The Atlas is showing off a more rugged personality in New York

As a relative newcomer to the mid-size, seven-seater SUV fold, the Volkswagen Atlas is still getting its feet wet in the segment. Soon enough, though, the Atlas could become more than just a run-to-the-grocery hauler as Volkswagen is set to unveil the Atlas Basecamp Concept at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. The Atlas Basecamp is a trail-ready concept that’s kitted with all sorts of accessories to showcase its understated versatility. The standard Atlas has the makings of a popular SUV, but it’s not as equipped for the outdoors as most people would like it to be. The Atlas Basecamp is an answer to that. It’s unlikely to hit dealerships soon, but its presence in New York next week is a step in the right direction for the SUV’s evolving identity.

Exterior

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept is a concept only in name. It’s not like the Atlas Tanoak Concept, a hastily produced pickup concept that could find its way in the market soon. The Atlas Basecamp, on the other hand, is an interpretation — an interesting one, at that — of a model that’s already out in the market.

The Atlas Basecamp started its life as a not-so-humble, family hauling Atlas SEL Premium, otherwise known as the range-topping version of the SUV that’s available in the U.S. market.

It figures that Volkswagen would choose the SEL Premium trim to showcase the Atlas’ would-be off-road chops; it wouldn’t make sense to do it in any other trim.

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Visually, there’s not much difference in the way the Atlas Basecamp looks compared to the standard Atlas SEL Premium. All the design elements remain where they are throughout the SUV’s body. The most notable change, in fact, is the color of the concept SUV. Whereas the Atlas SEL Premium is available in eight different colors — Fortana Red Metallic and Terra Brown Metallic are two of my favorites — Volkswagen switched things up with the concept, dressing up the Basecamp in a matte-finished Platinum Gray color. For the record, Platinum Gray is available as a standard color on the Atlas SEL Premium, but it’s available in a metallic finish. The matte finish of the Atlas Basecamp gives it a more understated look and the accompanying orange accents throughout the body, specifically in the front grille and mirror caps, provide a nice splash of color.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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The Atlas Basecamp also wears a body kit courtesy of Air Design.

The kit, though, is a bit understated compared to what we’re used to when we hear the term “body kit.” Volkswagen didn’t dive into the specifics of the body kit, but based on the photos, the underbody plates and the prominent side skirts are pretty easy to spot. The rear section, in particular, appears to receive more prominent underbody plates than what the standard Atlas SEL Premium is already carrying. Up top, the roof rack with the bike holders is pretty easy to distinguish. Same thing with the LED light bars sitting on opposite ends of the roof rack. They look totally inconspicuous in the day time — you might not even notice them — but they explode in prominence and importance at night when the roads-less-traveled become even trickier to navigate. Perhaps the most prominent upgrade the Atlas Basecamp Concept received is the set of fifteen52 Traverse MX Concept wheels that are wrapped in one of the meatiest all-terrain tires you’ll ever see. The wheels themselves are concepts courtesy of fifteen52, but unlike the Atlas Basecamp, series production versions are scheduled to arrive sometime in the fall of this year.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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The wheel-and-tire combination provides the Atlas Basecamp the necessary shoes to tackle uneven paths. The tires, particularly, a larger out of necessity, at least when you consider the kind of go-anywhere identity Volkswagen is trying to establish with the Atlas Basecamp. Larger and wider tires typically have thicker tread, which, in turn, can cut better through water, snow, mud, gravel, or less than stellar road conditions. Obviously, The concept’s off-road capability doesn’t just start and end with a new set of wheels and tires. In order to accommodate those massive wheels, Volkswagen also raised the SUV’s ride height by 1.5 inches — from eight inches to a stout 10.5 inches — compared to the standard Atlas. A new lift kit with coil over sprints sourced from noted suspension specialist H&R gets credit for the Atlas Basecamp’s improved ground clearance.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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A big part of the Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept’s appeal is the fact that its concept status doesn’t revolve on the Atlas alone.

