VW flirts with U.S. pickup offering with Atlas Tanoak concept

Tan oak? Tan-o-whack? However you say it, VW's got a new concept pickup that could one day be sold as a variant of its Atlas SUV in the United States... maybe.

Having hinted for years at bringing a pickup to the U.S. market, Volkswagen took a step closer to doing exactly that as it unveiled the Atlas Tanoak at the New York International Auto Show today. Sporting a 3.6L V6 good for 276 hp/266 lbs.-ft. of torque, eight-speed automatic and VW's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system, the concept is based on an extended-wheelbase Atlas SUV, only longer.

As far as controlling the automatic, "it was intentionally designed to be very sturdy so that it can be operated every day by people who are used to driving a pickup, even while wearing work gloves," Volkswagen noted in a release.

This concept would be a large midsize pickup. Volkswagen said it has no plans just yet to put the Tanoak into production, but of course "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 Tanoak concept is 79.9 in. wide, 72.6 in tall and 214.1 in. long — nearly 16 in. longer than the Atlas. With a wheelbase of 128.3 in., it's designed as a dual-cab truck with spacious seating for five.

The bed is 64.1 in. long and a maximum of 57.1 in. wide, with 50.4 in. of width available between the wheel wells. There's a spare wheel under the bed, and a movable rail can be slid up to the back of the cab and along the length of the bed for flexible cargo carrying options; think longer items like ladders.

Photo: Volkswagen

Volkswagen claims a zero-to-60 mph time of 8.5 sec. for the Tanoak concept truck, though it's not intended as a drag racer. There's some off-road tech built into the drivetrain, including an "Active Control" system that lets the driver select from various on- and off-road modes. There's also a low-range gear reduction for when low, controlled speeds are needed.

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. That includes a more rugged treatment up front, raised hood and "very rugged underbody section," according to the automaker. Plastic wheel arch extenders help house 20-in. wheels.  

Inside, the Tanoak follows the trend of more digitization in pickups with "the majority of functions" digitally controlled. There's a touchscreen infotainment system and "Volkswagen Digital Cockpit" screen as well as yellow or blue lighting built into the instrument panel and headliner. 

And, oh, as far as the name goes, Tanoak, or Notholithocarpus densiflorus, is a hardwood tree that grows along the coasts of California and Oregon.


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