Volkswagen unveils concept pickup truck at NY auto show

Enter the Volkswagen Tanoak.

Stylistically, the new Atlas Cross Sport concept closely resembles the Atlas SUV but with some subtle styling changes that are expected to feature on the production version due out next year. Using touchscreens for most major functions like climate control looks good on a concept vehicle, but isn't likely to be used if VW makes the Tanoak.

The Atlas Tanoak, named after an oak tree common to the Californian coastline, features a dual-cab, short-bed design. It features a unique bedrail system that VW says improves flexibility for the cargo area. Honesty is the best policy, after all.

Volkswagen has unveiled a second concept at this year's New York Motor Show, called the Atlas Tanoak, previewing a potential pick-up version of the new Atlas SUV.

But wait! you scream.

Where this theory runs into trouble is with the same Volkswagen customers who have long wanted such a pickup, as the midsize truck's diesel powertrain and (relatively, mind you) smaller dimensions were seen as selling points. This size puts it square in the midsize truck market in the USA the added length also gives the Tanoak a bed that's 64.1 inches long; long enough to haul ATVs and other commonly carried items within this truck segment.

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Maybe that's fine - the pickup market is huge and growing, and those hardcore truck guys make up a decreasing percentage of it. On the center console, Volkswagen designers have redesigned the Atlas' shifter grip as well as its 4MOTION off-road control knob into a sturdy sliding mechanism, so that it can be more easily operated with gloved hands.

The spacious interior of the Atlas Tanoak Concept caters to both traditional truck customers and a more tech-savvy audience. The vehicle could compete with pickups like the Honda Ridgeline, executives said.

But the big reason VW can't just ship the Amarok here is that pesky Chicken Tax, which greatly favors domestically produced trucks.

The Atlas Cross Sport has been confirmed for production in 2019 and will be manufactured alongside the standard Atlas and the Passat in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hence, the MQB-based Tanoak.

The Tanoak, named after a species of tree that is indigenous to the United States' Pacific Coast, is 214.1 inches long, some 15.8 inches longer compared to the Atlas, which makes it a huge midsize pickup by USA standards.

It's also 2030mm wide and 1844mm high, making it 45mm taller than the Atlas (mostly through a lift in its ground clearance). The concept is powered by VW's 3.6-liter V-6 with 276 horsepower that flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive and a low-range gear reduction mode help it out off-road.

  • Joey Payne