New Atlas Tanoak Pickup Concept Is VW's Love Letter To America

VW Atlas Cross Sport concept shows hybrids have an exciting future		
	Matt Burns

   	8 hours

VW Atlas Cross Sport concept shows hybrids have an exciting future Matt Burns @ 8 hours

Most of the Volkswagen SUV concepts that previewed what is now the Volkswagen Atlas seven-seat crossover, on sale today, sported plugs-though no such version emerged into production. Volkswagen started with the Atlas 7-seat SUV and its underlying MQB platform, then injected 16 inches of extra length.

Also borrowed from the Atlas is the Tanoak's engine choice. But VW has struggled for 48 years now to reach new levels of USA sales, and with an MQB-based Atlas family in the works in Chattanooga, it might finally be ready to answer President Johnson's Chicken Tax.

Wednesday as Volkswagen took the wraps off the New Atlas Cross Sport 5-seat SUV that will be built in Chattanooga, the automaker also surprised the audience with a new vehicle, the Atlas Tanoak pickup truck as a concept vehicle.

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup truck concept made its world debut at the New York International Auto Show. The all-wheel-drive Tanoak concept rides on 20-inch wheels.

Volkswagen chose to use hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains with the Atlas Sport, at least for for the concept auto. The grille bars are illuminated and serve as LED daytime running lights.

It looks great but, more importantly, it's useful functionality that other pickup makers aren't yet offering.

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The spacious interior of the Atlas Tanoak Concept caters to both traditional truck customers and a more tech-savvy audience. The active LED lighting features are replicated at the rear. The steering wheel is a chunky, thick-rimmed affair that feels like it could've been pulled from a sports auto.

A number of thoughtful pickup truck touches are found inside, including a redesigned shifter that's easier to handle while wearing work gloves. Still, a hybrid would fit much better in Volkswagen's current line-up, and we can't help but imagine how the Tanoak equivalent of a Ford F-150 Raptor might perform.

But the big reason VW can't just ship the Amarok here is that pesky Chicken Tax, which greatly favors domestically produced trucks.

The "Sport" in the model's name is justified by the presence of a 355-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines the Atlas' 276-hp 3.6-liter V6 with two electric motors: a front-mounted one that develops 54 hp and 162 lb-ft, and a rear unit that makes 114 hp and 199 lb-ft. The goal is to get feedback, with the automaker saying that it recognizes just how important pickups are to the U.S. market.

Especially if that pickup is built in the U.S., where pickups roam unchallenged at the top end of the sales leader boards. Indeed, VW suggests you'd only see around 26 miles of EV range, and that's with only the rear axle motor in play.

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