Is the Volkswagen Tanoak Concept a Better Honda Ridgeline?

V vs H 1

V vs H 2

By Fred Meier

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 Amarok 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):

V vs H 4


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.

V vs H 3

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


16Ridgeline_152 II



The Ridgeline has a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 362 pounds-feet of torque

@Fred Meier

No way that 212 cubic inch motor is putting otu 362 lbs-ft torqued. Not believing it

The VW wins in the styling department but I won't pass on 362 ft/lbs of torque from the Honda. HAHAHA!

Ridgeline should be 262 ft-lbs torque.

VW has better styling, but wonder if it will get as good MPG? For most folks it wont matter, unless gas prices go up significantly.

VW would be better off-road given the greater GC (and presumably better AoA, AoD and breakover) along with low range, but will suffer a bit from its larger size.

The winch is a nice touch, but the problem with a concept vehicle is just that it is a concept. If this truck is built, it will likely come with smaller tires, no winch, and probably more sensible lighting on the tailgate.

The midgate is a nice touch, but i wonder if it compromises the bulkhead at all? It seems Honda put a lot of thought into their bulkhead strength to protect passengers from cargo in the bed, in the event of a collision. However, safety doesn't seem to do much to sell vehicles or wow customers.

I think there is definitely room in the market for this type of truck. Everybody points to low sales of the Ridgeline to justify in their minds that there is no demand, and yet the Ridgeline seems to be selling very quickly (very little time on dealers lots), and with no advertising and no mfr incentives. It really seems to be a supply issue, and an issue that I am sure most mfrs would love to have.

Everybody points to low sales of the Ridgeline to justify in their minds that there is no demand, and yet the Ridgeline seems to be selling very quickly (very little time on dealers lots), and with no advertising and no mfr incentives. It really seems to be a supply issue, and an issue that I am sure most mfrs would love to have.


Your remark suggests that sales figures don't matter. Tell that to Wall Street!

Let Honda executives accept the responsibility for their decisions about product allocation. For whatever reason they brought a thoughtful product to market a couple years ago then decided it was not important enough to properly allocate.

Dealer demand is the mother's milk of these decisions at most carmakers but the Asian and Japanese companies have sometimes been a little out of tune in this regard.

The Atlas, with the same 3.6L motor, 8 speed auto is a dog, and could only muster a 7.9 second 0-60 time with the 4700 pound SUV. A comparable Honda Pilot does it in 6.2 with a 6 speed auto (4100 pounds).

In the switch from Pilot to Ridgeline, the Ridgeline gained ~400 pounds. If one can assume the Tanoak to also be heavier than the Atlas, that does not bode well for the Tanoak acceleration. The RL needed 7.3 seconds to reach 60. What penalty will the Tanoak have?

For what it is worth, the 20 inch wheels, and digital cockpit are clearly auto-show bling, and in reality, would be 18s on the production version. I also suspect ground clearance to lower, and the interior to be more like the Atlas (which is still German in its simplicity but highly utilitarian).

The RL trunk is extremely useful, but the Tanoak has a mid-gate pass thru (though this can be countered by the RL's sliding rear window), and who knows if that will make it to production.

All in all, you can't even compare the two on anything other than exterior dimensions.

In my opinion,
Looks: Atlas
Drive: Honda
Versatility/Cargo: Unknown

@PapaJim -- sales will ultimately matter to the manufacturer. If Honda builds more Ridgelines, then they have to build fewer Pilots and Odysseys, both of which are in more competitive markets and likely more profitable than the Ridgeline. Honda may be working on improving factory output on Alabama, but that is still an unlnown.

My point here is that it may be highly erroneous to judge the market based on Ridgeline sales. If you judge it by time on dealers lots, the market looks a LOT better.


VW just cant seem to gain real traction and acceptance inside the US. Its efforts, products, level of success and failure inside North America are consistently inconsistent and unpredictable. Sometimes they try to be very mainstream, sometimes they try to be deliberately different and quirky... sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. The quality is also up and down. And its all just so strange because its now how they are elsewhere in the world or how they got to be who they are. I guess the only constant is they still aren't giving up in NA.

Now that VW has a design team that knows the US market rather than trying to design for a US market with German mentality, they will more than likely be much more successful.

The Tanoak is a sharp pickup and I bet will be very success as long as they don't have any of the VW reliability issues.

Honda Ridgeline is a great vehicle but needs a little styling to make it more successful. Honda has the package assembled well, they just need to wrap it better.

@papajim -- You are, of course, correct. We've since corrected the Honda V-6 torque numbers. Should have been 262 instead of the 362 originally identified. Also, your point about dealer demand is a good one. From what they're telling us, dealers are fighting to get more of the Ridgelines on their lots. Our guess is they will be adjusting their plant production ratios soon.

if the honda had the look of the vw, it would sell like hotcakes

I am out of the country till May4th. I am going to be looking for a mid size truck. Honda. Toyota or Nissan. Give me going reason to by Honda. And best dealer in Wis. No games please. Best price

The VW looks a lot better, The Ridgeline looks like a Civic in front and kind of wimpy overall. The VW has a much more butch look.

