NY Auto Show: VW and GMC Steal Truck Headlines

Hiking By Brian Norton |

In a sea of SUVs, impressive muscle and style set two pickups apart at the New York International Auto Show.

There was a slew of new SUVs on offer at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS). But there were only two new trucks. It makes sense: SUVs accounted for a whopping 42 percent of all-new U.S. passenger car sales in 2017, while trucks nabbed just 16.4 percent of the market.

But that equates to 2.8 million new pickup trucks sold in 2017, up 4.8 percent from 2016. In fact, the best-selling vehicle in America is still the Ford F-Series, with about 900,000 sold in 2017.

So the rest of the manufacturers want a bigger piece of that truck market for themselves!

NY International Auto Show: Two New Trucks vw atlas tanoak profile pickup

Though lots of new trucks hit the market in 2019, most debuted at the Detroit International Auto Show a few months ago. New versions of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, RAM 1500, and Ford Ranger, are all set to hit showrooms in the next year.

But in New York, we saw the beginning of the “AT4” line of sporty luxury off-road vehicles from GMC – the Sierra 1500 AT4. We also witnessed the VW Atlas Tanoak concept, a near production-ready American midsize pickup.

Read on for more detailed information about these trucks.

GMC Sierra 1500 ‘AT4’

2019 gmc sierra at4

“The 2019 Sierra AT4 is designed for the customer who wants an elevated presence on the road and the capability to venture off life’s beaten path,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC. “It’s also the beginning for the AT4 brand, which will be seen on every vehicle in our lineup in the next two years.”

The all-new GMC Sierra 1500 will hit dealer lots this fall. Now, you’ll also have the option of picking up the new “AT4” edition. The Sierra AT4 is all about a luxurious look, sporty feel, and off-road capability.

2019 gmc sierra at4

Black chrome and body-colored accents clean up the already strong lines on the 2018 Sierra’s exterior. Inside you’ll find the latest technologies, sport seats, and luxury appointments.

And the Sierra AT4 has all the right goodies a proper off-road truck needs. It comes standard with the following: 2-inch suspension lift featuring Rancho shocks, AT or MT Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, 4WD with a proper two-speed transfer case, locking rear differential, full complement of skid plates, hill descent control, Traction Select System, and recovery hooks.

2019 gmc sierra at4 tires

All that adds up to a pickup that’s ready to venture off the beaten path, right off the showroom floor.

The Sierra AT4 will also come standard with a 5.3L V8 and the truly impressive new MultiPro Tailgate. You can also upgrade your AT4 to a 6.2L V8, or all-new 3.0L I6 Duramax turbo-diesel.

2019 gmc sierra at4

Other available options include multicolored heads-up display, rear camera mirror, carbon fiber pickup box, and a host of intelligent safety systems.

VW Atlas Tanoak Pickup Concept

vw atlas tanorak pickup truck concept

The Tanoak’s name seems a bit odd, but it comes from a tree species that grows to remarkable heights along America’s Pacific coast. And that’s perfect for the Atlas Tanoak pickup concept. It marks the longest and largest vehicle yet built on the versatile MQB platform, currently the underpinning of the small Polo European hatchback all the way to the seven-passenger American Atlas SUV.

vw atlas tanorak pickup truck concept

VW says it is just testing the market response with the pickup concept. But the Atlas Tanoak is a close approximation of a production-ready vehicle. Sure, a consumer version probably won’t have the wraparound LED lighting elements prominent on this concept. But otherwise, this pickup looks ready to roll.

VW Atlas Tanoak: Road Specs

A five-passenger, double-cab, short-bed pickup, the Atlas Tanoak would be considered a large mid-size pickup in the U.S. market. For context, it’s 2 inches longer, 4 inches wider, and 2 inches taller, and has a (1 inch) longer wheelbase than a comparably equipped 2017 Toyota Tacoma.

While unibody pickups aren’t usually ideal for off-road use, the Atlas Tanoak does offer quite a few features that should make it off-road capable.

It offers 9.8-inch ground clearance and rolls on 32-inch AT tires. VW even fitted it with a full complement of skid plates, an integrated winch in the front bumper, and recovery hooks above the dual rear exhausts.

vw atlas tanorak pickup truck concept

And the off-road drive settings offer “a mode that provides a low-range gear reduction.” I’m unsure if that means it has proper low-range gearing, or some sort of simulated low range through the computer and eight-speed automatic transmission.

But the Atlas Tanoak does offer VW’s proven 4MOTION AWD system. This should at least keep it moving through the worst weather.

Meanwhile VW’s 3.6L V6 puts out 276 horsepower and should propel the Atlas Tanoak to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. While not exactly fast, the eight-speed transmission should help provide the power necessary to defy off-road obstacles.

vw atlas tanorak pickup truck concept interior

Inside, the refined interior looks both sporty and futuristic. Highly bolstered seats, both front and back, help keep passengers secure on the roughest terrain. Meanwhile, a fully digitized dash offers nearly all controls through the center console touchscreen. And the pertinent information displays on a configurable digital cockpit.

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