VW's Atlas pickup truck concept is real, but don't get too excited

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The Atlas Cross Sport is a five-seat SUV for the American market, which will go into production in 2019. The Ford F-150, in particular, was not only the best-selling truck in the American market, but the top-selling vehicle, period, with volume coming to almost double that of the leading SUV, the Toyota RAV-4.

Bigger than the Amarok, the new Tanoak concept auto is more than five metres long and will be the first pickup ever built off Volkswagen's incredibly versatile MQB architecture. Unlike the (previous and long-time VW fan fetish) Amarok, this concept is sporting a powertrain that is already U.S-certified. Volkswagen wants to take advantage of that with two more MQB-based models, a pickup and a coupe-shaped version which was also presented at the New York Auto Show. Like the Honda Ridgeline, the concept is a unibody pick-up, in this case based around VW's flexible MQB unibody platform - which means it's actually got more in common with a Golf GTI than a plaas bakkie.

But there's a big bed in the back, and almost ten inches of ground clearance underneath.

Tuesday evening, before the NY auto show media days began, VW revealed a "near-production" concept for a shorter, five-seat version of the current Atlas, to go on sale next year as the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. The all-wheel-drive Tanoak concept rides on 20-inch wheels. The cab and bed are painted in Red Earth.

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The Atlas Tanoak Concept is a dual cab, five-seat configuration with a short bed.

It looks great but, more importantly, it's useful functionality that other pickup makers aren't yet offering.

Moving inside, the concept's layout is almost identical to that of the seven-seat Atlas, but there are more gizmos here to befit its status as a show auto. The active LED lighting features are replicated at the rear.

The centre console features a newly designed shifter grip for the eight-speed automatic gearbox while the Active Control modes can be selected via a metallic slider and has been created to be used even when the driver is wearing work gloves.

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Inside, you'll find all the latest VW goodies like a 12.3-inch screen serving as the instrument cluster, as well as a 10.1-inch touchscreen with proximity sensors and gesture control serving as the infotainment hub. The 3.6-liter V6 engine is rated at 278 horsepower, which is sent to a 4Motion all-wheel-drive system via the familiar eight-speed gearbox.

Described as a "near-production concept", the Atlas Cross Sport should provide a pretty good indication of the actual production version that is scheduled to hit the United States market next year.

Where this theory runs into trouble is with the same Volkswagen customers who have long wanted such a pickup, as the midsize truck's diesel powertrain and (relatively, mind you) smaller dimensions were seen as selling points.

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