THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Volkswagen Touareg2 VR6 SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: Whether you are headed off-road or on the road, the redesigned Touareg2 with a 40 horsepower boost will ensure you a quiet, enjoyable and energetic ride. Set on a unibody construction and available in three trims, the well-appointed and roomy SUV drives like a sedan. The permanent all-wheel-drive system with low-range gear inspires confidence in the driver and occupants regardless of road or weather conditions.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 3.6-liter VR6 engine boasts 280 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 265 pounds-feet of torque at 2500 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual-shift capabilities, which is a sheer joy to engage. A double wishbone front and a four-link independent steel spring rear suspension contribute to a civilized ride in this 5,000-plus pound vehicle. Also pitching in are front and rear vented power disc brakes. Guiding the Touareg2 to its destination is a power-steering system, which is precise and linear. The low-range gear and two-speed transfer case come into play to maximize torque to all the wheels when you test its off-roading talent.
LOOK & FEEL: A 2008 refreshening of the Touareg2 includes chrome on the mesh grille with chrome eyebrows, restyled headlight housings, dark tint on brake lights, roof edge spoiler, silver roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels. The cabin is decked abundantly with walnut-wood trim on the redesigned instrument cluster and front and rear door panels, dashboard and shifter knob area. Chrome on the interior door handles and instrument panel gives the interior an elegant aura. I liked the overhaul console, which conveniently displayed time, date and compass readings. There is at least 31 cubic feet of space in the cargo area when you open up the standard power liftgate and fold flat the 60/40-split rear seat. The grip on the four-spoke leather steering wheel or the sizeable shifter knob is unyielding.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, stability control, Electronic Brake Distribution with brake assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights, three-point safety belts for all seats, front and rear obstacle detection system and center locking differential are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $32,320, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The $2,900 Lux Package will fetch you cricket leather seats, walnut-wood interior trim, 12-way power passenger seat and bixenon headlights.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 255/60/R17 all season; wheelbase, 112.4 inches; length, 187.2 inches; weight, 5,086 pounds; fuel capacity, 26.4 gallons; highway, 19 mpg; city, 14 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: A permanent all-wheel drive and an additional 40 horsepower pump up the premium SUV's performance attributes. Factor in an upscale interior and endless safety features and you have the ideal SUV in the Touareg2.