A potential competitor for the Honda Ridgeline
For the last week or so, we’ve heard rumors that Volkswagen planned to bring a pickup truck concept to this year’s New York auto show. Turns out, those rumors were correct. Meet the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept.
As the name suggests, the Tanoak is based on the Volkswagen Atlas, but with a total length of 214.1 inches, it’s nearly 16 inches longer. The wheelbase has also been stretched by 11 inches to accommodate a 64.1-inch-long bed. Meanwhile, the body has been raised 2 inches to give the Tanoak about 10 inches of ground clearance. With the tailgate down, VW says an ATV can fit in the Tanoak’s bed. For comparison, the Honda Ridgeline is 210 inches long, has a 64-inch bed, and offers slightly more than 7 inches of ground clearance.
Under the hood, you’ll find the same naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6, eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel-drive system that Volkswagen uses in the Atlas. Making 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, the Tanoak’s V-6 is powerful enough hit 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, according to VW. That makes it significantly slower than the last Honda Ridgeline we tested, even though both trucks have similar power figures.
Inside, there’s seating for five and a surprisingly production-ready cabin. Designers tried to give the Tanoak a look of its own by redesigning the center console, steering wheel, and instrument cluster. And while the Atlas offers plenty of buttons and knobs, the Tanoak relies on a touchscreen for a cleaner, simpler look. The shifter and drive mode controller, on the other hand, still get physical controls that were reportedly designed to be used while wearing gloves.
For now, Volkswagen says it has no plans to put the Tanoak into production.
“Showing a concept is not announcing something,” said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of VW North American region, at the New York auto show. “It is testing how the audience resonates.”
If production is unlikely, why even create a concept?
“We have a great idea,” he said. “Whether it fits in total business economics is still the subject of validation and nothing confirmed yet,” he said. And it is in keeping with comments Woebcken made in Chicago in February when he said that a small pickup is doable but is a tough business case and not a top priority.
In New York, he said it is doable because it sits on the same MQB platform as the Atlas crossover and the new five-passenger version of the Atlas. The pickup concept shows how far the MQB platform can be stretched, Woebcken said. And it helps the business case because of the economies of scale the platform offers.
And while it is not at the top of his wish list, “I didn’t say it was off my list,” he said.
The automaker is likely testing the waters to see if the small truck market, which has recently grown with the return of the Ford Ranger, is ready for a VW-badged pickup. Unlike the foreign-market Amarok, a production Tanoak could be built and sold in the U.S. relatively easily since the Atlas is already produced at VW’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Alisa Priddle contributed to this post