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Auto Show:  2018 New York Auto Show

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept: New York Auto Show


author photo by Colin Ryan March 2018

What Is It?

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept is a pickup truck with a modern twist. It's based on a stretched version of the platform that underpins the VW Atlas 7-seater midsize SUV. Instead of the usual gauges in the instrument cluster, though, the Tanoak has digital readouts on a high-resolution 12.3-inch screen. It also has sport seats, which might be a little constricting for your average pickup driver.

On the surface, it's not apparent that the Tanoak is so closely related to the Atlas, apart from a general trucklike demeanor.

Despite modern features like LED headlights and showy 20-in wheels, this truck's styling definitely leans more toward the rugged. At the front, the underbody protection houses a winch. The 5.3-foot cargo bed has a movable rail arrangement that can act as a carrier for long items like ladders and kayaks. Flipping down the tailgate extends bed length to 7.5 feet.

With its double cab and short bed, the 5-seater Tanoak is on the large side of a midsize pickup. Tanoak, by the way, is not some strange name made up by VW's marketing department (like Tiguan); it's a tree that is native to California. And to prove that we didn't just take VW's word for it, we looked it up and found the corresponding scientific name: notholithocarpus densiflorus. It's not an oak, but part of the beech family.

Propulsion comes courtesy of VW's tried-and-tested 3.6-liter V6 developing 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This muscle goes to an all-wheel-drive system (VW calls this 4Motion, just as it does for its all-wheel-drive production vehicles) through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The company reckons the Tanoak could sprint from standstill to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. That's not much to boast about, since there are other pickups that can knock a couple of seconds from that time. But the Tanoak's 4Motion setup at least has a low-range mode for more demanding terrain. Ground clearance of 9.8 inches will also help in this respect.

Will They Ever Sell It?

The official line is that there are no plans to put the Tanoak into production, and this concept is being used to "gauge the reactions of buyers." However, there's a bigger picture to take into account.

Volkswagen has made serious investments in the United States, like setting up a factory in Tennessee and creating an SUV especially for this country, the Atlas. So it makes sense to have a presence in pickups, that most American of vehicles. It might even make you wonder why it's taken up until now for this to happen, given that the company's Amarok pickup is currently available in other parts of the world. The fact that the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept is derived from a production vehicle -- using a production engine and a production all-wheel-drive system -- implies that we may indeed be looking at VW's next big adventure.

Why It's Important

Pickup trucks are as popular as free hot dogs at a baseball game. They're often the bread-and-butter products for companies like Ford and General Motors. If Volkswagen is going to see a return on its American investments, it's going to need something like the Tanoak.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept: New York Auto Show - Autotrader