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VW Tarok teases us with another pickup truck concept in New York

The concept was shown previously in South America.

Volkswagen keeps hinting that it might, one day, bring a pickup truck to the US. Last year we saw the Atlas Tanoak pickup truck concept, and now there's a second VW pickup truck concept that suggests such a model is getting more likely.

Volkswagen introduced the Tarok pickup truck concept at the 2019 New York Auto Show this week. The Tarok concept isn't new, having made its initial debut at the Sao Paolo International Motor Show last November, but it's new to the US, and it's here for a very specific purpose. As VW stated in its release, the truck will allow VW "to gauge market reaction for a truly versatile and compact entry-level pickup."

Another New York show, another VW truck concept.

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The Tarok isn't a terribly large pickup truck, measuring just 193.5 inches long. For context's sake, the shortest Toyota Tacoma you can buy is nearly 20 inches longer at 212.3 inches. It rides on Volkswagen MQB platform, which also underpins small cars like the Golf, Jetta and Tiguan. The Tarok is one of the largest vehicles to rock this platform, showing just how versatile it could be.

Those concerned about fitting things in a short bed need not worry, as the Tarok has a trick up its sleeve. Instead of treating the bed and cab as separate entities, the Tarok has a panel that can open up and extend the bed into the cab, allowing the truck to fit items that are up to 73.2 inches long. Open the tailgate and you get another 25.8 inches, but then you also lose the backstop that the tailgate normally provides. On the whole, it can handle 2,271 pounds of payload. The rear panel locks electronically from the inside, so people shouldn't be sneaking into your truck.

Whereas the Atlas Tanoak had a design flourish that sort of made it appear like a body-on-frame pickup, the Tarok has no qualms about wearing its unibody construction on its sleeve.

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Since it's a small truck, it doesn't need a big engine. The concept sports the same 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 found in the Jetta, putting out the same 147 horsepower as the family sedan. Its all-wheel drive system features driving modes for snow and off-roading. Speaking of off-roading, it's decently capable, with 9.6 inches of ground clearance, a 23.8-degree approach angle and a 26.4-degree departure angle, which is better than a standard Chevy Colorado. Hell, its departure angle is actually better than any midsize truck currently on sale in the US, according to our midsize-truck comparison list.

While the VW Atlas Tanoak pickup concept definitely looked like a concept, the Tarok looks much closer to production. Some elements are carried over from the Tanoak, like the focus on horizontal lighting in the front, but everything else looks a bit more rooted in real-world sensibility. As for the interior, it's pretty darn close to most modern VWs, with a large infotainment screen and a second screen in the gauge cluster. Nearly all of the remaining switchgear could have been borrowed from my personal 2016 Golf SportWagen.

But while the truck looks ready to roll, that doesn't mean it's a shoo-in for US sales. VW said in the Tarok's press release that nothing is set in stone, but when we talked to VW of America boss Scott Keogh at the Geneva Motor Show, Keogh told Roadshow that VW will want to do it right. While it could produce something based on its tie-up with Ford, Keogh is keen not to have a repeat of the Routan, which was a Dodge Grand Caravan with a VW badge that didn't do anything to boost its reputation. With a properly small, yet still versatile unibody pickup, VW might have found the white space it's looking for. The only question that remains is whether or not the market will welcome it with open arms (and wallets).