News of the imminent death of large off-roaders is mostly exaggerated. We’ve just caught an early engineering prototype of the next Volkswagen Touareg – codenamed VW726 – out on a shakedown test.
This mule outwardly looks like identikit Touareg 2008 but we hear the Mk2 will be lightly refreshed. Expect a Bauhaus-inspired design, with a wedgier profile, more dynamic glasshouse and a broad-shouldered stance emphasised by flared wheelarches and 19 or 20in wheels. Look out also for some styling tips garnered from the current R50 sports version of the Touareg.
Insiders predict a pair of relatively small upper and lower grille apertures, two extra-large lateral air intakes in the bumper, oblong headlamps, subtle sill extensions and a C-post treatment quite similar to the first-generation vehicle. Like the Tiguan, the next Touareg will be offered in two versions badged Track & Field (read off-road) and Sport & Style (read on-road).And what's under the skin?
The new luxury SUV will stick with today’s engineering package, sharing the Porsche Cayenne/Audi Q7 platform. Our sources suggest that the length and wheelbase will be stretched by around 50mm this time round, although the boot volume remains the same. VW hopes to liberate more rear legroom with a re-engineered trick back seat.
The big news of project VW726 is a considerably lighter kerbweight. Although hardly svelte at around 2050kg, that engineering target is a handy 200kg lighter than today’s heavyweight.
The on-road model looses a further 100 kilos by doing without such mud-wrestling gear as air suspension, rear limited slip differential and low-range transfer case. VW could have shaved off another 150kg by switching to an aluminium spaceframe body, but this option was discarded early on as too expensive. Click 'Next' to find out more about the engines in the new VW Touareg (2010) VW Touareg (2010): the engine room
Under the bonnet, the new Touareg switches to direct injection across the board. A brace of petrol engines is limited to FSI versions of the VR6 (280bhp) and 4.2-litre V8 (350bhp), but the lion’s share of sales will be of the 4x4-friendly diesels with capacities of 2.7, 3.0 and 4.2 litres.
Like the Cayenne and Q7, the second-gen VW SUV will be available with a jointly developed hybrid drivetrain, which mates the 280bhp VR6 to an electric motor. This pushes the aggregate torque from 265 to 380lb ft. A hybrid VW Touareg. Can it make the behemoth clean?
Well, it's certainly cleaner. Fuel consumption drops by 23 percent to a much more respectable 30.3mpg, while CO2 emissions fall from the reguluar V6's 304g/km to a more palatable 231g/km.
Also in the works is a less expensive mild hybrid version, featuring start-stop, brake energy regeneration, an integrated starter/generator and a bigger-capacity battery.
What's going to happen to the V10 TDI, you might ask? The mighty oil-burner has just resurfaced in the 350bhp Touareg R50 – but it's not bound for the next-gen Touareg, being deemed too profligate.
In future, it is likely to be used by Audi in the R8 V10 TDI, by Bentley in the Continental Flying Spur – and by Porsche in the new Cayenne. A diesel Porsche? Never say never...