THE market for large, luxury four-wheel-drive vehicles has never been more competitive.
Premier German manufacturers tend to dominate the scene with the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE battling each other for sales.
But the more mainstream German manufacturer Volkswagen has the measure of all three with its Touareg.
First introduced in 2003 the Touareg - it's not a name that trips readily off the tongue - is now available in a Â£50,000 R-Line Plus version, which means luxury with a capital L.
Like the less pricey entry level diesel it's powered by a 3.0-litre V6, but in this case the power has been increased from 204bhp to a hefty 262bhp.
It's not hard to spot the R-Line Plus thanks to its sporty, eye-catching R-Line body styling kit with side skirts and unique front and rear bumpers.
Look inside and you get some idea of how this model can justify such a high price tag.
For starters there's superb leather upholstery, which in the case of my test car was upgraded from Vienna leather to two-tone Nappa leather making the interior a real class act. This upholstery upgrade comes with 14-way electrically adjustable sports seats and costs an extra Â£2,915.
Then there's a double panel glass sun roof with electric blind, piano black decorative inlays in the dashboard, centre console and doors, a leather multifunction heated steering wheel with paddle gearshifts and heat insulating glass on the rear screen and rear side windows.
Rear seat passengers are well looked after as their seats not only recline and slide but are heated too (a Â£600 option) and there's individual rear climate control switches to allow each passenger to have their own bubble of comfort.
The luggage area is generous too as you would expect of a vehicle of this size with 679 litres of space beneath the electrically operated rear tailgate with the seat backs upright and 1,642 litres with them folded flat.
On the road there's an abundance of power no matter how many people are on board but while the car was quiet the engine was less refined than I would have expected from a 3.0-litre V6.
With air suspension fitted the ride is superb and you have a choice of sport, comfort or normal settings depending on your driving style.
And while the Touareg is one of VW's largest vehicles it never felt big from behind the wheel and parking sensors and a rear view camera made parking simple.
If you opt to use the vehicle in comfort and normal you benefit from VW's clever coasting feature which helps dramatically with fuel consumption. As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator the car continues to free-wheel without any engine braking in the same way as it would if you engaged neutral. Touch the accelerator and normal drive resumes.
And when the going gets really tough the Touareg's 4MOTION four-wheel;-drive system keeps you out of trouble with a simple turn of a switch to "off-road".
Even under normal driving conditions power is split 50-50 between the front and rear wheels to give excellent traction.