For 2006, the Volkswagen Touareg’s major change may be an also-ran. The 3.2-litre V6 of 2005 will eventually be exchanged for a 3.6-litre VR6 engine, but the company says it is a “delayed introduction”; if it takes too long, it could conceivably be held over until the 2007 model year. The V10 turbodiesel available in 2005 has also been deleted.

Other changes include an auxiliary multimedia connector added to the navigation system; the roof rack becomes an accessory; Servotronic steering becomes standard on the 3.6-litre and V8; chrome replaces wood trim on the transmission shift lever; and “tuft” carpeting replaces “perlvelour”. The most welcome change is a considerable price drop: the V6 is $4,230 under 2005 prices, the V8 $3,400 below.

Named for a nomadic Sahara desert tribe, the Touareg is Volkswagen’s only SUV. The base 3.2-litre V6 used in 2005 will continue in “limited availability” until the 3.6-litre is introduced; the 4.2-litre V8 carries over. Both engines use a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic, as will the new 3.6-litre, and all use Volkswagen’s 4Motion permanent all-wheel-drive, with low range gear and adaptive torque distribution.

The V6 includes dual steel exhaust pipes, trailer hitch preparation, privacy glass, automatic halogen headlamps, fog lamps, heated mirrors with reverse tilt, puddle lamps and integrated turn signals, power sunroof, black roof rack, 17-inch alloy wheels, rain sensor, heated washer nozzles, intermittent rear wiper, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise, automatic locking, aluminum and walnut interior trim, CD player with ten speakers, eight-way manually adjusted heated front seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, Homelink garage door opener, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, “leatherette” upholstery and power windows.

The V8 adds chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, chrome door sills, automatic bi-Xenon headlamps with washers, power flush-folding mirrors with auto dimming and memory, 18-inch alloy wheels, sliding illuminated centre armrest, twelve-way power adjustable front seats with memory and lumbar support, heated rear seats, ski sack, heated steering wheel, manually-operated rear side sunshades and leather interior.

In a crowded field of luxury SUVs, the Touareg is a standout: it’s comfortable, very well built, and surprisingly capable when asked to go off the beaten path. It only holds five passengers, but then, most SUV third-row seats are pretty much that in name only, with very little room for real people. The V6 tends to stretch to its limits easily with this very heavy vehicle, and the V8 is a better choice; the new 3.6-litre, if it arrives in time for this model year, should be a considerable improvement. With transportation this nice, it’s no wonder the Touareg tribe moved around so much.

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