A spur-of-the-moment debut could lead to a production pickup

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept wasn’t supposed to appear at the2018 New York Auto Show. But as the story goes, VW execs liked the design study so much it made an 11th-hour decision and brought the Tanoak Concept as a surprise debut. Now that we’ve seen it, we’re glad Volkswagen made the audible because the prototype pickup received such a favorable response that there’s a groundswell of support building on turning the concept car into a full-blown production vehicle. It’s too early to tell if Volkswagen is going to give the people what they want, but don’t be surprised if that light bulb turns on soon.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Exterior

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Exterior
- image 775631
Considering that pickups are appreciated as much for their functionality as they are for their design, the Atlas Tanoak Concept checks a lot of backs as far as a functional pickup is concerned.

From a size standpoint, the Atlas Tanoak Concept is big. It measures 214.1 inches long, making it 115.8 inches longer than the Atlas SUV. It’s also around four inches longer than a Honda Ridgeline. Combine that length with a width of 79.9 inches and a height of 72.6 inches and you have a full-fledged mid-size pickup. It also has a 128.3-inch wheelbase, which is 11 inches longer than the Atlas SUV. As far as physicality goes, the Atlas Tanoak Concept isn’t messing around.

Just as important in that equation is the MQB modular platform from which the concept sits on. The versatility of the platform — it’s used on everything between the Volkswagen Polo and the Atlas SUV — allowed Volkswagen to make the most of its size. That’s one of the reasons why the concept has a crew cab, short-bed design that also features 50.4 inches of room between the bed’s wheel wells and a 64.1-inch carbo bed that can extend to 90.2 inches when fully opened. Considering that pickups are appreciated as much for their functionality as they are for their design, the Atlas Tanoak Concept checks a lot of backs as far as a functional pickup is concerned.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
- image 711945
Aesthetically, we see a lot of styling cues from the Atlas SUV and the Atlas Cross Sport Concept.

Aesthetically, we see a lot of styling cues from the Atlas SUV and the Atlas Cross Sport Concept. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that the Tanoak Concept also carries the “Atlas” name. The extended headlights and illuminated VW logo are taken straight out the Cross Sport and overall rugged appearance is accentuated by the bespoke wheel arch extensions that are made from rugged plastic. The wheel arch extensions also incorporate integrated side marker lights, while a rail slides the length of the bed to carry items like ladders and canoes. The concept also rides on a set of 20-inch, high-gloss wheels finished in aluminum.

The rear section of the Atlas Tanoak Concept also provides an example of how top-class visual styling can be integrated into a utility vehicle. The wrap-around, animated taillights provide design consistency with the front section, while the red LED strips on the upper and lower areas of the tailgate create a stunning three-dimensional detail. Don’t expect to see that kind of style transition to a possible production model, but it’s still a great feature in the concept.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Interior

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Interior
- image 775628
Volkswagen designed this lighting effect to emit either yellow or blue light at night, depending on whether the pickup is driving in City or Off-road mode.

The interior of the Atlas Tanoak Concept is closely related to the Atlas Cross Sport Concept for reasons that are easy to understand. An illuminated bar runs across the length of the dashboard, giving the cabin an ambient feel to it. Volkswagen designed this lighting effect to emit either yellow or blue light at night, depending on whether the pickup is driving in City or Off-road mode.

The layout of the console and center tunnel also draws heavily from the Cross Sport. The infotainment system, for example, sits high up for easy operation, where it’s joined Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit, creating a futuristic digitalized environment you rarely see in production pick-ups today.

Don’t be fooled, though, by the tech savviness of the Atlas Tanoak Concept’s interior. It’s also dripping with premium materials, most notably the fine leather that covers a large surface area in the cabin. The dashboard, steering wheel, and armrest are all dressed up in leather. The fine material also makes an appearance on the seats. Speaking of seats, the interior also has enough space to accommodate five passengers.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Drivetrain

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 711946
The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept gets its juices from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept gets its juices from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. It’s the same figures the production Atlas SUV has at its disposal so you can guess that the similarities don’t end in the exterior and interior of the concept. All that power is channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission, which then sends it to all four wheels courtesy of Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

Seeing as this is a pickup, the Tanoak Concept also comes with a number of off-road modes depending on the road conditions the pickup finds itself in, including one that provides low-range gear reduction. in ideal road conditions, the Tanoak Concept is capable of sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in just 8.5 seconds. The pickup’s top speed wasn’t made available, but we’re pretty sure that it’s not going to beat any supercars anytime soon.

Conclusion

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept Exterior
- image 775632

Like a bunt that turned into a home run — ok, that’s technically impossible — the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept rose from an idea into an actual concept because somebody liked it enough to make that decision.

Fortunately, Volkswagen went with that move because we wouldn’t have seen the Altas Tanoak Concept. By all accounts, the German automaker has not made a decision on the pickup’s production potential. If you’re waiting for one, don’t expect it to happen soon because even Volkswagen of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken isn’t as bullish on the idea as some of you are hoping.

"If you look at this big, very patriotic segment in America, this (large pickup) segment, that is something very difficult if you tried to jump into that business model," he said. "We would never be able to get the business economics together, at least with the volume expectations that we have in mind."

Hopefully, a case can be made for the Atlas Tanoak Concept to get the production green light. It happened before, albeit in different circumstances, so don’t sleep on the thought just yet.

  • Leave it
    • Needs to be refined if it’s headed for production
    • No plans on turning it into a production model
    • Lots of worthy competitors

References

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Pickup Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 705495

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Pickup.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
- image 711955

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

2018 Volkswagen Amarok High Resolution Exterior
- image 688216

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Amarok.

no article
- image 744354

Read more Volkswagen news.

no article
- image 769406

Read more New York Auto Show news.

