Volkswagen eyes the pickup truck segment with the Atlas Tanoak concept

We’ve heard rumors of Volkswagen returning to the pickup segment for years, but they’ve never materialized. The Advanced Activity Concept (AAC) from 2000 remained just that: a concept. The Amarok launched overseas in 2010 never disembarked on our shores. This year, the rumors are finally true. The German brand introduced a pickup truck named Atlas Tanoak at the New York auto show.

Named after a species of trees, the Atlas Tanoak stretches 214 inches long, nearly 80 inches wide, and 72 inches tall. It’s a large midsize pickup, meaning it theoretically competes in the same segment as the Chevrolet Colorado and the Toyota Tacoma. There’s a twist in the plot: it rides on a unibody platform. That makes it a direct rival for Honda’s lifestyle-oriented Ridgeline.

Volkswagen designed the Tanoak with practicality in mind. The cargo bed is large enough to store bikes with the tailgate up. Lowering it clears up enough space for an ATV. And though it’s based on the Atlas, the two models share very few styling cues. The Tanoak wears a more outdoorsy design with black plastic cladding all around and chiseled body panels. Light-up inserts in the grille bring the truck in line with the Atlas Cross Sport, a concept also introduced at the New York show.

The dual cab configuration creates a spacious interior with room for five passengers. It’s rugged above all, but the Tanoak doesn’t skimp on tech. It features the digital instrument cluster available in several Volkswagen and Audi products and a large, tablet-like touch screen that runs the infotainment system.

The concept car styling hides some pretty realistic hardware, including components already in production. Like the Atlas SUV, the Tanoak rides on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated (read: not turbo charged) 3.6-liter V6 engine that channels 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque to the four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Sound familiar? It might; it’s the exact same setup offered on top-spec variants of the Atlas.

“Volkswagen’s U.S.-produced Atlas has the potential to grow into a model family,” the company explained in a statement. We already know a five-seater model previewed by the Cross Sport concept will join the seven-seater model in showrooms next year. Could the lineup ultimately include a pickup truck? We don’t know, it sounds like Volkswagen hasn’t decided yet, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

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