By Joe Bruzek on January 15, 2013
Ford's Atlas concept doesn't reek of being too futuristic or "out there," and it’s a look into the features and style of Ford's next-generation of pickup trucks. Many useful features appear on the pickup concept that Ford says are inspired by listening to customers and how they use their trucks for work and play.
"We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help customers in both their worlds — professionally and personally," J Mays, Ford group vice president and chief creative officer, said in a statement.
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The Atlas' cargo box features multiple tie-down points integrated into the cargo area and load floor, as well as household 110-volt electrical outlets for charging power tools. The cargo box itself is illuminated at night by LEDs. A hidden roof-carrying system frees up room in the cargo box by extending a support vertically from the tailgate so a kayak or ladder can stretch over the truck's roof. Retracting rearward from the cargo area are two integrated ramps for loading dirt bikes and landscaping equipment.
Pickup trucks are synonymous with towing and a new Trailer Backup Assist gives drivers control of backing up a trailer with the twist of a knob. Plus, a Dynamic Hitch Assist uses the truck's center display to show visual cues when lining up the truck's hitch with the trailer coupling. A 360-degree camera provides a bird’s-eye view of obstacles surrounding the truck, similar to Infiniti's Around View Monitor and other automakers that use multiple cameras around the vehicle to create a top-down view.
Powering the Atlas is a next-generation EcoBoost engine with auto start/stop to shut the engine off at idle; the Atlas' execution can disable the feature automatically when it senses a trailer in tow. Few details are available, though aerodynamic enhancements abound to make the Atlas easily slip through the air for increased fuel economy.
Ford uses active aerodynamic features in the form of a retracting front air spoiler below the bumper, which lowers at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics under the car and retracts at low speeds for additional ground clearance. The grille and even the wheels feature active shutters that close at highway speeds to create a flush, aero-friendly surface; they also open at low speeds for improved airflow. The wheel shutters use self-powering batteries that capture the wheel's motion for juice.
The Atlas' interior and exterior have a high-tech rugged theme and feature lightweight, thin seats for increased rear passenger room with storage for smaller items, plus buttons that are designed to be glove friendly.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe