It's official: The Atlas Cross Sport will join the Volkswagen lineup in 2019. It will be a five-passenger version with a more athletic look than the seven-seat Atlas SUV. By introducing this shorter and sportier model, Volkswagen is tearing a page out of luxury automaker Audi’s playbook, which includes the tandem made up of the Q7 SUV (seven passengers) and Q8 (five passengers).
The production version of the Atlas Cross Sport will be built at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is where the Atlas SUV is also built. Initially, the Atlas Cross Sport will be sold with the same 3.6-litre gas-powered V6 found in the Atlas, but hybrid versions may be offered later on.
Driving the Atlas Cross Sport concept
We were able to drive the Atlas Cross Sport concept during Monterey Car Week. The concept, which was unveiled as a world premiere at the New York Auto Show last spring, provides a very clear indication of what the production version will look like. It’s powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that’s made up of a 3.6-litre V6 and two electric motors.
The first of these electric motors generates 40 kW and is lodged between the combustion engine and the twin-clutch, six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox. The second electric motor, found in the tail end, generates 85 kW. These two motors are supplied by an 18-kWh battery located under the vehicle floor.This powertrain develops 355 horsepower.
When running exclusively on electricity, the Atlas Cross Sport concept has a 70-km operating range and can reach 130 km/h. Volkswagen claims it can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 210 km/h. The automaker also says its total operating range is 1000 km with a full tank of gas and a fully charged battery.
A second mild hybrid drivetrain, not a plug-in this time, is also a possibility. In this version, the V6 engine is paired with two electric motors supplied by a much smaller battery whose capacity is a mere 2 kWh, for a combined total of 310 horsepower.
Our Atlas Cross Sport concept was fitted with Pirelli winter tires and included no soundproofing material. It is a genuine concept in that it is the only one of its kind and built by hand by just 30 people in 10 months, rather than a preproduction prototype whose construction is closer to that of a production model. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to provide you detailed first impressions. However, the production Cross Sport will be almost identical to the Atlas in terms of its platform and mechanics, so the handling and performance should be the same. The suspension and steering calibration could differ in order to make the Cross Sport more dynamic than the Atlas, but that remains to be seen.
The Tanoak is also in the works
While the Atlas Cross Sport is joining the family starting in 2019, Volkswagen says that the Tanoak could also make the transition from concept to production model. But it’s not officially confirming the news—at least for now. Also introduced as a world premiere at the New York Auto Show in the spring of 2018, the Tanoak concept is a pickup developed on the MQB modular platform.
Equipped with a 3.6-litre gasoline-powered V6 that generates 276 horsepower and is paired with a 4MOTION all-wheel drive system by way of an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Tanoak shares numerous common features with the Atlas Cross Sport SUV. In fact, up to the B pillar, these two vehicles have very similar lines. The Tanoak only begins to distinguish itself from the Atlas Cross Sport starting from the rear doors, whose handles are integrated into the C pillar, not to mention its bed. If the Tanoak becomes a production model, it will immediately compete directly with the Honda Ridgeline, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger and the Hyundai Santa Cruz that’s on the way.
This much is certain: since the Atlas Cross Sport became a production model, the same could happen with the Tanoak. They share the same architecture and several common components. Our brief test drive of the Tanoak concept occurred under the same restrictive conditions as our trail of the Atlas Cross Sport concept. This means that if the Tanoak ends up getting the green light, it is likely to handle a lot like an Atlas too. Stay tuned.