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VW's largest SUV is caught in winter testing ahead of its Detroit launch

Volkswagen’s new Touareg has been spied in the final stages of its development ahead of its official launch at the Detroit motor show.

Our spy photographers have already captured the large SUV in the mid-California deserts as well as on European urban roads, and it has now moved to northern Scandinavia to finish its development.

The Touareg spied here is still under disguise, although we know the car will not be radically different in appearance from the current model. The main changes happen under the skin, although it will have a noticeably sleeker front end to aid aerodynamics.

Expect the front end to take cues from the new Golf, Polo and Scirocco, with long, slim headlights. Its undisguised central section gives the best clues to its new shape, with a clean, uncluttered look.

The new Touareg is expected to be significantly lighter as the company seeks to counter claims of large 4x4s being too inefficient for modern day use.

A weight saving of around 150-300kg has been mooted as a target, although the higher target may be only achievable on base models, which will be offered with only two-wheel drive. The lightest current Touareg, the 3.6-litre petrol V6-powered SE, weighs 2238kg.

A third row of seats could be offered as an option, to address criticisms that the car isn't as practical as some rivals. This is likely to lead to the car having slightly longer wheelbase; the current model is 4754mm long.

Engines are expected to include updated versions of the current 3.6-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 petrol units, plus at least two revised turbodiesel offerings.

A hybrid VW Touareg will be available from launch, too. It will use the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 currently used in the Audi S4 and A6, with the electric motor sitting between the transmission and the V6. The top-end V10 diesel is expected to be dropped.

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