AROUND THE INDUSTRY
VW WILL NEED MORE THAN THE NAME OF A NORTHWEST TREE TO GROW MARKET SHARE
I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be a truck enthusiast. With the increase in truck sales, manufacturers are pouring R&D cash into new truck technology, features, and models. Even manufacturers who’ve been saying they can’t compete in the North American marketplace just two years ago, are now revealing concepts to gauge the interest in what their engineers can build at a competitive cost.
The VW Atlas Tanoak Concept is just such a truck. VW wants a larger share of North American vehicle sales. North Americans are buying more trucks and SUV’s. Ergo VW needs to build us a truck.
However the Tanoak is not a truck for truck enthusiasts. This is a truck for car people. It is a unibody construction using the same marketing strategy as the Honda Ridgeline. Build a vehicle that looks like a truck, hauls like a truck, has the clearance of a truck, but handles more like a crossover.
Let’s start with what VW did right before we push this concept back into the Atlantic, hoping the currents will take it back to Nuremburg for a revamp.
It is large by mid-size pick-up standards at 5.45 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1.84 metres tall, with a wheelbase of 3.26 metres. They’ve provided the Tanoak with 25 cm of ground clearance and powered it with a gas 3.6L V6 cranking out 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed transmission that
uses VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) system. It isn’t a full time AWD but actually is front wheel drive that engages the rear wheels in a fraction of a second if traction is required. You get 2WD fuel economy when you want it and AWD traction when you need it.
The cargo bed is 163 cm (64.1 in) long, 145 cm (57.1) wide (50.4 inches between the wheel wells) and 53 cm (20.9 in) high. You can put the tailgate down and load a 4x8 sheet of plywood flat, or go out to play with your kayaks, bikes or ATV’s.
We love the front and rear tow hooks, front bumper mounted winch, under body protection and rugged off-road tires, but scoff at the 20” wheels. The truck has a bold aggressive look from the front and stance like a mountain cat from the side. The rear door handles integrated into C-pillars are an ‘interesting’ touch as are the marker lights integrated into the fender flares. The dual exhaust looks good but the departure angle looks a little weak for an off-road truck.
VW designers must have gotten a discount on LED lights as they wrap across the front in white from headlight to headlight, illuminate the air vents where fog lights should be, wrap the rear in red from taillight to taillight, and create glowing white VW logos front and rear. It looks more like a neon VW sign in Vegas than a truck; perhaps I’m being too harsh. The one place that makes sense is the LED strips in the cargo rail, which illuminates the truck bed.
The German’s are pretty smart engineers. Why would they build this unibody concept? The reasons are affordability and target marketing. The Tanoak is built on VW’s flexible Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture, a similar production concept to Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which underpins a number of different models in the Toyota line. Using the same architecture as the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport Concept SUV would allow VW to build the Tanoak more cheaply, and in their Chattanooga, TN facility, thereby avoiding the 25% import tariff from the US government, which is essentially why North America never received their Tamarok mid-size pick-up.
You may have the impression that I’m not as impressed by the truck as other media. You’re right. It’s not that I don’t want VW to build a truck, because I do. VW built the concept Tanoak to gauge interest and get feedback from the truck buying public. Now they have it. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.
Is there a place for this truck in North American driveways? Sure. But not mine.