In Greek mythology, Atlas was the poor soul condemned to hold up the heavens after losing out to the Olympians. A similarly huge weight is put on the shoulders of the Volkswagen Atlas midsize SUV—picking up where the successful Touareg left off in North America. And while Atlas the Titan was doomed to stand in one corner of the earth, Atlas the sport-ute has global ambitions so lofty that the German automaker has spun off a pair of concept cars based on it and presented both at the New York International Auto Show.
Like the Atlas, both the Atlas Tanoak pickup and the Atlas Cross Sport SUV utilize modified versions of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform. This award-winning modular transverse matrix is used by a wide range of models within the Volkswagen stable—from small city cars to high-riding SUVs. Both vehicles also share the Atlas’s 3.6-liter V6 FSI engine and patented 4Motion all-wheel drive system.
Atlas Tanoak Concept. Named after a tree that is native to the US Pacific Coast, the Atlas Tanoak is the first pickup truck based on the MQB platform. It is 400mm longer than the Atlas production SUV, making it a large midsize pickup by US standards. Lengthening the Atlas’s wheelbase by 280mm is the key to making room for the dual-cab, five-seat design. The large pickup bed also has a unique sliding rail that serves as a carrier for large and unwieldy cargo such as canoes and ladders.
Powering the Atlas Tanoak is a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 276hp and 361Nm. An eight-speed automatic transmission and the 4Motion all-wheel drive round out the off-road-ready powertrain. Alongside the various drive modes made available to the driver, the Atlas Tanoak also has a low-range mode for the gearbox, improving its capabilities on the rough stuff. Even on large 20-inch wheels, the Atlas Tanoak is no slouch as far as pickups go: The sprint from zero to 100km/h takes 8.5 seconds.
Although the Atlas Tanoak shares some design elements with the standard Atlas, the overall look of the truck leans toward its off-road nature. The grille and the headlight surrounds are illuminated by LEDs as running lights. The wheel arches are flared out and feature extensions to accommodate the wide 20-inch wheels and tires. The low-hinged tailgate also has the same full-length LED treatment as the front, while a white LED strip in the bed illuminates the entire cargo area. A redesigned raised hood and a winch built into the underbody protection complete the rugged look.
Inside the concept pickup, all occupants sit on sporty, contoured seats that offer lateral support during off-road driving. The heavily redesigned dashboard and steering wheel are based on the Atlas SUV. The touchscreen infotainment system is positioned high up and almost in line with the fancy Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. Ambient lighting in the cabin glows in blue or yellow, depending on whether the vehicle is in City or Off-Road mode. The center console features a redesigned shifter grip and a toggle switch for the 4Motion system. Volkswagen claims that the sturdy design of the controls can be operated by those wearing work gloves.
There are no production plans yet for the Atlas Tanoak, but Volkswagen is very keen on getting a favorable response from buyers since pickup trucks are among the biggest volume segments in the US market.
Atlas Cross Sport Concept. This is a new member of the innovative range of SUVs that is a crucial part of Volkswagen’s growth strategy in the US. Sales figures from February this year indicate that 54% of Volkswagen customers in America prefer the Tiguan or the Atlas. The Atlas Cross Sport is seen to increase VW’s share of the highly competitive SUV market in North America.
Essentially a five-seat version of the seven-seat Atlas midsize SUV, the Atlas Cross Sport is built on a shortened MQB platform. Wheelbase remains identical to that of the Atlas, but overall length is 190mm shorter. The Atlas Cross Sport features steeply raked C-pillars that give it a coupe-like profile. LEDs illuminate the headlight surrounds and the two-bar radiator grille in their entirety. Short front and rear overhangs along with flared wheel arches give the vehicle a stout yet powerful look. Finishing off the rear is an aluminum trim piece that straddles the width of the tailgate.
Inside, both the high-resolution infotainment and Volkswagen Digital Cockpit screens change graphic layouts depending on which drive mode is selected. Navigation data can be displayed in either 2D or 3D format. Worth noting is that the navigation data can be visually split into different levels, with each level showing different types of information. On the center console, the shift-by-wire transmission is operated by a large selector lever that toggles between Drive, Neutral and Reverse. Behind the gear selector is the 4Motion Active Control rotary knob that cycles through the various drive profiles. In the roofline area, there are touch-sensitive controls that operate the sunroof, sunshade and lighting functions.
The 3.6-liter V6 FSI engine in the Atlas Cross Sport produces similar power and torque numbers to those of the Atlas: 276hp and 361Nm. However, since this concept SUV is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the engine is boosted by front and rear electric motors. These motors add 54hp and 220Nm up front and 114hp and 270Nm at the back—bringing the total system output to 355hp and helping propel the Atlas Cross Sport from zero to 100km/h in just 5.4 seconds. The 4Motion system’s selectable drive profiles enable the car to operate on almost any terrain. A conventional mild hybrid drivetrain with 310hp could be made available as well.
Volkswagen is expected to launch the production Atlas Cross Sport in the US in 2019. This will be built alongside the Atlas and the Passat at the company’s Chattanooga facility in Tennessee.