Perhaps as a sign of the times, the most powerful model in the new 2011 Volkswagen Touareg lineup is a hybrid. In fact, with the launch of its second generation Touareg, Volkswagen decided to ditch a V-8 option altogether, replacing it instead with a similarly powerful V-6/electric motor hybrid combo.

Now, the automaker may do the same for a planned high-performance ‘R’ variant of the new Touareg due next year. As you may recall, the previous generation Touareg R50 featured a 5.0-liter V-10 turbodiesel engine with 350 horsepower and a stump-pulling 626 pound-feet of torque on tap. Its replacement, however, is expected to feature a new hybrid powertrain pairing a twin-turbocharged V-8 engine with an electric motor for a combined output in excess of 500 horsepower.

The twin-turbocharged V-8 is expected to be a variation of a new powertrain being developed for the upcoming Audi S8 sports sedan, and you can bet it will be utilized in other models within the Volkswagen Group.

As for the Volkswagen Touareg R Hybrid, with more than 500 horsepower on tap, it should be able to give the performance SUVs from AMG and BMW’s M Division a run for their money. It could potentially even keep up with its Porsche Cayenne Turbo cousin.

In addition to the new hybrid powertrain, expect to see the usual assortment of Volkswagen R upgrades, including an aerodynamic bodykit, stiffer suspension and an uprated brake package. Inside, there should be full Nappa leather and specially engraved door sills.

The new Volkswagen Touareg R Hybrid is expected to debut at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show next January, with sales to start that following spring.

[L’Automobile Magazine]