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ROAD & TRAVEL's 2004 SUV of the Year -- Volkswagen Toureg

When VW finally jumped into the SUV market, it knew that it couldn't do so with a mediocre product. Therefore, what you see here is nothing short of the best SUV on the planet: the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg.

All of VW's horses and all of VW's men (and women) seemed to have been summoned to get this remarkable truck to market, so it's no surprise to see a lot of technologies and styling elements on the Touareg found on other VW offerings. Case in point: the liquid-smooth V-6 and V-8 engines are the same as those found in many Audis, while the exterior design looks like the big sister to the classy Passat.

Inside, the Touareg presents a gorgeous dashboard with more luxury features than in any previous VW (save the similarly new, $70K Phaeton) including an available navigation system, four-zone climate control and more. The Touareg's innovative off-road system offers mountain-goat agility and the ability to cross deep streams, especially when equipped with the optional air suspension (which also yields stellar on-road manners). At about $35K, the base V-6 Touareg is a terrific value, with prices rising to about $50K for a loaded V-8 model. Seem like a lot? You should see for yourself just what you're getting.

Honorable Mentions:

Mercedes-Benz G500
If the 2004 Mercedes-Benz G500 doesn't look new, it's because it's not: it has been produced now for about a quarter of a century for non-U.S. markets. But now that we have it, we're loving its old-is-new-again looks, want-for-nothing luxury, tremendous cargo area and even more tremendous abilities that suddenly appear when the road disappears.

Sport-utilities are known for going where no vehicle has gone before, but the GMC Envoy XUV truly is going where no vehicle has gone before by offering a cargo area that not only opens from behind, but that opens up above as well, leaving its mid-size luxury-SUV interior sealed from what amounts to a pickup bed with tall sides. But at the flip of a switch, all that space can be enclosed and the passenger area opened for a more traditional SUV arrangement. Cool, handy and innovative. Cheers to that.

International Car of the Year
Car of the Year
Cadillac XLR

Most Sex Appeal
Sports Car of the Year
Cadillac XLR

Most Respected
Luxury Car of the Year
Jaguar XJ

Most Dependable
Sedan of the Year
BMW 5-Series

Most Spirited
Entry-Level Car of the Year
Dodge SRT-4

Most Compatible
Minivan of the Year
Nissan Quest

Most Versatile
Crossover/Sport Wagon of the Year
Chrysler Pacifica
Most Memorable
Classic Car of the Year
Chevrolet SSR
Most Athletic
Pickup Truck of the Year
Ford F-150 FX4

Most Likely to Survive
SUV of the Year
Volkswagen Touareg

Class of 2004 ~ 8th Annual Awards Links