4WDrive - - Contents -

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.

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