A NEW flagship is on the way as Volkswagen gears up to launch the third generation of its Touareg SUV.
Longer, wider and available with lots of technology the newcomer will be priced from around £49,000 when it goes on sale in June.
Options include a complete digital display featuring a 15-inch touchscreen, all-wheel steering and ultra-bright LED matrix headlamps to go with a night vision system.
VW says the new Touareg is the latest in a SUV offensive that has seen it introduce the Tiguan Allspace and the smaller T-Roc in the past few months and will continue with the compact T-Cross and ID Crozz - its first full electric SUV due out in 2020.
On the road the latest Touareg handles in exceptional fashion and comes with an advanced suspension set up that includes a new roll stabilisation system that electromechanically controls body roll to keep it flat when cornering.
As large SUVs go it is right up with the best and has retained all of its heavy duty facets such as full off-road ability and a 3.5 tonnes towing limit.
The model we tried was powered by a 286ps 3.0-litre V6 diesel - one of two V6 diesels VW will be offering in the new Touareg. The other has 231ps on tap.
Come the autumn they will be joined by a 340ps V6 petrol engine ahead of a 4.0-litre V8 diesel developing a mighty 421ps.
And in line with Volkswagen's alternative fuel strategy, a plug-in hybrid is in the wings - although when is still to be decided after its launch in China.
From the outside the new Touareg looks more imposing than before although it has retained its VW SUV family looks but is some three inches longer and almost two inches wider than the second generation model.
Much of the increase in length is at the front and the bonnet is longer and more angular - an effect amplified by a name-strip of brightwork that stretches from the front wing into the door.
But it is on the inside where the greatest changes can be found and the latest Touareg marks the introduction of what VW calls its Innovision Cockpit - an option that replaces conventional instrumentation and a nine-inch touchscreen with a 12-inch multi-mode instrument panel that runs in to a 15-inch touchscreen set in the centre of the dash but angled towards the driver.
Both screens can be configured for choice and the displays are as comprehensive as they are complex.
From virtual maps to camera displays and night vision screens to trip information, the double screen displays replace virtually all of the controls with the exception of the auto-hold parking brake, hazard lights and off road switches.
Menus can be accessed either via steering-wheel mounted buttons or from the touchscreen and it's a high-tech finish to a high-tech car that sets new standards in cabin ambience.
With massaging front seats, adjustable rear seats and boot space increased to 810 litres - a city car boot as much again as the outgoing Touareg - it is as practical as it's luxurious and the R-Line model we tried was trimmed out with leather upholstery and variable coloured ambient light strips.
Maximum cargo capacity has been increased to 1,800 litres and the car is fitted with a full suite of driver and safety aids including front cross traffic alert and can be driven semi-autonomously in traffic.
VW claims a top speed of 146mph for the 286ps engine with a 0 to 60 acceleration time of 6.1 seconds through an eight-speed auto gearbox which is both smooth and slick - especially when used in conjunction with the paddle shifters that flank the steering wheel.
Fuel economy is rated at 40.9mpg with emissions of 182g/km, a figure we actually managed to exceed achieving an amazing 53 to the gallon on one run. Overall you can expect high 30s with ease and we managed to notch up an average of 38mpg without trying.
The all-wheel steering helps throughout the drive but comes into its own when manoeuvring, reducing the Touareg's turning circle by a metre to just 11.9 metres - little more than a Golf in a car that's 16 feet long.
Wheel sizes range from 18 to 21-inches and first UK deliveries of the new model are expected before June is out with prices being announced at the start of the month.