THE Volkswagen Amarok is by far the most polished of the current crop of dual-cab utes offered in Australia, but the Atlas Tanoak concept, unveiled at the New York motor show, takes the polish to a new, previously unseen lustre.
VW’s official position is that there are no production plans at this stage, but that position is very much a USA-centric one, where Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North America, is on record saying he’s not interested in selling a dual-cab ute in the US market, citing the loyalty of American buyers to the current crop of large (read: oversize) ‘trucks’ and the need to prioritize growth in other segments.
But Woebcken does want to monitor the reaction to Atlas Tanoak, and send a message to the US market that VW is about more than just small cars.
“We’re always exploring opportunities,” he told Wheels in New York. ”And we want Americans to know that VW is much more than just [New] Beetle, Polo, and Golf.”
However, plenty of US observers are not buying VW’s coy approach, and reckon production is a cert. Regardless, what about elsewhere for a production version of Atlas Tanoak? In a market like Australia, there’s no question that a dual-cab ute of this calibre would quickly find a strong following.
There’s real design flair to elements of its exterior, evident in the sharp crease lines defining the wheel arches at each end, and the concealed handles for the rear doors.
Underneath, the concept rides on a stretched version of the MQB modular platform that underpins so much of VW’s model range, including the Tiguan in Australia. That would seemingly limit the axle articulation and hardcore off-road ability buyers now expect in the dual-cab segment, but as a more refined, road-biased alternative to Amarok? Maybe not so far-fetched.
Atlas Tanoak is 5438mm long, which makes it around 300mm longer than the Atlas seven-seater SUV, and enough to consider it, in the US at least, “a large midsize pickup.” The wheelbase, likewise, is 280mm longer than the already-pretty-big Atlas.
Inside, the concept is largely faithful to the interior of the production Atlas SUV sold in the US, so there’s a level of understated ‘premiumness’ not seen in this class, even in the forthcoming Mercedes X-Class.
The dash display is of the digital variety, the seats are deeply sculpted, and the multimedia system integrated with flush seamlessness into the centre stack. Key changes to the production Atlas interior are aimed at usability: a new transmission shifter and revised drive-mode selector knob are visibly chunkier so they can be used with gloves, for example.
Similarly, the drivetrain of the concept is pretty much production Atlas, being a 3.6-litre V6 delivering 206kW and 360Nm, fed through an eight-speed automatic transmission to VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, with various off-road modes available for use on loose terrain.