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For many folks, it’s the only German they’ll ever know. Volkswagen. The translation is simple: "people’s car." But does that still apply when the car costs as much as 68,000 Euros? Or in this case, the SUV?

There’s no question, some folks are going to suffer a severe case of sticker shock when the new VW Touareg hits U.S. showrooms next year. But it’s likely going to take only a short drive for potential buyers to realize that this high-line ute delivers everything you pay for, as TheCarConnection discovered during the first drive of the new and rather oddly-named off-roader.

Let’s get to the name first. The Touaregs are a fierce tribe of nomads from sub-Saharan Africa. A sort of European take on our Cherokees. It’s a tongue twister that’s probably best to mis-pronounce as "tour-egg," or, if you prefer, "touring." The folks at the showroom will get the message, especially if you’re looking to buy one.

No econo-box

And we’re betting a lot of folks will, if they can get past the idea of paying so much for a Volkswagen. But this is definitely not an entry-level SUV. The Touareg is designed to fill a niche in the VW line-up between the Passat and the even more expensive Phaeton luxury sedan.

What you get for your money is a roomy five-seater loaded with a wide range of standard features, a go-anywhere SUV that boasts real off-road skills yet plenty of on-road manners.

2004 VW Touareg V-10 TDI badge

2004 VW Touareg V-10 TDI badge

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TCC got the chance to drive several versions during a day in the mountains just outside Barcelona, including the base, 220-hp V-6 version that will hit U.S. showrooms late next Spring, as well as the high-line 313-hp V-10 turbodiesel that is on tap for sometime in 2004. A V-8 version will also be added at launch in the second quarter of 2003, but was not available for testing.
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