Volkswagen Introduces Its Atlas Tanoak Truck Concept

Volkswagen Introduces Its Atlas Tanoak Truck Concept

Story and photos by Benjamin Yong

In an era where few true auto shows surprises still exist, what with the Internet and ubiquitous pre-event debuts, Volkswagen showed it’s still possible to have an ace up the proverbial sleeve. The manufacturer generated quite a bit of hubbub by announcing the Atlas Tanoak at this year’s New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), a five-passenger pickup based on VW’s MQB modular transverse matrix architecture platform upon which the production Atlas crossover is built.

So why a truck, and why now?

“It’s been a long time since VW sold a truck in North America (34 years to be exact, and was one based off the Rabbit hatchback). We wanted to show the bandwidth of the MQB platform, and foster the idea that the Atlas could become more of a family of vehicles,” says Mark Gillies, product and technology communications senior manager at Volkswagen of America. He adds such an offering would round out the company’s portfolio across all five big segments in the US market that also include compact and midsize sedans and sport utilities. Another SUV, the Atlas Cross Sport, unveiled during the same time at NYIAS.

Although technically called an Atlas, the Tanoak — named after a towering species of tree native to American Pacific Coast — is 401 millimetres longer, measuring a total length of 5,438 millimetres with a width of 2,029 millimetres and a height of 1,844. This puts it in midsize truck territory, challenging the Chevrolet Colorado, upcoming Ford Ranger and fellow imports the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline. Similar to the Ridgeline, a unibody construction has been utilized rather than a traditional body-on-frame translating into a more car-like ride that many consumers find attractive.

While the two related models share visual traits up to the B-pillar section, designers have given the front fascia a rugged treatment such as reinforcing the bumper, adding underbody protection and a central winch, reshaping the grille and headlamp and raising the central portion of the hood. Moving towards the other end of the vehicle, there are contrasting plastic fender flares, 20-inch alloy wheels and doors for the dual rear cab. Out back, a low-hinged tailgate opens to reveal a 1,628-millimetre cargo bed perfect for transporting recreational equipment such as bicycles or surfboards.

Unlike its competitors, the Tanoak treats occupants to a heavily digital interior experience. The Volkswagen Digital Cockpit relays all important onboard information such as speed, RPMs, etcetera virtually through a high definition central screen, and a secondary touch display controls everything from entertainment to climate settings. An ambient cabin lighting system softly shines yellow or blue at nighttime, shifting when the vehicle is switched from a City to Off-road mode.

Speaking of performance, a 3.6-litre V6 FSI gasoline engine sits under the hood producing 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Power is put to the ground using 4MOTION all-wheel drive with Active Control, allowing users to choose from various on and off-road pre-sets optimizing grip on dry, wet, icy or dirt-covered road surfaces. A low-range gear reduction function is available as well when the driving conditions become particularly hairy. Transmission changes are implemented via a metallic switch on the new shifter grip, designed to be easily manipulated even for a driver wearing work gloves.

Seeing as how the Tanoak is a concept, Volkswagen has implemented some trick exterior lighting features. Open a door, and the large roundel at the front gradually brightens, bleeding onto the slats of the grille and headlamp surrounds. The VW logo at the rear is similarly lit, along with an LED strip installed in a unique sliding bed rail that can be toggled on or off to provide illumination as needed.

The Wolfsburg-based Automaker stated at the presentation that there are currently no official plans to make the Tanoak a reality. Stay tuned.

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