Home: Motoring > Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak unveiled at NY

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak unveiled at NY

From:Greg Kable 2018-08-29 20:33:36

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak is a new mid-sized pick-up first revealed at the New York motor show back in April.

Conceived around the company’s highly versatile monocoque MQB (Modularen Querbau) platform, as used by a wide range of VW models ranging from the compact Polo hatchback to the Atlas SUV, the dual-cab concept hints at how the German car maker intends to further raise its presence in the increasingly lucrative global pick-up market against a raft of rough-and-tumble rivals that include the Toyota Hi-Lux, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado as a possible addition to its line-up alongside the more rugged ladder frame chassis based Amarok.

Although not yet officially approved for production, the Atlas Tanoak has been conceived as part of an eventual three-model line-up that also includes the seven-seat Atlas and the more sporting five-seat Atlas Cross Sport - the latter of which also made its debut in concept car guise at the New York motor show and is due to go on sale in selected markets, including North American and China, in 2019.

Described as less of a tradesman’s workhorse and more of a lifestyle-orientated pick-up, the new Volkswagen has been designed to offer a range of different engines, including turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel units as well as the naturally-aspirated 3.6-litre V6 petrol powerplant featured in the concept with 206kW and 350Nm of torque.

The transversely mounted engine channels its drive through an eight-speed torque-converter-equipped automatic gearbox and Volkswagens multi-plate clutch 4Motion four-wheel drive system in a combination providing both high and low-range gearing via a so-called Active Control function.

Plans to offer low-range gearing on the Tanoak are a departure from the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, which comes exclusively with high-range gearing. VW also says it envisages offering a number of driving modes, including on and off-road settings - the latter of which has been conceived around an electronic system offering a locking differential function.

Without a confirmed kerb weight, the performance figures of the new pick-up are largely theoretical. However, computer simulations suggest the Tanoak will reach 100km/h from standstill in 8.8sec and reach a top speed limited to 190km/h.

Volkswagen is not specifying what structural modifications it has made to its MQB platform to meet the sort of payload and towing expectations of prospective customers in the development of its new pick-up, saying only that the Tanoak “follows the technical DNA” of the existing Atlas. A claimed payload of 750kg, put it at the top of its class in terms of load carrying capacity. Interestingly, feasibility studies also have been made on a strengthened rear axle that would allow it to provide a claimed payload of up to 1050kg.

At 5438mm in length, 2030mm in width and 1844mm in height, the Atlas Tanoak is 184mm longer, 86mm wider and 10mm lower than the Amarok.

In the creation of its new pick-up concept, VW has extended the wheelbase of the MQB platform that underpins the Atlas by a considerable 280mm to 3260mm. By comparison, the Amarok receives a wheelbase of 3095mm.

The four-door dual cab body of the Tanoak is combined with a cargo box that extends to 1627mm in length and 1450mm in width. The width between the rear wheels wells is put at 1280mm, while the height of the cargo bed is a claimed 530mm.

The lower-hinged tailgate at the rear extends the overall length of the cargo box by 633mm to a total of 2290mm when opened. To maximise load space, the concept’s full-sized spare wheel is mounted underneath the cargo box, making it accessible even when it is fully loaded.

So what’s it like to drive?

Spend time with the Tanoak and it soon becomes obvious it has true production relevance, which isn’t always the case with one-off concepts. The thoroughness and detailing evident within its exterior design, impressive production car like interior, agreeable packaging and convincing properties of its mechanical package all make it immediately clear that Volkswagen is taking the new pick-up very seriously indeed. Such is its integrity, it already feels showroom ready. And it’s a good deal more contemporary in appeal and a more inviting car to spend time in than the Amarok.

Entering the new concept is fairly straightforward; all four doors open wide on conventional hinges to reveal large apertures through which to climb. With a good deal of ground clearance, it’s a big step up into the interior. Once aboard, we take our place on a high mounted leather lined driver’s seat that provides with a commanding view down its long bonnet and the surrounding road.

While you sit high, you sit in the Tanoak, not on it. The raised shoulder line and relatively shallow glasshouse provide you with an agreeably encapsulated feel behind the steering wheel, which provides a good deal of both high and reach adjustment. But that’s not to say you can’t see out; there’s sufficient visibility to each corner to provide you with a confident feel right from the beginning.

The interior borrows its general styling theme from on the Atlas but it has been upgraded to give it a more contemporary touch with the high mounted dashboard adopting high-definition digital instruments and Volkswagen’s latest touchscreen infotainment system among other changes.