Press release

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup truck concept makes its world debut today at the New York International Auto Show. Named after a species of tree that is native to the Pacific Coast in the U.S. (and grows up to 135 feet high in height), the Atlas Tanoak is the first pickup based on Volkswagen’s MQB or modular transverse matrix architecture. Powered by a 276-horsepower V6 FSI® gasoline engine, the Atlas Tanoak uses an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission and the 4MOTION® all-wheel-drive system. Although there are currently no production plans for the Atlas Tanoak, Volkswagen is keen to gauge the reactions of buyers and media, since pickup trucks are one of the biggest volume segments in the U.S.

The MQB architecture is one of the most innovative and flexible technical platforms in the automotive world, spanning vehicles from the European Polo subcompact all the way up to the Atlas midsize SUV. The Atlas Tanoak concept shows that MQB can potentially stretch even further.

The Tanoak concept is 214.1 inches long, some 15.8 inches longer than the Atlas, which makes it a large midsize pickup by U.S. standards. The concept vehicle is 79.9 inches wide and 72.6 inches tall, with a wheelbase of 128.3 inches, 11 inches longer than the Atlas seven-seater.

The body of the concept vehicle has been raised nearly 2 inches compared to the Atlas SUV, yielding ground clearance of 9.8 inches. Designed as a dual-cab, five-seater, the Atlas Tanoak pickup has a cargo bed that is 64.1 inches long, 57.1 wide (50.4 inches between the wheel wells) and 20.9 inches high. This allows for easy transport of cargo such as bikes or surfboards with the tailgate in place, and ATVs and dirt bikes with the tailgate down. The spare wheel is located under the cargo bed, making it accessible even when fully loaded.

A unique feature of this pickup is a rail that is mounted on the pickup bed. Normally, the rail is fixed by the back of the cab, but it can slide the length of the bed and thus doubles as a carrier for things like canoes and ladders.

Drivetrain

The Atlas Tanoak concept uses Volkswagen’s 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The engine provides power to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and the 4MOTION® all-wheel-drive system with Active Control. This lets the driver select from various on- and off-road modes within seconds for optimal grip on dry, wet, slick or unpaved surfaces. For tougher off-road use, the pickup also has a mode that provides a low-range gear reduction. Either on- or off-road, the Atlas Tanoak rides on newly designed 20-inch wheels that wear 275/55 tires. The vehicle will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.

Design

Although the Atlas Tanoak is based on the production SUV, the pickup is completely redesigned. Up to the B-pillar, there are similarities, but the frontal treatment is more rugged, in keeping with a pickup truck’s mission. The headlights and front bumper, using round LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), were redesigned and extend into the side profile.

Additional redesigned components include: the engine hood that is significantly raised in middle; the entire grille unit including LED headlights; and the bumper. Very rugged underbody protection that integrates a centrally mounted winch and carabiner are also featured.

The designers worked the Atlas logo into the front end, and integrated an animated lighting display. When the Atlas Tanoak is opened, the white VW logo gradually brightens. From there, the white light runs over the two crossbars of the grille and into the headlight surrounds. As soon as activation of the lighting strips has reached the headlights, the LEDs of the two strips in front briefly ‘swipe’ out from the logo and back until the LED headlights and distinctive, narrow, six-sided LED DRLs in the bumper activate.

Other special design features for the pickup include wheelarch extensions, made from rugged plastic that incorporate integrated side marker lights, and high-gloss 20-inch wheels that use contrasting aluminum and black coloring.

The Tanoak takes an entirely different path than the Atlas SUV from the B-pillars back. The rear doors of the dual cab are not very noticeable at first glance, because the handles are integrated into the C-pillars and are barely visible. The dual cab and its window surfaces emphasize the vehicle’s length. Another conspicuous departure from the SUV are the rear fenders, which have more strongly flared surfaces. The cab and bed are painted in ‘Red Earth’.

Typical for a pickup, the back of the Tanoak is defined by its low-hinged tailgate. When opened, the 64.1-inch cargo bed is lengthened by an additional 26.1 inches, effectively extending it to 90.2 inches. The Atlas logo is integrated into the tailgate, which also features distinctive wrap-around, animated lighting. Red LED strips on the upper and lower areas of the tailgate transition into three-dimensional LED taillights on the sides. The VW logo is illuminated in white, and there is a white LED stripe in the cargo bed rail, which, when activated, illuminates the cargo bed. The lower part of the rear body is designed both as an underbody shield and a diffuser. Above each exhaust tailpipe sits a rugged towhook.

Interior

The Atlas Tanoak concept is designed as a very spacious five-seater. Sporty, contoured seats are used in front, which offer very good lateral support during tough off-road duty. The same applies to the rear seating, with the passengers in the second row sitting on individual seats that match the ergonomic and design quality of the front row.

The instruments, center console, and multifunction steering wheel are heavily redesigned from the Atlas SUV. The majority of functions, including the air conditioning, are operated digitally in the Tanoak. The touchscreen infotainment system is positioned high up for easy operation, almost alongside the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. Both these screens and the controls for the air conditioning merge to form a digitalized cockpit environment. Ambient lighting integrated into the instrument panel and the roofline console immerse the interior in yellow or blue light at night, depending on whether the vehicle is in Off-road or City mode.

Arranged on the center console between the driver and front passenger are the newly designed shifter grip for the eight-speed automatic transmission and the redesigned 4MOTION with Active Control, with mode selection via a metallic slider. It was intentionally designed to be very sturdy, so that it can be operated everyday by people who are used to driving a pickup, even while wearing work gloves.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: