Volkswagen's new luxury SUV, the Touareg, will debút in South Africa next year. And if first impressions are anything to go by, the competition had better watch out!

Volkswagen's new luxury SUV, the Touareg, is due to debút in South Africa next year. And if first impressions are anything to go by, the competition had better watch out!

With the very impressive V10 turbodiesel and V8 models set to make an appearance soon, the likes of the Mercedes Benz M-Class, BMW X5 and the Toyota Land Cruiser could soon be tasting VW dust.

The 230 kW five-litre twin-turbo V10 has enough firepower to reach 225 km/h and blitz the 0-100 km/h sprint in 7,8 seconds. It's an enormously flexible engine - maximum torque of 750 N.m is available at 2 000 r/min. Pick a gear, any gear, and the result is a speedboat-like nose-lift.

The 4,2-litre V8 and 2,5-litre V6 TDI models are also scheduled for local introduction. The V8 engine develops 228 kW at 6 200 r/min and 410 N.m of torque at 3 000 and the V6 128kW at 3500 r/min and 400 N.m at 2000.

In Europe, both these models are offered with six-speed gearboxes, either a manual or a Tiptronic automatic with shift levers behind the steering wheel.

Needless to say, the luxurious interior has been outfitted with just about everything you'd expect and quality too, is of the highest order. Opulent chrome and wood finishes are included and the Touareg also features the Intelligent Crash Response System. With this, once the severity of a crash is detected, all doors are automatically unlocked, the battery and electrical components are disconnected and the fuel supply is cut off.

And while the Touareg's good looks may mean that it is dismissed as a serious off-roader, its technical specifications suggest otherwise. Volkswagen's 4Motion four-wheel drive system is standard on all models and features a driver-activated low-range ratio.

All Touaregs come standard with a centre differential lock, and offer a rear-axle differential lock as an option. The vehicle's electronic system automatically triggers the multi-plate clutches of the centre rear-axle differentials. In normal conditions, the power distribution is 50:50. But, depending on the driving situation, up to 100 per cent of the driving force can be transferred to one of the two axles, even one wheel, if needed. The driver can also activate the locks (up to 100 per cent) manually using a rotary switch. An electronic differential lock (EDL) acting on all four wheels supports the distribution of power.

On steep declines (more than 20 per cent), downhill assist is available for both manual and automatic versions. It is activated when speed has been reduced to below 20 km/h and ESP is switched on. If the driver does not apply the accelerator with the car in gear, the Touareg holds a constant speed via braking and engine speed reduction.

The ramp angle for driving over a crest is 22 degrees (with air suspension: 27,2). Thanks to the short front and rear body overhangs, the angle of slope is 28 degrees (air suspension: 33,2). Ground clearance is 237 mm (air suspension: up to 300 mm).

Pricing will start at about R450 000 and go up to R700 000, easily making it the most expensive VW ever offered for sale here.