The new pick-up concept also introduces newly designed switchgear within a bespoke leather-bound steering wheel and broad centre console, as well as ambient lighting and, in keeping with its conceptual nature, more upmarket materials throughout.

Volkswagen claims the Tanoak provides seating for up to five, but while the outer two rear seats are contoured and provide a good deal of leg room, the rear middle seat gets a raised cushion and lacks for legroom due to the transmission that runs through the middle of the cabin floor.

If the plan is to match the overall versatility and ease of use of the likes of the Toyota Hi-Lux, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado, the new Volkswagen pick-up already appears to be bang on target.  

Dzemal Sjenar, senior engineer for VW concept cars, tells us the naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine that powers the Tanoak concept has not been properly tuned yet. “We chose it to illustrate the packaging, not the performance,” he says. That said, it starts in an unflustered manner and the exhaust note is suitably raspy in nature.

Volkswagen officials insist they are still making up their mind on whether to produce their new pick-up, but once we’re rolling out on the public road, it is clear a good amount of engineering has already gone into the Tanoak. It’s not production ready yet, but all the key elements appear to be in place. Everything points to the likelihood that it could be ready for sale in a very short space of time should it receive a production greenlight.

The V6 engine propels the new pick-up up a limited 30mph (48km/h) with the sort of rich smoothness you’d expect of a production version of the new Volkswagen. We don’t go any faster over the remaining three miles, however, it is enough to get a good feel of the Tanoak’s on-road character. The slick-shifting automatic transmission handles gear changes with velvety properties. The steering is light but operates with agreeable response, and without any real tuning, the electro-mechanical system already delivers some, if not a lot, of feel and feedback.

The ride is firm, but with the same amount of spring travel as the Atlas and 265/55 profile tyres on 20-inch wheels, the new Volkswagen manages to traverse ruts and ridges in the road without the bone-jarring characteristics of most concepts I’ve driven. In fact, it is quite subtle running three up.

The Tanoak is quite wide - wider than the Amarok and every direct pick-up rival, in fact. But there’s sufficient directness within the chassis to allow you to place it confidently on the road. It also corners well without any unruly of heaving of the body. But with our speed severely limited, we barely manage to scratch the outer dynamic ability of the new Volkswagen.

Given the luxurious nature of its interior, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Tanoak is likely to be developed purely as an upmarket model. However, that’s not true, says Volkswagen, which indicates the business model being considered for the new model also takes into account a more rugged snorkel touting expedition like offering for off-road enthusiasts and a stripped out model aimed at farmers. We’re not permitted to hit the rough stuff today, but if the standard Atlas is any indication, it promises to deliver all the ability of the Hi-Lux, Ranger and Colorado away from the bitumen in a move that promises to give it broad appeal.

Even after a brief drive at limited speed, it is clear the Volkswagen  Tanoak has the potential and integral qualities to see it launch a concerted push in the burgeoning mid-size pick-up ranks.

From the elevated driver seat, it feels remarkably mature and sorted in a way many concepts I’ve driven over the years have not. In many respects it is more convincing production car proposition than the existing Amarok: smarter looking, a good deal roomier, far more contemporary from a technical viewpoint and, ultimately, more credible from a potential ownership point of view.

But despite the appeal of the one-off concept, there’s still a lot of work to be done before the Tanoak, or something similar to it can be placed into production.

The main decision facing Volkswagen as it establishes a business case for the new pick-up is whether to stick with the monocoque construction of the concept in the search of rigidity and refinement or follow its main rivals with a less technically advanced but more rugged ladder frame chassis for ultimate payload and towing capacity.

While Volkswagen’s US operations are keen to see the Tanoak based on the same monocoque chassis as the Atlas and upcoming Atlas Cross in a move that would bring additional production efficiency to its Chattanooga factory in Tennessee, it is not the only option being pursued.

Another possible outcome is an extension of its recently announced joint venture agreement with Ford. Volkswagen is not saying too much right now, but indications are a deal is being developed to twin the Tanoak with a successor to the existing Ranger in a program aimed at reducing development costs of a new ladder frame chassis and boost the potential profitability of such a model to a point where it could be given the greenlight as a possible successor to the Amarok.

It will be some time before we know just which way Volkswagen will go, but if a plan can be brought to fruition to place Tanoak into production, either on a monocoque structure or ladder frame chassis, it is safe to it will be a success.


Editor:Greg Kable