We were obviously excited when we found out the full line of Volkswagen Touaregs were on their way to the office. Its platform mate, the Porsche Cayenne won Motor Trend's 2011 SUV of the Year Award so obviously expectations were high. The previous generation was always a staff favorite being the classier and more relaxed version of the futuristic and tech-heavy Porsche. In many ways, the previous Touareg represented a better value for the average premium SUV customer, it may not have offered the speed and handling of the lifted four door sports car, but it did have all the off-road ability and arguably a nicer interior. If a customer was more concerned with driving a family around in comfort than with setting fast lap times, the big VW was considered the logical choice.

All three versions of the Touareg were tested and represent a decent product spread for the customer. The entry level VR6 model starts at $45,270, which happens to also be our as-tested price. Our mid-level TDI came in at $58,320 while the top of the line Hybrid was $61,385. Even the base model comes well equipped with navigation, Bluetooth, all-wheel drive, climate control and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Even with all this, the Touareg still manages to live up to its decontented Cayenne image, at least technologically. Senior Editor Jonny Liebermann has this to say, "I don't mind the decontenting in the Jetta, but for some reason I can't get behind the simplification of the Touareg. If the Cayenne went on an eating binge and started popping downers, it would be a Touareg."

The biggest problems seem to be well out of most buyers' view. Testers' complaints centered on chassis tuning. It just doesn't feel dialed-in like the previous Touareg and current Cayenne, both of which have adjustable systems that allow for different damping rates and ride height for different conditions. Also, the Cayenne uses a number of alloy and high-strength steel components to keep weight down increasing every aspect of performance. The TDI seemed to garner the most praise for handling. Associate Editor Rory Jurnecka commented, "Best suspension calibration of the three. Responded and carried weight well, and absorbed any ugliness in the road." Frank Markus countered, "I feel like I'm sitting high, which imparts a tippy feeling. That said, it cornered flatly enough but with a ponderous helm." The test cars squealed and barked through our figure-8 testing in a range from 27.2-seconds to 27.6-seconds. For comparison the 2012 Mercedes ML350 takes 27.8-seconds and the 2011 Saab 9-4X takes 27.6-seconds for the same lap.

Editors were universally impressed with the power and acceleration provided by all three engines, but most notably the hybrid. The VR6 and TDI turned in respectable 0-60MPH times of 7.7 and 7.3-seconds. The hybrid was the big shocker ripping off a 5.8-second run and a quarter mile time of 14.3-seconds at 96.6MPH. For comparison the 2011 Dodge Durango R/T turned in a 0-60MPH time of 7.3-seconds and quarter-mile time of 15.5-seconds at 90.8MPH and that's with a 5.7-Liter V-8 under the hood.

There is some consternation about the point of the hybrid system used in conjunction with the supercharged 3.0-Liter V-6. Frank Markus commented, "This is the most disingenuous SUV here - possibly anywhere. I am offended by the dichotomy of the blue highlighted HYBRID badges on a VW that struggles to get 0.1mpg better fuel economy than the V-6." But that V-6 fuel economy does come with V-8 performance. Truck Trend Executive Editor Allyson Harwood added, "Holy crap is this thing fast! I do understand that there are two ways you can use hybrid power - good(fuel economy) and evil(added power), this SUV is wonderfully evil." Allyson summed it up by saying, "This is tremendous fun to drive and I don't care if it masquerades as a green car."

The consensus amongst editors is that even if it isn't as luxurious as the previous version, the Touareg still achieves a high-level of refinement. "It remains a pretty premium SUV, it's really more of a tall executive sedan." Remarked Detroit Editor Todd Lassa. "Love the crazy-large massive glass roof" said Liebermann. "Very comfy seat, this plus awesome range, over 600-miles per tank, makes this an awesome road-tripper." - Evans. Even the outside aesthetics were praised with Associate Online Editor Nate Martinez commenting on the "handsome styling package," and Allyson Harwood writing, "I love the updates styling, headlight treatment is modern tech - elegant."

As an overall package, it was unanimously agreed that the TDI Touareg is the one to get. Associate Editor Jurnecka summed up his thoughts on the TDI with, "Nice interior, good quality materials and well laid out controls. Love the Audi-esque gauges, they're so German." Jonny Liebermann called it "Hugely competent off-road." He also remarked the TDI is, "The Goldilocks in terms of proper weight for the chassis." While being the best of the bunch, we still miss some of the premium feel of the last Touareg. Active suspension would do wonders to the on and off-road behavior. Perhaps it was done to separate it from its chassis mate, maybe it was done to lower the price. Either way, we would like to at least see it as an option, even if only the premium models. It may not live up to the lofty standards set by its overachieving platform mate, but the Touareg still represents a decent value in the premium SUV class.

2011 Volkswagen Toaureg
BASE PRICE $45,270
PRICE AS TESTED $45,270; $58,320; $61,385 (*V6 Sport; TDI Executive; Hybrid)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINES 3.6L/280-hp/265-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.0L/225-hp/406-lb-ft turbodiesel 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 comb*
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4690 lb (53/47%); 5062 lb (54/46%); 5166 lb (52/48%)*
WHEELBASE 113.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 188.8 x 76.4 x 68.2 in
0-60 MPH 7.3; 7.7; 5.8 sec*
QUARTER MILE 15.4 sec @ 90.9 mph; 15.9 sec @ 85.3 mph; 14.3 sec @ 96.6 mph*
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 133; 123; 125 ft*
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.86; 0.87; 0.83 g (avg)*
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg); 27.3 sec @ 0.65 g (avg); 27.2 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)*
MT OBSERVED FUEL ECON 18.5; 22.3; 18.6 mpg*
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 16/23; 19/28; 20/24 mpg*
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 211/147; 195/133; 169/140 kW-hrs/100 miles*
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.05; 1.00; 0.90 lb/mile*