Our Touareg TDI Lux model is indeed very much at home here in the high rent shopping district with its rich Germanic style and attention to visual details. U shaped LED daytime running lights add a jewel-like luster to its face that compliments a good deal of chrome trim.

Proportions are well balanced to the 19” alloy wheels with no secret about its high ground clearance. Despite its decidedly SUV stance, the Touareg remains elegant enough to show up at your dinner party in or drop off at the valet without shame.

The cabin of the Touareg is a sumptuous blend of Vienna leather and highly polished burl wood. The feel and aura is intoxicating and warm, a place which really feels welcoming after a long day shopping. Heated power seats coddle you when its cold, and memory settings bring them to your saved spot.

The center stack features a touch-screen audio and navigation system which while fully featured remains easy to use. It even allows a passenger to search and program destinations while on the go, something many vehicles block.

The climate control system also showed its beauty in simplicity as well as heating and cooling ability during our time with the Touareg. The panoramic glass roof in our Lux model also went a long way to creating a naturally lit environment that we enjoyed.

Rear seats slide and recline, offering rear passengers every bit of comfort as the front. Leg room and head room were never in short order.

On freeways as well as windy mountain roads the Touareg benefits from a fully independent front and rear suspension that belies its SUV profile and high center of gravity well. The driving experience is precisely what you would expect in a German sport sedan.

You get tight steering, precise handling and a refinement that makes child’s play of rough pavement and less than well designed roads. It’s just fun to drive in a way that most SUV’s aren’t.

Under the hood of our Touareg is Volkswagen’s silky smooth 3.0 liter turbo-diesel V6. It’s rated at 240 horsepower which sounds mid-pack but it has an astonishing 406 lb-ft. of torque. Delivered through a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, it provides launch pad acceleration in town and excellent hill-climbing ability.

The turbo-diesel engine is whisper quiet on the highway and around town. Only at idle and in acceleration do you notice the difference between it and a gasoline engine. The purr of the engine is actually intriguing at times, but never annoying.

Power is prodigious, the torque curve really hits you in the back when you lay into the accelerator. But fuel economy where the TDI really shines. It’s rated at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, exemplary numbers for a large luxury SUV.

We achieved 28 mpg in combined highway and city driving during our time with the Touareg TDI. This in our opinion is a phenomenal outcome given its highway rating is 29 mpg. Our week included a trip into the mountains for video and photos shoots as well.

At the halfway point to our destination it was time to break out the cameras and shoot more photos of the Touareg before it gets dirty. It’s already clear this thing looks just as at home here in the rugged surrounds as it does back at the mall.

It was a gratuitous opportunity to play with the power lift-gate which can be operated in a number of ways from buttons inside the Touareg, to those on the key-fob, as well as passing your foot under the rear bumper for radar activation.

From here it was time to leave the pavement and head into the gritty rugged desert to see how this SUV delivers on its promise for adventure and utility. Many luxury SUV’s romance you with leather and creature comforts but let you down when the roads get rough.

Our first stop was our off-road test area where we take the vehicle up and down some moderate challenges to see how well it articulates, test its ground clearance as well as important traction abilities.

We test the traction system in a one wheel up one wheel down test where we place the vehicle on a mogul, leaving one front and one rear wheel free of traction. Many SUV’s fail to articulate this with their drive systems, but the Touareg’s Off-Road Mode allowed for the ABS system to arrest spinning wheels and direct power to the once which had traction.

The Off Road Mode also includes hill descent control which worked well to keep the vehicle at a controlled crawl down steep low traction hills, even with your foot off the brake.

The road further into the mountains took us through the fabled Fish Creek Canyon of Arizona’s Apache Trail. The scenery is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, the road narrow and steep and requiring the utmost in attention. The cliffs are unforgiving but the vistas something to behold.

Beyond this picturesque canyon lies miles of rutted and rough washboard roads which can be the great leveler of crossover SUV’s. These vibration prone surfaces can make even the best of them shudder to their very nuts and bolts.

In the case of the Touareg, it glided down these washboard surfaces like a magic carpet. The structure was free of vibration, rattles and shakes we have seen in more expensive SUV’s and others which claim to be “true offroad vehicles”.

As we approached our summit destination the Touareg has by now well impressed with its on and off-road poise. It has passed the tests many SUV’s let us down on, and done so with a sense of class and drivability that out-classes even some costing more.

For a full report and photo galleries, see our review at ActivityVehicle.com