6.5-inch touchscreen.
A number of new tech features have been added to the new Touareg, including an electronically-actuated push-button parking brake, stop-start system for V-6 models, remotely operated electronic tailgate, and new "Area View" parking system that uses cameras at each of the vehicle's four corners to monitor surroundings -- similar to Nissan's Around View system. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Assist, Bi-Xenon headlights, adaptive roll compensation, and Dynamic Light Assist (an auto-dimming headlight function) are also available.
For the first time, Volkswagen will also provide a personalization option for the new Touareg with the under the Volkswagen Individual program. Optional add-ons include a number of Nappa leather interior packages in different color schemes, along with a selection of wood inserts, and unique 19-inch "Girona" wheels. It is not determined whether the program will be offered to European customers only.
The 2011 Volkswagen Touareg makes its debut at the 2010 Geneva motor show where we expect more U.S.-specific information to be found. Stay tuned to Motor Trend Online for more on the 2011 Touareg, as well as the full range of Geneva show debuts.