Atlas to become a Volkswagen model line in America

The Atlas is a 7-seater SUV produced in Volkswagen’s US factory.

Volkswagen is on a SUV offensive, not just introducing new models like the latest generation of the Touareg but also giving a glimpse of more to come. Because the American market has requirements which differ from the rest of the world, the company has often had to develop specific models and the Atlas SUV is such a model. It went on sale last year and is the largest model sitting on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform.

Now it appears that the Atlas name could become a model line rather than a single model, going by the two concept vehicles the company has been displaying this weekend at the New York International Auto Show.

As with the Atlas SUV, produced in Volkswagen US factory, the Atlas Cross Sport and Tanoak are designed for the American market. With its hybrid drive and a coupe-like rear body design, the 5-seat Cross Sport is intended for motoring in metropolitan areas like New York or San Francisco. The Atlas Tanoak, on the other hand, is a pick-up and it will compete in a segment which has been dominated by American brands for decades. Volkswagen has only just started making pick-ups (the Amarok) since 2010 and may still need to stay on the learning curve just like Toyota did when it wanted to sell more pick-ups in America.

Volkswagen currently has a pick-up called the Amarok (left) but it isn’t the company’s first such vehicle. Between 1989 and 1997, it also sold a pick-up model called the Taro but this was actually a Hilux (fifth generation) which the German company assembled from CKD kits supplied by Toyota.

The decision has already been made to manufacture the Cross Sport at the US plant, together with the 7-seat Atlas and the Passat. Volkswagen will invest around US$340 million for the new SUV’s market launch, in addition to investments of around US$900 million already made to expand the plant for Atlas production. Like the 7-seat Atlas, the new 5-seater also uses the MQB platform.

Its plug-in hybrid drive (PHEV) can provide an all-electric driving range claimed to be up to 70 kms. The high-performance battery can be charged either externally or while driving, like other PHEVs. A second version of the Cross Sport has a conventional hybrid drive without an external battery charging function and has limited range in an all-electric mode (around 2.5 kms). Both variants will have all-wheel drive (4MOTION with an electric propshaft).

The engine side of the hybrid powertrain is a 3.6-litre FSI V6 petrol engine with 280 ps/350 Nm. On the electric side are 2 electric motors; the front motor develops 40 kW/220 Nm and the rear motor generates 85 kW/270 Nm. It is supplied with energy that comes from a compact lithium-ion battery stowed in the transmission tunnel.

As for the Tanoak, this concept pick-up also has technical DNA which follows the MQB for the first time. The name comes from a species of tree that is found along the Pacific Coast and grows up to 45 metres in height. With a length of 5438 mm, the Tanoak is considered a mid-size pick-up in the and has a width of 2030 mm wide and stands 1844 mm tall. It has a double cab for 5 persons and behind it is a cargo bed measuring 1627 mm in length, 1450 in width and 530 mm deep.

For the concept model, the cargo box has been designed to transport bikes, boards and smaller boats. A special bracket on the cargo bed can be released from its parked position near the rear window of the dual cab and be moved to the side walls of the cargo box. This produces a carrier system that can be used to transport canoes, for example, by easily and securely fastening them to fixed mounting points at the cargo bracket and on the roof of the Tanoak.

Power for the pick-up is proposed to come from a 3.6-liter V6 FSI engine. It transfers power and a maximum torque of 350 Nm variably to the two axles via a 4MOTION all-wheel drive system and an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Volkswagen officials insist that there are no plans to produce the Tanoak for sale but observers find that hard to believe. Much of the hardware is shared with the Cross Sport and perhaps the question is how many units can Volkswagen expect to sell in a segment that is seeing increasing competition.

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[Chips Yap]