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.
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.
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.
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.