The Volkswagen Touareg is the company's first attempt at an SUV, and with Volkswagen's recent upscale progress, it has positioned the Touareg in the luxury category. Part of the equation was ensuring a capable platform with real off-road ability, without sacrificing the sport in SUV.

With its tasteful and flowing upscale design, the Touareg continues the Volkswagen family resemblance and Germanic flair, which is not a bad thing. Our testers felt that the Touareg is one of the best-looking SUVs on the market.

Under the hood of our tester was a potent 4.2L DOHC V-8, but off the line, its performance was hampered by a slow-responding electronic throttle. The six-speed transmission was a smooth shifter, but never seemed to find the right gear, shifting constantly around town. Fortunately, the Touareg offers a Tiptronic function for the automatic, allowing the driver to regain some of that shifting control. Everyone enjoyed the firm and effective brakes, but the performance binders tended to be grabby when cold. With locking center and rear differentials, along with height adjustable air suspension, the Touareg's off-road capability is on a par with other more legendary off-road brands.

Inside the Touareg, the beautiful cabin is luxuriously trimmed with quality materials on every surface you touch. The switchgear was of high quality but had a steep learning curve that made it difficult to use quickly. We also found the navigation to be one of the more difficult models we've used, but once we got used to the functions, it did prove effective. The cargo area isn't very large, but provides ample storage spaces for odds and ends.

On the road, the inspiring chassis is tight and solid, allowing the Touareg to be piloted on favorite stretches of twisty canyon roads with confidence. But everything comes with a price, and the trade off for this exceptional handling is a somewhat harsh ride, even on the softest setting. Our testers wished there was more comfort to be found in the comfort mode. The steering feels linear, but we found it to be a bit light for our tastes. There is almost no road or wind noise to be heard of inside the Touareg.

When compared to its distant cousin, the Porsche Cayenne, the Volkswagen Touareg becomes an awesome value. Whether your SUV needs include moderate off-roading or all-weather capability on your favorite set offswitchbacks, the Touareg is an all-around good SUV that will appeal to many buyers.

From the Logbook:
With very minimal body roll, whether it is a slow tight curve or a high-speed sweeper, the Touareg handles as if it were on rails.Technical Editor Bob Ryder

The VW is a solid competitor with features that make me question why similar competition is $15,000 more.Associate Editor Dan Ward

I just can't get on board with the green tint.Associate Editor Sean P. Holman