The result of all this advanced technology is that the Touareg Hybrid is both the fastest and most powerful of the line. The Touareg Hybrid will hit 62 mph in 6.5 seconds according to Volkswagen, a full 1.3 seconds faster than either the V-6 gasoline or V-6 diesel models. Thanks to its extra power and roughly 400 pounds of weight savings on all models from the previous generation, the Touareg Hybrid gets 29 miles per gallon on the combined European test cycle. That's considerably better than the 24 combined mpg the gasoline model gets on the Euro-cycle, though not quite as good as the diesel's 32 combined mpg, helped by its impressive highway fuel economy. U.S. numbers haven't been released yet, but it may well best the Lexus RX450h, which returned 23 mpg during a recent Motor Trend comparison. Either way, it should be a substantial improvement on the current model's 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway EPA ratings.
The Touareg Hybrid's power is plenty evident on the road. Though normally docile to save fuel, dropping the hammer will put all 375 ponies and 425 pound-feet to work with gusto. Together, they have no trouble hustling the nearly 5000 pounds they're saddled with, especially when taking off from a stop and while passing. Acceleration is impressive for a vehicle this size, and it carries itself well thanks to double-wishbone independent suspension on all four corners. Adaptive Roll Compensation helps the Touareg stay flat in corners and the supremely comfortable seats offer enough bolstering to keep you from moving around too much in hard corners. It's not a sports car, after all. It should be noted, though, that our test vehicles were equipped with an optional air suspension that will not be offered in the U.S.
Not quite as much can be said for the steering. Though nicely weighted, the meaty steering wheel offers very little detail on the goings-on of the front tires. And while there's no dead spot on center, the steering feels a bit slow and the turning radius isn't anything to write home about. The brakes on the Hybrid model are fairly impressive thanks to aggressive regenerative braking that only engages when you depress the brake pedal, not while coasting. It even becomes more aggressive in Sport Mode to help you brake later in the corners. On non-hybrid models, however, the brakes were less confidence-inspiring with considerable pedal travel and less bite than you would hope for with this much weight to slow down.
When you're not playing around in Sport Mode, Volkswagen has an array of high-tech features to help you get down the road safely. Adaptive Cruise Control works even in stop-and-go situations while a Lane Departure Warning system vibrates the steering wheel when you begin to drift. Another system monitors the vehicle ahead and warns you when a rear-end collision is imminent, while another places sensors all the way around the vehicle to warn you about nearby obstacles you may not see before you hit them. Driving the crowded streets of Florence, though, we found many of these systems to be a bit too aggressive to the point of being irritating in rush hour traffic. The Area View camera system was also slightly disappointing as the perspectives offered on the infotainment screen were more difficult to get used to than similar technologies offered by other automakers, but we're told this system probably won't be offered in the U.S. anyway.