That includes the Hybrid model, which tops the other two powertrains in horsepower and torque. This should be no surprise as the Hybrid effectively replaces the last-generation V-8 Touareg. At the top of the 2011 Touareg lineup, the Hybrid retails for $61,385 in one well-equipped model, but only 200 dealers will sell it. The Hybrid uses a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with an electric motor and nickel metal-hydride battery pack, replacing the spare tire on other models with hybrid components. Luggage capacity behind the second row remains the same for every Touareg: 32.1 cubic feet. That compares to 29.4 on the Mercedes-Benz ML, 35.8 on the BMW X5, and 42.9 on the Acura MDX.

Punch the throttle on the Touareg Hybrid and the SUV will often hesitate for a moment and then accelerate. Once you're off, 0-60 mph acceleration is brisk, at a claimed 6.2 seconds. Unlike the other two Touaregs, steering feel is lacking. Be careful with the brakes as occasionally the SUV will surprise with more force than you expected. Regenerative braking works during braking and coasting; Volkswagen says the vehicle can drive up to about 30 mph on electric power on a level road or up to 75 mph going downhill. Touareg Hybrid drivers on the autobahn will be pleased to know that the engine will stop (in coasting mode) at speeds of up to 99 mph if your foot is off the gas pedal. Volkswagen said the significant differences between the Touareg and Porsche Cayenne hybrids will come with changes to the suspension and vehicle packaging.

The Touareg Hybrid should perform adequately if you don't need the snob appeal and minor suspension tweaks on the Cayenne Hybrid. The Porsche, like the Audi Q7, offers a four-year/50,000-mile warranty to the Volkswagen's three years and 36,000 miles basic coverage, plus three years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. Were we in the market for a $50,000 luxury SUV, the warranty might be a concern-the Volkswagen Touareg isn't exactly known as the most reliable vehicle in its segment. That could change with the 2011 model's added efficiency and refinement. If buyers can look past the badge, the Touareg stands a chance at sustained growth in a tough segment.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg
Base price $45,270-$61,385
Vehicle layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engine(s) 3.6L/280-hp/265-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.0L/225-hp/406-lb-ft turbo diesel DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.0L/333-hp/325-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus 46-hp/221 lb-ft electric motor, 380 hp/428 lb-ft
Transmission(s) 8-speed automatic
Curb weight 4700-5150 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 113.9 in
Length x width x height 188.8 x 76.4 x 68.2 in
0-60 mph 6.2-7.9 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16-21/23-28 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 0.86-1.05 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. Currently (V-6, TDI), December 2010 (Hybrid)