We joined Volkswagen for Monterey Car Week and got a chance to drive their latest concepts on the California coast. Both preview new or potential members of the growing Atlas family and are based on the already-existing three-row SUV. VW has already confirmed the Atlas Cross Sport five-seater is coming to the market with the aim of introducing an SUV with a coupe-like roofline at an attainable price point.
VW has not yet committed to building the Tanoak pickup truck, but told us that the positive response from its debut at the New York auto show led them to start considering its viability in the U.S. market. If they end up manufacturing the Atlas-based ute, it would be the first pickup the German automaker has sold in the United States since the Rabbit-based model available on our shores more than twenty years ago.
Although VW capped their prototypes at an 18-mph speed limit, that didn’t stop us from gleaning new information about the imaginings of what we can expect in the future. Here are a few cool things we learned about these two concept vehicles during our drive on Monterey’s famous 17-Mile Drive.
- The MQB-platform lets these big rigs drive like tall cars.
It’s a safe bet that the majority of CUVs on the road use unit body designs and we can’t complain because it makes the high-riding vehicles handle a lot better. The Atlas family is no exception; both of the concepts we drove were variations on VW’s “Modular Transversal Toolkit” platform, or MQB for short. The Cross Sport will share more with the standard Atlas than the Tanoak would, but our tester was all Atlas ahead of the B-Pillars. It drove like it too. Even though the roads around Pebble Beach are twisty, the pickup, which is as wide as a Ford F-150, was easy enough to thread through the turns.
- The Tanoak will go head to head with the Honda Ridgeline.
VW’s crew told us that if there is a production version of the Tanoak, it would be more affordable than the Honda Ridgeline. Honda only moved 34,749 of their unibody pickups in the last year and public excitement for the Ford Ranger seems a bit lukewarm. If Volkswagen can capitalize on their reputation for building quirky vehicles in the event they decide to introduce a pickup to the U.S. lineup, there’s a chance it could be a sales success. We say build it!
- The Atlas Cross Sport may be a more affordable Atlas.
Across the industry, SUVs with coupe-like rooflines tend to be more expensive than their standard straight-roof counterparts. Volkswagen Group of America CEO and President Hinrich J. Woebcken told us in a roundtable that his aim to subvert this trend by reversing the typical hierarchy. This move could help boost Atlas sales and position it more competitively in one of the hottest segments in the U.S.
- The Tanoak has an extendable surf rack.
This one’s for the diehards. A metal support bar slides out from the cab to the center of the bed, allowing for extended roof storage space. Although it’s likely this feature won’t make it to production, it does show that VW is considering its heritage as it continues deeper into unfamiliar territory.
- The narrow-angle V-6 may continue to have a place in future VWs.
Volkswagen enthusiasts love the narrow-angle V-6 engine, or internally VR6, because it offers bigger-displacement power in a smaller package. Versions of this powerplant have been kicking around since its introduction in 1991, and both Tanoak and Atlas Cross Sport concepts featured these 3.6-liter six-cylinder engines under their hoods. However, the Cross Sport bespoke hybrid system may be indicative that VW may use electrification to further boost efficiency.
Watch this space for more on what’s next from VW’s Atlas family and check out our massive gallery from the concept drive event below.
Check out more of the Best Photos from the 2018 Monterey Car Week here.