Volkswagen's SUV family affair begins

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The Tanoak concept is a little longer than the production Ridgeline, both in overall length and wheelbase. The company says that 54 percent of its US sales already are being generated by the new-for-2018 Tiguan compact SUV and the current three-row Atlas mid-size family SUV.

As well as previewing the appearance of the upcoming production version of the Atlas Cross Sport, the concept on show in NY also serves to showcase a new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain being developed by Volkswagen as an option to the existing gasoline engines offered in the Atlas SUV. Further, it's on a platform that is built here (which helps VW avoid Chicken Tax complications and any forthcoming Trump administration tariffs) and will not require any special hoop-jumping for parts and service considerations. A more mainstream Atlas Cross Sport is seen as a better fit as a sportier two-row SUV for the USA than the departed Touareg.

With a bold grille and a more structured front bumper the new five-seat SUV closely previews a second Atlas model planned for 2019. Behind the spacious five-passenger interior, the bed is 64 inches long and 57 inches wide.

The Chicken Tax is still in effect, of course, so it would take a North American Free Trade Agreement assembly plant, or a few exemptions such as Australia, to build the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak, which made its debut in concept form at the New York International Auto Show Wednesday.

As with the Atlas SUV, it is based on Volkswagen's MQB (Modularen Querbau - modular transverse architecture) platform. However, it's shorter in length with short overhangs, lower in height and narrower than the standard auto.

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The centre console, steering wheel and instruments have been heavily redesigned from the Atlas SUV. Headroom for the second row may be a little tighter - a trade-off for the slanted C-pillars and rakish roofline with panoramic moonroof that stretches into a rear roof spoiler with black fins. The horizontal side character line is extended across the rear end with aluminum trim that sweeps under the LED taillights. The Atlas Tanoak has a more rugged appearance to match its off-road capabilities with a raised bonnet and rugged underbody protection, which houses a centrally mounted winch and carabiner.

Volkswagen's Atlas Cross Sport concept. The active LED lighting features are replicated at the rear.

It adds a 40-kilowatt (54-horsepower) electric motor to the 276-hp 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6 now used in the Atlas, powering the front wheels through a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. Shifting for the concept's six-speed automatic is via an electronic toggle shifter. It has electronic all-wheel-drive capability as well as multiple modes that manage power and energy use for different needs and conditions.

Volkswagen says the vehicle's engine can produce 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque and accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds.

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