New Atlas Tanoak Pickup Concept Is VW's Love Letter To America

The Volkswagen Atlas will both shrink and expand in 2019. The company says that 54 percent of its US sales already are being generated by the new-for-2018 Tiguan compact SUV and the current three-row Atlas mid-size family SUV.

Although the Tanoak concept pickup is based on the Atlas SUV and features VW's modular transverse matrix architecture called MQB, the designers gave the truck plenty of its own looks.

Also it is part and parcel of the SUV drive begun by VW. A more mainstream Atlas Cross Sport is seen as a better fit as a sportier two-row SUV for the US than the departed Touareg. The Atlas Cross Sport is created to bridge the gap between those two, providing SUV punters reason not to buy a BMW X4, for example.

It is a concept to test the market reaction to the project, with Volkswagen insiders insisting they could turn it into a production reality in its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant "pretty quickly".

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept
Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept Enlarge

Compared with the bigger Atlas SUV, the Atlas Tanoak is 15.8-inches longer, at a near-Ford F-150-like 214.8-inches overall, with 9.8-inches of ground clearance, its chassis up two inches versus the Atlas SUV.

The Atlas Tanoak Concept is designed as a dual cab, five-seat configuration with a short bed. Headroom for the second row may be a little tighter - a trade-off for the slanted C-pillars and rakish roofline with panoramic moonroof that stretches into a rear roof spoiler with black fins.

The headlamps themselves are different from the seven-seat Atlas, and the daytime running lights match up neatly with the illuminated slats on the grille. Why show the flexibility of the Atlas platform with a vehicle that will never actually see the light of day? The Atlas Tanoak has a more rugged appearance to match its off-road capabilities with a raised bonnet and rugged underbody protection, which houses a centrally mounted winch and carabiner. Therefore, there are three displays, one each for the instrument cluster (12.3-inch), infotainment system (10.1-inch) and climate control system. The active LED lighting features are replicated at the rear. The Atlas Cross Sport concept is a plug-in hybrid, with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that offers 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque being joined by two electric motors. Shifting for the concept's six-speed automatic is via an electronic toggle shifter. That, the automaker suggests, could mean a 0-60 miles per hour time of 5.4 seconds and a 130 miles per hour top speed.

Alternatively, the Atlas Cross Sport Concept could also features a mild hybrid powertrain that uses the same setup as before, but with a smaller 2 kWh battery. But that may not be its name when it goes into production at the end of 2019.

  • Rogelio Becker