No one likes a dynasty. Whether it’s the Patriots in football, the Warriors in basketball, or arguably the Red Sox in baseball, it just makes it less fun to know that one entity has a stronghold on an area. There’s an old racing adage that says, “Racing improves the breed” and we couldn’t agree more. Competition is what makes everything more fun. Basketball was more fun when it was the Lakers and the Celtics battling it out. Baseball is more fun when the Yankees and Red Sox are both great at the same time. Football … well, the NFC needs Tom Brady to retire.
But it is the same thing with car companies. The Mustang needs the Camaro (and Firebird!), and the F-150 needs the Silverado and RAM. With trucks in mind, while the big boys have been battling it out to the death in the half-ton segment, quietly, the Honda Ridgeline has had something of a monopoly on the truck-that-feels-like-a-car segment. Well that’s all about to change, maybe.
We’d like to introduce you to the newest competitor to the Ridgeline: the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept. In case you were wondering, that last part is pronounced, “Tan-oh-whack”. We’re not sure what it is with VW and their questionable T-Named trucks (the Tiguan SUV is the other that comes specifically to mind), but in any case, the Atlas Tanoak has its sights set squarely on Honda’s bottom line.
Based off the massive Atlas SUV, Volkswagen chopped the back off and stretched the wheelbase almost a full foot to make the Tanoak a more-than-capably sized full-sized pickup (for a total length of 214-inches). The bed itself measures in at just a hair over 64-inches and the truck itself sports an impressive ten inches of ground clearance. Wondering how that stacks up to our Honda? The Ridgeline weighs in at 210-inches over all, exactly a 64-inch bed, and just about seven inches of ground clearance — not surprising that the VW eeks out the Honda in each of those categories is it?
Aside from the obvious visual changes, the Tanoak will sport the same naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine that powers the Atlas, and it makes the same 276-horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. That power gets routed through the same eight-speed auto trans and then through the same all-wheel drive system as the Atlas.
Inside, the Tanoak does try to differentiate itself from the Atlas slightly. The most obvious difference is the Tanoak’s use of a large touchscreen as opposed to the Atlas’ array of buttons. There is room for five adults to sit comfortably, while a full-sized ATV can come along for the ride out back.
The Tanoak does pale in comparison to the Ridgeline in terms of straight-line performance. it takes the VW 8.5 seconds to get to 60 mph, which is a full second slower than its rival. Towing capacity is a push (ironically) at a max of 5,000 pounds for each truck, and the VW looks like it might edge out the Honda in terms of fuel economy, albeit just barely with a 22/26 city/highway mpg vs. 19/26 city/highway respectively.
The Tanoak should come into the fray with a base price just shy of 30 grand, which would mirror Honda’s price of entry and then top out right around 35 grand, which, not shockingly, is where the Honda’s price ceiling happens to be.
So the VW Tanoak should be all set right? Honda has had this market niche basically cornered for more than a decade, and it’s about time someone came along to battle them for car-like-truck supremacy. But, as of right now VW has said it isn’t sure it will actually build the Tanoak. We think that’s just a way to gauge people’s reaction, as outrage will be more noticeable than interest, and cause people to speak up if they see something they can’t have. In our humble opinion, the Tanoak is long overdue. Honda could use a little competition, as could everyone for that matter. Watching the Lakers battle the Celtics was far more fun than watching Steph Curry and the Warriors sweep some pathetic Eastern Conference team. The Ridgeline has dominated its segment for a long, long time, so Volkswagen, you see, we need the Tanoak, because no one likes a dynasty.