Is the Volkswagen Tanoak Concept a Better Honda Ridgeline?


For starters, if you believe the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept is not a real pickup truck because it lacks a frame, you can bail out here. If you are open to the idea of a unibody pickup (even if just as the second truck in your garage), here's a look at how Volkswagen's surprise Tanoak concept, unveiled at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, matches against the reigning (and only) "lifestyle" pickup, the Honda Ridgeline.

If looking good is half the battle, the Tanoak — which is based on the new VW Atlas three-row SUV — has a head start on the Pilot-based Ridgeline. The front end would never be called macho, and from there to the back the Ridgeline no longer has those weird side angles, but it's not very distinctive, either. (Tanoak should not be confused with the mid-size pickup VW already sells in other markets.)

The Tanoak benefits from the already-imposing Atlas front end and kicks it up a notch with a new front bumper and grille. Clever use of cladding provides visual separation for the bed where none really exists and also allows the appearance of some sharp angles that would be hard to stamp in metal.

VW is testing the waters with this pickup, so there is no assurance the Tanoak will ever be built. Honda sold only about 34,000 Ridgelines last year. To be worth getting into that market, even with a relatively cost-effective line extension of an existing vehicle, VW would have to steal a good chunk of those sales as well as attract first-time pickup buyers and lure some folks out of their body-on-frame trucks. Could it? Would it be a better truck, or at least the equal of the Ridgeline in capability? Since the Tanoak is a concept, we have limited real specs, but it's a deluxe truck and based on the numbers VW did provide, here's how it stacks up with a top-trim 2019 Ridgeline Black Edition (spoiler alert, they are really closely spec'd):


Both are crew-cab, short-bed, five-seat trucks.


The Tanoak is powered by a 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 that puts out 266 pounds-feet of torque paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive with unspecified on- and off-road drive modes, including a low range.

The Ridgeline has a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 262 pounds-feet of torque paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive with Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand drive modes.

Wheels and Tires

The Atlas Tanoak rides on 20-inch alloy wheels with 275/55 tires.

The Ridgeline rides on 18-inch alloy wheels with 245/60 tires.

Size and Ground Clearance

The Tanoak is 214.1 inches long on a wheelbase of 128.3 inches, 79.9 inches wide and 72.6 inches tall. Ground clearance is 9.8 inches.

The Ridgeline is 210.0 inches long on a wheelbase of 125.2, 78.6 inches wide and 70.8 inches tall. Ground clearance is 7.87 inches.

Bed Size

The Tanoak cargo bed is 64.1 inches long (90.2 inches with the tailgate down), 57.1 wide (50.4 inches between the wheel wells) and 20.9 inches high. Volkswagen did not specify bed volume. The spare is below the bed and accessible when loaded.

The Ridgeline bed is 64 inches long (83 inches with the tailgate down), 60 inches wide (50 inches between the wheel wells), about 16.7 inches [MF9]deep (unofficial[MF10]). Bed volume is 33.9 cubic feet with an additional 7.3 cubic feet in the lockable under-bed trunk. The spare is located under the bed floor and not accessible when fully loaded.

Payload and Towing

VW did not specify either. But the Atlas on which the Tanoak is based can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The Ridgeline has a maximum 1,584-pound payload and can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Notable Extra Features

The Tanoak has a movable cargo rail that stores at the back of the cab but can slide the length of the bed for use as a carrier for things such as ladders or canoes. It also has a self-storing front winch and carabiner, and LED lighting in the bed sides.

The Ridgeline has a double-action tailgate and a lockable trunk under the bed floor. The second-row passenger seat flips up for cross-cabin cargo room. It also has LED lighting in the bed sides. photos by Christian Lantry; manufacturer images

(Ed. note: the torque rating for the Ridgeline has been corrected.– 4/2


Photo of Fred Meier
Former D.C. Bureau Chief Fred Meier, who lives every day with Washington gridlock, has an un-American love of small wagons and hatchbacks. Email Fred Meier

Latest expert reviews