Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Prototype Drive: Atlas Tugged

Unlike the Ridgeline, which has a bed structure separate from the cabin, the Tanoak seeks to unitize the cabin and the bed with conjoined sheetmetal, Hube said.

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Also, although the Tanoak concept is larger than the Ridgeline in several key dimensions, remember that most design studios oversize their concepts so they carry more oomph on the show stage. A production version might be a touch smaller.

How does the Tanoak drive? In a short loop of 17-Mile Drive, the Tanoak carries a more rugged look and feel than that of the Atlas. Being a concept, the Tanoak was governed to 20 mph—we were passed by a cyclist at one point—so any sort of evaluation of its VR6 powertrain was moot. VW predicts an 8.5-second 0-60 time, which would place it among the slowest in the midsize class.

The bed has the usual tie-downs, but there is one cool feature: The bed’s side rail caps pop out, allowing a hoop to slide out and back from the roof frame, providing an additional brace point for a surfboard or kayak.

A climb into the back seat was a bit cramped on legroom, but Hube said the thick concept seats would likely be thinner in a production version, providing a couple extra crucial inches of space.

A Volkswagen pickup truck may not be the weirdest idea in the book. After all, they did it before, back in the early ’80s. Sold around the world as the Caddy, the Rabbit-based compact pickup was built in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. Despite the pickup’s blue-collar, coal-country production source and smart fuel economy, sales fizzled after just a few years and VW pulled the plug.

VW product planners are eyeing the sales of the Ridgeline, which saw a first-generation peak of 50,193 in 2006. But the recession numbed demand for Honda‘s unibody pickup, and sales floundered in the teens. Last year, the first for the new generation, Ridgeline sales jumped to 34,749.

Would such volumes be sufficient for VW to build the Tanoak? That remains to be seen. A niche variant usually requires a minimum of 30,000 annual units for a manufacturer to consider building it.

One last thing: Should VW decide to build it, and keep the name, it’s pronounced tan-oke, not tan-o-whack.

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Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Prototype Honda Ridgeline
Wheelbase 128.3″ 125.2″
Length 214.1″ 210.0″
Width 79.9″ 78.6″
Bed Box 64.1 x 57.1 64.0 x 60.0
Engine 3.6L V-6 3.5L V-6
Horsepower 276 280
0-60 8.5 secs (est. ) 7.3 secs
Starting Price TBD $30,985

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