By on March 28, 2018

Image: VW of America

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).

VW

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.

VW

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]

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40 Comments on “Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak: A Concept Pickup to Chew On...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    A) Looks too tall (probably going to have to live with that, even if I don’t like it;)
    B) Bed too short;
    C) Cab too long (don’t need or want full second row. Just need some decent space behind the front row. and a reasonably flat floor.

    Add one foot to the bed, take it out of the back seat, and I would probably be fine.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      At some point you’re gonna have to adapt to what’s available, or soon to come. That’s a lot cheaper than custom fabbing or restoring an old tin can from the ’80s (and California).

      Or just be miserable.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I’ll agree that a “resto-mod” can get expensive but it also depends on what you’re trying to compare to. A resto-mod of my ’97 Ranger could work but for me that means a complete change of drivetrain. (Oh, and this Ranger just happens to •almost• live up to your opinion of a ‘cheapskate’ model except it has variable wipers, carpet and, wonder of wonders, a factory cassette player (or did. Said player now resides in a box outside of the truck.)

        Thing is, I could never insure the resto-mod for its actual value while a new truck can be properly insured. I’m still hoping for better than what we have and suddenly the market looks like it may be headed towards an acceptable compromise.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Oh, and I’d prefer the rear doors to be ‘suicide doors’, but at least the hidden handles makes them less obviously conventional.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            “Resto-mods” yeah, but I meant also “custom-fabbed” based on something new or newer, maybe a CUV or something.

            But suicidal? A custom 2020 Continental Pickup? Wait ‘tll Lincoln sees it!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Ford already has it on the F-150. GM already has it on the C-twins. Toyota already has it on the Tacoma. Need I go on?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You could start with any new midsize extra cab with “suicides”, give the customizer, fab/rod-shop your exact specifications, fork over whatever it takes, probably close to $100,000, then enjoy.

            Or just move to a condo with more generous carports. I think your’s was intended for golf carts only.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Ummmm…. What are you talking about now, DM? You’re certainly not responding to anything _I_ said.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          You could do a declared-value policy on the resto. Receipts for parts and work would be useful.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree on the bed. I like the looks well enough, but the bed needs to be big enough for furniture hauling.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Well, the Arteon is off the hook as the dumbest VW nameplate.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    What a lousy name.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    It LOOKS nice, but FWD based powertrain…GTFO.

    VW already makes a pickup and supposedly it’s a damn good one. Just bring over the Amarok, and DONE.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I have no problem with an FWD-based drivetrain–especially if it’s an AWD one similar to FCA’s. That also suggests the VW might ride lower to the ground in AWD form, making it a more acceptable choice for those who are unhappy with the current round of mid-sizers being too big.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As for the FWD-based drivetrain, go take a Honda Ridgeline for a test drive. It’s the same idea (chopped Honda Pilot), and I really loved how it drove. The Ridgeline is everything I (a former Ranger owner, now with kids) am looking for in a truck (except an EV drivetrain). It took me months to talk myself out of buying a Ridgeline.

      As for importing the Amarok, good luck with that. Low volume vehicles just don’t get the investment required to be Anericanized. In order to import a low-volume vehicles to the US, we will need to harmonize the FMVSS and with what the EU/ROW does — or just change American law to accept both standards. Also, we need to be repealing import tarriffs like the Chicken Tax — not slapping import taxes on things and starting trade wars. You might want to have a word with Trump and his voters about that. Good luck with that!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Remind me again, folks…was there or was there not once something called the “car business”?

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    If there was a pick up truck in Tron this is what it would have looked like.

    Also, way to stick with using F’ed up names.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    How do you even say that name?

  • avatar
    igve2shtz

    Color me impressed. Just like the Ridgeline, it is perfect for suburbanites, like me. It fixes the few complaints I have about the RL – The minivan-esque front end, and the shallow bed. I really like the Atlas’s simple interior, which will certainly carry over to this ‘pickup’, regardless of what these concept photos show.

    Let’s hope VW can incorporate some sort of trunk, like the RL, and a locking tailgate.

    Too bad ‘TDI’ is a taboo word in VW speak, otherwise this application would be perfect for one.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Can it tow? Actually it doesn’t matter as the wife has sworn off / vetoed all VW purchases after our B5 Passat.

    The front end looks like a huge wall, visually it looks taller then necessary. For example the glass to metal door ratio is almost Camaro like. The wheels and overall styling looks decent in these renders. However what is up with all these new vehicles having custom shaped exhaust outlets? What happened to plain round or oval tips that were easy to replace when they got all nasty? Guess I’m getting old when stuff like this bothers me.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    would like to see an actual side profile and how they actually “hid” the unibody cab/bed line. Is it all just black sticker? does the sheet metal actually run in to create a seam (even if just for looks)? etc.

    • 0 avatar
      igve2shtz

      MotorTrend has some real-life pictures from the autoshow uploaded. Here is your profile shot:

      http://st.motortrend.com/uploads/sites/5/2018/03/Volkswagen-Tanoak-Pickup-Concept-17.jpg

  • avatar
    vehic1

    1) Astounding – that anyone has difficulty with “Tan oak”, six whole letters total. Can they say “trans-mission” or “dif-ferential”?

    2) It doesn’t claim to be a gravel-totin’, Big Tex Brodozer – as the full-sizers do (although many of those purchased are NEV-ER used for anything of the sort).

    3) Full-size pickups are the Custer’s Last Stand of the 3 American-name automakers, where they still have most of the market share. Many of their customers believe that any American job producing one of those branded vehicles – is somehow superior to an American assembling a foreign-branded one.

    • 0 avatar
      Ridgerunner

      About point 3 – do you think that having profits from operations go to the HQ country is not superior to just paying employees to assemble the product? Not to mention the wider footprint beyond manufacturing ranging from the janitorial and grounds crews to the lawyers needed for a world headquarters. Look at the percent of global employees in a location and you will see the level of commitment a company has to that area. I like to have the jobs for assembly, but it is misguided to state the impact is the same as a company who call the country their world headquarters.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Or maybe those customers believe the trucks are more capable, have more than proven their durability, have better tech, and can generally be had cheaper.

      And they’d be right.

      But, great job at using the introduction of a midsize concept truck as an excuse for your grandstanding about full-size trucks..

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      “… Can they say “trans-mission” or “dif-ferential”?”

      Yep … ‘gearbox’ and ‘diff.’

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It’s named after a tree, yet it doesn’t have a trunk? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the person who named this truck was a sap.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t know if this is a smart move by VW.

  • avatar

    People in the Midwest will say this as “Tano-wak,” just so VW is prepared.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Explorer Sport Trac.

  • avatar
    jcisne

    VW plans to save itself with…a Honda Ridgeline?


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