We also need to talk about the Hive EX trailer at the back. Certainly less conspicuous than the astronomy-inclined trailer of the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept, the Hive EX is a form-meets-function type of trailer. It wears the same wheels and tires as the Atlas Basecamp Concept, but, more importantly, it packs plenty of creature comforts for those nights under the stars. Together, the Atlas Basecamp Concept and the Hive EX trailer make for an ideal tag team out in the wild. It’s not what you’d expect from an SUV that’s pegged as an urban people-hauler, but concepts like this prove that VW’s latest SUV is far more versatile than it’s been letting on. That’s a welcome surprise, for sure, especially for those of you who are in the market for a fresh mid-size, seven-seater SUV.

Interior

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept’s interior doesn’t get as much shine because, well, there aren’t any meaningful upgrades to look forward to. There’s no fancy leather to speak of and no contrast stitching to notice. Best I can tell, even the floor mats remain standard on the concept. Here’s what you need to know about concepts and special edition models: if the floor mats aren’t new or unique, then most of the interior likely retains its standard configuration.

The good news is that we are dealing with the Atlas SEL Premium.

That means that even without any purposeful upgrades in this section, there is an option to choose from three different leather trims: Golden Oak, Titan Black, and Shetland leather. That comes standard when you buy the top-of-the-line Atlas. Then again, only Golden Oak leather and Titan Black leather are available on a Platinum Gray Atlas. Seems like you’re going to have to navigate this section of the customization options for you to strike the right color balance between the exterior and interior of the SUV. For the most part, though, the Atlas Basecamp Concept doesn’t feature any significant interior upgrades. It’d be disappointing if we’re only talking about the SUV itself, but given that it’s towing a state of the art trailer, we can turn our attention to that instead because it more than makes up for what the SUV’s interior lacks.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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For the record, I’m a big fan of the Hive EX trailer, mostly because it looks like a chopped up Hummer H2 without of any of the ostentatiousness of the departed SUV. The trailer’s a bit boxy, but at least it doesn’t scream for the attention the way the Navara Dark Sky Concept’s trailer does. I like the black minimalist look. There’s something appealing about an understated package that conceals a decked out interior. That’s certainly the case here.

The Hive EX features plenty of creature comforts that you’re going to need for those nights you plan to spend under the stars.

It doesn’t feature a state-of-the-art Planewave telescope like the trailer in the Navara Dark Sky Concept, but it does have a pullout canopy, a stove, sink, freezer, refrigerator, propane tank, portable toilet, shower, removable leveling jacks, a propane tank, and, most importantly, a queen-sized bed. Now, I’m not going to judge any of you for your choice of accommodations in the outdoors, but give me a queen-size bed, a shower, and a portable toilet over hammocks any day. The propane-powered stove is awesome, too. At least I can take comfort knowing that I’m not too far away from cup noodles or a medium-rare steak in the event I start craving for either. Or maybe both. At the same time. Don’t judge me.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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You’re probably wondering, too, how all of this equipment can fit inside the trailer. Well, the short answer is not all of the equipment are found inside the living space of the trailer. Some, like the stove, sink, and freezer, can be accessed through a compartment on the front end of the trailer. Likewise, a counter can be pulled down from a separate compartment on the back end of the trailer. I don’t expect the shower head and the portable toilet to be inside the Hive EX, too.

Drivetrain

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Drivetrain
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Set your expectations low for this section. Actually, don’t set any expectations at all. The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept is powered by the same 3.6-liter V-6 engine as the Atlas SEL Premium. There are no special tricks that boost up the output of the engine.

What you get on the Atlas SEL Premium is 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque output as the Atlas SEL Premium.

An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard, and that’s responsible for sending power to all four wheels of the SUV. That’s what the Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium’s brochure will tell you.

