Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak: A Concept Pickup to Chew On

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

We told you the other day that Volkswagen planned to dangle a carrot in front of American consumers. Well, here it is. Like what you see? If you do, Volkswagen wants to know about it, as this Atlas Tanoak concept truck could become a reality — provided enough people feel the same as you.

Eager to gain a stronger foothold in the U.S. light truck market, VW would love to market a unibody pickup built off a lengthened version of its Atlas platform. Unlike the crossover market, however, truck buyers can be fickle. Tribal, even. Does the midsize Tanoak have what it takes to mix it up with the likes of Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Toyota?

While those brands are the first that come to mind (yes, the Ranger isn’t out yet, but it will be soon), it’s the Honda Ridgeline that shares the most similarities with the Tanoak (pronounced “Tan-oak,” not “Tan-oh-ack,” but you Westerners already knew that).

Both models share their bones with a front-drive, midsize, unibody crossover, with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine thrown in to help get the job done. In the Tanoak’s case, it’s the familiar 3.6-liter V6, making 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque and mated to an eight-speed automatic. 4Motion AWD provides the four-wheel traction. Compared to the donor vehicle, the Tanoak stretches nearly 16 inches longer and boasts an extra 11 inches of wheelbase. Any shorter, and the bed would be Subaru Baja-sized.

What’s interesting about the Tanoak — and Matthew “Truck Guy” Guy found this amusing, as well — is that VW appears to have gone to great pains to hide the fact that it’s a unibody pickup. The Ridgeline, while capable in many respects, looks odd to this author’s eyes. Not so, the Tanoak. The proportions seem more natural — an impression helped by the slightly shortened rear doors. What looks like a seperate, BOF-style bed is just a combination of careful design and sneaky photography.

Those rear doors serve a greater purpose than just allowing passengers into the backseat.

Volkswagen claims the Tanoak boasts “nearly” 10 inches of ground clearance, which would put the Ridgeline’s 7.9 inches to shame. Its bed measures 64.1 inches in length and 57.1 inches in width, with a height of 20.9 inches. There’s a cargo rail, too. While not exactly a full-size challenger, the Tanoak’s bed length exceeds that of the Ridgeline by one tenth of one inch. We have to wonder if that’s intentional.

As this is a concept vehicle, there’s no payload capacity or towing rating provided. VW says it currently has no plans to produce the vehicle, but could change its mind depending on the public’s reaction. Certainly, the automaker wants to get as much product mileage from its MQB-based Atlas as possible — three Atlas models would suit VW just fine.

Trucks owners now spend more time hauling kids than gravel or lumber, so VW said it made sure the cabin — and especially the backseat — was more than an afterthought. Yes, it’s still very Atlas-like inside the Tanoak. The digital cockpit found on the top-most Atlas trim level appears here, allowing a driver to adjust almost all functions digitally. One change meant to appeal to the workman type is a slider-style 4Motion mode selector, designed for easy operation for those wearing work gloves.

Will the Atlas Tanoak become a reality? That’s for you to decide. The midsize pickup segment is starting to get pretty crowded, and with deals to be had on full-sizers, smaller trucks face strong headwinds. Were it to enter production at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant, we’d expect the automaker to keep the butch face and body intact and lose much of the fancy LED nonsense.

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept debuts Wednesday morning at the New York International Auto Show.

[Images: Volkswagen of America]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
2 of 40 comments
  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.