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Finding luxury in the VW showroom

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2014 VW Touareg R-Line

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The Volkswagen showroom may not be on your list for stops if you are shopping for a midsize luxury SUV, but it should be.

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Unless you are concerned more with the prestige of the name on the product than the product itself, you may find what you want in VW’s Touareg, which can be tricky to spell and pronounce but carries an air of sophistication with its understated, even simplistic, elegance.

The Touareg has been around for just over a decade now and is continuing to evolve. New for 2014 is an R-Line version that adds performance enhancements like a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and exclusive design touches.

The Touareg features all-wheel drive in all trims and is available with three different drivetrains: a 3.6-liter V6 gasoline-powered engine, a 3.0-liter V6 diesel and a gas-electric hybrid power plant.

The gasoline engine — which VW says is one of the most powerful it builds — is rated at 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque and drinks premium fuel (recommended) at the rate of EPA ratings of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 23 highway.

The 240-hp diesel ups the torque to a 406 lb.-ft. (from just 2000 rpm) and mileage numbers up to 23/29.

The hybrid version is not typical of the genre when it comes to power and fuel economy. For one thing, it is the V6 gasoline engine is supercharged, a first for a hybrid, and delivers 280 hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque by itself.

Combined with an electric motor, the Touareg hybrid is rated dat 380 hp and an impressive 428 lb.-ft. of torque, typical figures for a V8 engine, but with fuel ratings of 20/24, or about that of a typical V6.

Typical hybrids customarily deliver less oomph but offer better mileage. Lexus’ RX 450h, for example, earns mileage ratings of 32/28 but max horsepower at 6000 rpm is only 295.

Like all Touareg models, the R-Line comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. With the choice of Sport mode and a Dynamic Shift Program (DSP) that adapts to a driver’s individual style, the Tourareg delivers a pretty lively ride and in comfort as well.

The five-passenger cabin (no third-row seating is available) features high-quality materials throughout with lots of leather and walnut-wood inserts to enhance the ambiance. Backseat passengers get nearly 37 inches of legroom, leaving 32.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. Folding the second-row seats just about doubles that, but the seats don’t fold flat, which can be an inconvenience.

There is lots of standard equipment on the R-Line, including a touch-screen navigation system that is fairly intuitive to operate. If there is a complaint there, it is that the display screen could be bigger.

One of the best things the Touareg has going for it is that it shares its platform with the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. All three are put together at VW’s plant in Bratislava, Solvakia. Thus in the Touareg you’re getting the luxury (but not, we hasten to add here, the performance) of the full-scale luxury Porsche model but without the Porsche price tag.

The new R-Line Touareg carries a base MSRP of $55,025, including destination and delivery. The Sport, or base, trim starts at $44,905, and the hybrid version checks in with the highest price tag, $65,080. In between are Sport with Navigation ($48,445), Lux ($52,385), and Executive ($58,270).

For the TDI diesel versions of the models, add $3,500.

For a look and some specs on the Touareg, check out the accompanying slide show.

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