What it won’t say is that you’re probably not getting the same amount of power and torque out of that V-6 engine when it comes to the Atlas Basecamp Concept. Between the raised height, the bigger tires, and the fact that it’s hauling a Hive EX trailer, the Atlas Basecamp Concept’s V-6 engine can probably produce somewhere closer to 250 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. I don’t have the exact figures because, a) Volkswagen didn’t divulge the concept’s power figures, and b) because I’m not a scientist. What I can tell you is that heavier wheels and tires, among other things, means less power realized against the road. If the Atlas Basecamp is wearing bigger tires, that’s going to have an effect of the amount of power that the wheels will receive from the V-6 engine, though not necessarily from the powertrain itself.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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Does less realized power make a big difference out in the real world? It does in some cases, but if you understand where you’re going and what you plan to do when you get there, it shouldn’t have that much of an effect on the SUV’s performance capabilities. The good news is that the Atlas Basecamp Concept doesn’t seem to have any problems hauling the Hive EX trailer around. Best I can tell, the trailer weighs somewhere around 2,000 pounds, so, at the very least, we know that the Atlas’ max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds is being put to good use.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas drivetrain specifications

Engine 3.6L VR6
Horsepower 276 HP @ 6,200 RPM
Torque 266 LB-FT @ 2,750 RPM
Drivetrain Front-wheel drive
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 17/24/19

Conclusion

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
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The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept isn’t going to blow the roof off the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It might not even make a Top 5 list of best debuts at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. The concept SUV will show up, smile for the cameras, and book its next appearance at the 2019 SEMA Auto Show later this year. It won’t wow anyone, but if you think that it will, then you’re missing the point of the concept entirely. Volkswagen isn’t bringing the Atlas Basecamp to New York so people can fawn all over it. It’s bringing the concept to the show for the purpose of showing everyone that the Atlas is not a one-trick SUV. Like most vehicles in its segment, there are layers to what the Atlas is capable of, provided that you know and understand what you want to do with it. The Basecamp is one example of what VW’s new SUV can become. I like that Volkswagen’s showing off the Atlas’ rugged and outdoorsy personality. It shows that even if It’s a mid-size SUV on paper, with the right equipment and the right goal in mind, it’s capable of far more than just your daily errand ride.

  • Leave it
    • Not available as-is, and probably won’t be available anytime soon
    • Not for everyone
    • It’s going to cost a bit of money to customize it

Further reading

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Volkswagen of America, Inc. is pleased to introduce the Atlas Basecamp Concept, which showcases a few of the many ways that the capable Volkswagen Atlas can be enhanced for trail seekers. Featuring a custom body, lift kit, custom wheels, all-terrain tires, roof rack with bike mounts, and LED light bars, the Atlas Basecamp Concept is ready for adventure.

The Basecamp Concept—designed with endurance mountain biking in mind—is the brainchild of Alex Earle, Exterior Design Manager at the Volkswagen Design Center California and avid cyclist. “The Basecamp Concept brings a go-anywhere attitude to the brand that is already synonymous with road-trip culture,” said Earle. “Whether you are taking on a series of challenging single-tracks with your favorite mountain bike or enjoying a relaxing evening under the night sky, the versatility of the Basecamp Concept provides ideal mobile solutions for just about any adventure.”

Using a Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium as the canvas, the Basecamp Concept is painted Platinum Gray and Black Uni with a matte finish and orange accents. The SEL Premium trim comes standard with a 3.6-liter VR6® engine making 276 hp and an eight-speed transmission, paired with Volkswagen 4Motion® all-wheel drive with Drive Mode Selection. A set of fifteen52 Traverse MX Concept wheels debut on the Basecamp Concept and are expected go into series production at fifteen52 this fall. The wheels are wrapped in 265/70R17 all-terrain tires.

Additional accessories on the Atlas Basecamp Concept include a custom body kit by Air Design, an H&R® lift kit with coil over springs that raise the ride height approximately 1.5 inches, a Front Runner® Slimline II roof rack system with bike holders, off-road LED light bars on the front and rear, as well as protective interior add-ons from Volkswagen Accessories.

The Basecamp Concept is shown with an off-road capable HIVE EX compact expedition trailer, featuring matching wheels and tires. Like the Atlas, the HIVE EX camper is assembled in the USA and built to take on the elements while providing ample comfort and space. Both lightweight and strong, the tow-behind camper is equipped with a queen-size bed, pullout canopy, and kitchenette, complete with a stove, a sink, and a refrigerator/ freezer combo that can operate on an optional 12-volt battery. Other integrated features include a self-contained water tank, propane tank, portable toilet, hot shower, and removable leveling jacks.

The Atlas Basecamp Concept can be viewed in person at the 2019 New York International Auto Show and the 2019 SEMA Show.

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