Tacoma - best for off-road
Ridgeline - best for on-road
Frontier - best if youre on a tight budget, or prefer old tech.

I like the Tanoak for its looks. But it's bigger than what I want by far, coming only a handful of percentage points shy of an American full sized truck in dimensions. Again, much, MUCH too big. It needs to be 25% smaller, at which point the existing power and torque would be more than sufficient for the job.

I notice they used black edition specs on Honda, but the pics are not black edition. They also didn't mention the bed being a giant speaker. That's a big deal for some people. I own 2017 Pilot and love this thing. Getting black edition this summer. Pound for pound, you can't beat Honda!

You can get a full size F-150 that can tow a million pounds for the same price.
The F-150 gets better gas mileage and the best performance with the Eco-Boost.
Why would you spend the same amount of money on the VW ?
With the F-150 you get more-more-more for the same money.


Can you get your hands on a quick $10 grand? If so, find a clean old stick-shift Ranger or S10. For less than $2000 you can freshen-up the drivetrain.

I like the six cylinder S10s best, and the 4 cylinder Rangers in that order. They made a really good 3 liter Ford six, but the 4 liter is one to avoid.

Rangers and S10s are not hard to find used in decent condition. They made millions of 'em.

A good upholstery shop can fix your interior up for a few bucks. Same for paint and bodywork. Minor rust and paint work less than $2k.

Cooling system stuff wouldn't cost much to check out and fix.

Chassis/steering issues can be a question mark but you can test drive that sort of thing, or a savvy friend could do it for you. Most of that would be a good thing to avoid if it did not pass inspection.

Not every truck you test drive will need all of the above fixes, but you get my point, right? Why wait?

You could buy the nicest Ranger in the whole county for five grand and spend a bit more to make everything just right. I've done it. Get a topper for it too.

As long as you are comparing concept trucks, consider the AMC Cowboy built on a AMC Hornet unibody with a stub frame in the rear for a separate bed. There is only one in the world but it was obviously first.

@Ecoboost Rules are you really getting more buying F-150.
F-150 has massive Towing and hauling abilities compared to Ridgeline or VW. But has been stated F-150 is a Body On Frame truck Body On Frame going back before model T.
The Unit-Body Ridgeline and VW will ride and handle better then the F-150. This is not my words just facts as to the different construction. F-150 Consumer Reports quiet cabin but stiff ride.
Ridgeline with it's unit-body smooth ride carlike handling.
So if person is not towing/hauling massive amounts are you getting more with the F-150 or conventional Body On Frame trucks?

Why so many stories about a concept truck that would sell just several thousands if it ever got made and from a maker that has hundreds of thousands of vehicles sitting on land everywhere that were recalled and bought back from customers??

VW just cant seem to gain real traction and acceptance inside the US. Its efforts, products, level of success and failure inside North America are consistently inconsistent and unpredictable. Sometimes they try to be very mainstream, sometimes they try to be deliberately different and quirky... sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. The quality is also up and down. And its all just so strange because its now how they are elsewhere in the world or how they got to be who they are. I guess the only constant is they still aren't giving up in NA.
Posted by: Clint | Apr 2, 2018 11:43:40 AM

The cost of ownership for a modern VW scares a lot of people away. From the oddball transmission fluids to their euro-spec engine oils (in some applications). Their build quality is also disappointing these days. They become money traps as they age and things begin to break. Parts are more expensive, many things require a dealer to work on, and their dealer network is not vast enough for many customers. It's similar to why Toyota trucks have struggled in the central part of the US.

To once again clarify they always say the Ridgeline is using the Honda Pilot platform. The truth is the Acura MDX Honda Pilot & Honda Odyssey all are using the Ridgeline platform. It was designed for the Ridgeline but they released the MDX & Pilot before the Ridgeline.

@ Bryon Landess best reason to buy Ridgeline very refine compared to other trucks not a rock crawler like Tacoma not best tower but best to drive on road. Check out 2017 Honda Ridgeline presentation by Chief Engineer Kerry McClure and some other presentation from Honda engineers

@ Bryon Landess also the one of the best video clips for Ridgeline
is Autoline after hours 2017 Honda Ridgeline The Un-Truck-Truck
they talk about Ridgeline with engineer and others mention it compared to others.

I am a 2nd time buyer of the Ridgeline having driven all the other brands over my 46 year work career. Just purchased 2018 RTL-E and am still a solid Ridgeline happy owner. I cannot believe the improvements over by previous 2011 model. The ride quality is super and the “E” features make it a fun truck to drive. I’ve pulled a 16’ trailer when I need more truck for work. The Ridgeline is top of its class in every respect.
PRO: Everything. CON: Nothing at all!

