Ford Ranger Faces Little Threat from Volkswagen Tarok Pickup

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Volkswagen is bringing a pickup concept to New York with an eye toward U.S. customers. But Ford needn’t worry.

There’s no question that the mid-size truck market is red hot at the moment. With the Ford Ranger back on dealer lots, it’s joined by the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Jeep Gladiator, and maybe even the Honda Ridgeline. Heck, Mercedes is even selling its own mid-sizer overseas. So it really should come as no surprise that Volkswagen is bringing its Tarok concept to the New York International Auto Show specifically to gauge potential interest and see if there’s a market for it here in the U.S.

The Tarok was originally shown last November at the Sau Paolo International Motor Show in Brazil. And, by all accounts, it was well-received. Technically, VW’s pickup is classified as a compact, entry-level truck, so it figures to undercut much of the competition in price. But saving some dough means sacrificing many of the features that traditional truck owners demand from their vehicles.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept

For starters, you won’t exactly be towing much with the Tarok. Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine producing a meager 147 hp. That power goes through a 6-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. However, the Tarok doesn’t use a traditional 4×4 system. Instead, VW has installed its full-time 4Motion all-wheel-drive setup that’s more like something you’d see in a crossover. On the bright side, it does tout selectable driving modes.

Despite this, Volkswagen swears the Tarok is usable off-road. They’re proud to point out that it sports an approach angle of 23.8 inches, a departure angle of 26.4 inches, and 9.6 inches of ground clearance. For comparison’s sake, the Ranger enjoys a 28.7 degree approach angle, a 25.4 degree departure angle, and 8.9 inches of ground clearance.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept

The main selling point of the Tarok, however, is its configurable bed. Which is a good thing, because the latter is only four feet in length. The bed can be extended by opening a panel behind the cab and folding the seats flat, which gives you six total feet of space. The Ranger, of course, is available with either a five or six foot bed. No tinkering with the cab or kicking your passengers out required.

The Tarok is certainly an interesting concept. And it might just find a niche among younger customers who only need a truck for light, occasional duty. But for those who want a serious off-road vehicle or something capable of towing a decent sized trailer, it doesn’t appear to be an option. For those reasons alone, the Tarok poses little threat to the highly capable Ford Ranger.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept

However, if rumors that the Ford Courier is returning prove true, the VW figures to be a direct competitor to it. The Courier also figures to ride on a car-based platform and utilize an all-wheel drive system. And even though we don’t know much about this mysterious new compact pickup, the smart money’s on Ford. After all, we are talking about an automaker that’s sold more trucks than anyone else for decades!

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Brett Foote has been covering the automotive industry for over five years and is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto Group sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other popular sites.

He has been an automotive enthusiast since the day he came into this world and rode home from the hospital in a first-gen Mustang, and he's been wrenching on them nearly as long.

In addition to his expertise writing about cars, trucks, motorcycles, and every other type of automobile, Brett had spent several years running parts for local auto dealerships.

You can follow along with his builds and various automotive shenanigans on Instagram: @bfoote.

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