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Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak ute concept revealed in New York

Volkswagen could be about to toss its (cowboy) hat into the American pick-up ring, unveiling its Atlas Tanoak ute concept at the New York Auto Show.

Based on the brand's seven-seat Atlas, and using the same MQB platform that underpins most of the Volkswagen range the Atlas Tanoak is a dual-cab 'short-bed' truck. Which, in short, means it's dwarfed by the monstrous American pick-ups from Ram, Ford and Chevrolet, but wouldn’t look too out of place prowling Australian roads.

Like us, Americans tend to get a little excited at the thought of a new truck arriving, so VW has been quick to point out there are no current production plans for the Tanoak (the name, by the way, is taken from the Tanoak trees that dot America’s Pacific Coast). But with America’s pick-up market booming, VW has said it is “keen to gauge the reaction of potential buyers since pick-up trucks are one of the biggest volume segments in the US.”

“Showing a concept is not announcing something,” VW’s North American boss Hinrich Woebcken,  told the media. “It is testing how the audience resonates.

“We have a great idea. Whether it fits in total business economics is still the subject of validation and nothing is confirmed yet.”

Savvy American sleuths, though, think VW doth protest too much, with the Tanoak concept looking tantalisingly close to production-ready in the metal.

Will the Tanoak reach production? The smart money says, probably. Will the Tanoak reach production? The smart money says, probably.

Under the bonnet lives a petrol-powered V6 engine producing 205kW (enough for a zero-to-100km/h sprint of around 8.5 seconds), matched with an eight-speed automatic and VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system. The latter features pre-programmed off-road settings to help make the most of the 249mm of ground clearance.

Up front, the grille and headlights have been reshaped  to ensure it doesn't look too much like its Atlas donor (think tougher). The extended wheel-arches house high-gloss 20-inch alloys, while at the rear, the Atlas logo is embossed into the metal of the tailgate, which is framed on each side by strips of LED lighting.

The gate opens to reveal a 1628mm tray (2291mm if you include the top of the folded-down gate). Beneath the tray lives extra underbody protection that also acts as a rear diffuser, and there is a recovery hook housed above each of the twin exhaust pipes.

So, will the Tanoak reach production? The smart money says, probably. And better still, if a right-hand drive model was to ever appear, VW Australia would have its hand in the air, too.

“If it became available in right-hand drive, it would certainly be of interest,” said VW Australia’s General Manager, Corporate Communications, Paul Pottinger.

Is the Atlas Tanoak ute the weapon to take on Mercedes-Benz's X-Class ute? Tell us what you think in the comments below.