Interesting comment on the new Amarok coming to Australia
“Eventually, Volkswagen’s new 190kW(254hp)580Nm(427lbs ft) EU6 oil-burner could power the entire Amarok range in Australia, where 2.0-litre four-cylinder variants comprise less than 30 per cent of sales”

@Ecoboost Rules

People that post such comments just don't understand and are looking at the surface only.
A lot of people don't need or want a full sized truck.....and most that own them don't use them as as such anyway.
The Ridgeline & VW are uni-body design which provide far better handling and comfort for the passengers...since most trucks are used as daily drivers anyway and secondary as a truck, this is much more desirable for most.
The Ridgeline and VW are both AWD compared to 4WD.......this is a huge advantage in Northern states in Winter weather. You have the system automatically using torque-vectoring to dial in the power to the wheels that need it. Far better than having to manually activate or deactivate a 4WD drive system.

You can't compare the two, period.
The Honda Ridgeline and VW are the future and you will see more and more manufacturers going to this type of vehicle as a truck.......this is what the public wants and what most truck buyers use them for anyway.

Take all of these comparisons into consideration, and add this fact: VW says the Tanoak is not guaranteed for production, and may never make the cut, which means this concept could be the disguise for the next-generation Amarok, which will likely arrive in the US within two years. The Ridgeline, meanwhile, is the real thing and is already here.

No contest here. The Ridgeline is the clear winner.

The Styling on the Ridgeline is certainly less appealing, but it's necessary to keep costs down and essentially make the Ridgeline a version of the Pilot. The Tanoak would have a much better starting point, as the Atlas looks the least like a suppository of the large 3-row crossover segment.
In short time the Ridgeline will have the new corporate 10-speed. I don't really see the need for a low-range t-case in one of these trucklets.
the midgate is a cool feature, even if it's only big enough for lumber- would be nice to shove some 8ft studs through there, without them sticking up over the tailgate. I used to fit 10ft lumber in the minivan.
The sales gains for the midsize segment definitely bode well for the Scrambler and Ranger coming in 12 months or less.

this is what the public wants and what most truck buyers use them for anyway...Posted by: Big Mick | Apr 3, 2018


You must know something that's eluded everybody else. Honda has only sold 7XXX of their trucklet since Jan 1. GMC and Chevy are having some of their best weeks in the history of the company. Ditto for Ford.

I don't think "most truck buyers" got the same memo as you.

@papa jim--Agree with your comments to Vulpine about the S-10 and Ranger. That is why I spent the money last fall to fix my S-10s body. I have a 4 cylinder but it is a great truck and has lasted me 19 years with affordable maintenance. Vulpine has a 1997 Ford Ranger with a 5 speed with about 20k miles he inherited. I have seen pictures of it and it is not a bad little truck.

I don't think the current midsize trucks are that much bigger than the S-10s and Rangers especially in an extended cab. Side by side a new midsize extended cab midsize truck is close to the same size as my extended cab S-10 but the new ones sit higher which makes them appear bigger. My Isuzu is a little longer than my S-10 but it is a crew cab and it sits higher making it look much bigger. With extended cabs offered in the Colorado/Canyon, Frontier, Tacoma, and most likely the new Ranger there will be plenty of choice and in reality the size is not that much different than the older compact and midsize trucks if you compare extended cab versions.

I don't have any problems with the Ridgeline or this concept VW but for my purposes an extended cab more than meets my needs.

but for my purposes an extended cab more than meets my needs.
Posted by: Jeff S | Apr 5, 2018 3:24:07 PM

Agree! Vulpine wants a smaller truck than me. For him an old school truck like the Ranger or S10 fits the bill but nobody is making them.

So, as I mentioned in the previous comment a small investment in a clean used truck that perhaps needs some love in the engine compartment or with body/paint/interior nets him a pickup he'll own and enjoy for years.

If gas prices go back up he can rub it in my face.

VW most likely built this concept truck and is taking it to the auto shows to gauge public interest. No guarantee that this truck will make it to final production and if it does it will be a different truck. I don't dislike this truck but I would not buy it for several reasons one being VW does not have the best reputation for building dependable and low maintenance vehicles. If I had to choose between a VW truck and the Ridgeline it would be a Ridgeline because of the reliability of Honda vehicles but I am not interested in the Ridgeline. I understand those who like this type of truck. I am interested in the new Ranger if it comes in an extended cab. I am glad to see more competition in the midsize truck market.

The VW looks like the old TransAM with lots of plactic body parts. (reminds me of having too much rocks in the bed with no support, so it bulged out) I will take the Honda's features, over the looks of the VW any day.

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