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Volkswagen Tristar TDI Concept Pickup

A New Turbodiesel Pickup We Hope They Make

Tom Wilson
Dec 22, 2014
Photographers: Courtesy of Volkswagen
Volkswagen, bless its huarache-sandal soul, has been making van-cab and mini-bed trucklets for ages. Type 2 pickups were actually selling well enough on this side of the pond until the Chicken Tax was enacted in 1963. With the resulting 25 percent price premium, the allure of wheezing a couple of wheelbarrow loads of compost around the village with just 42 air-cooled horsepower waned, along with Type 2 pickup sales.
If the van-with-cargo box bodywork seems foreign, let’s recall that in the ’50s and ’60s, Jeep gave it a go with the Forward Control series, Ford offered Econoline pickups, and Chevy sideswiped the segment with the Corvair Rampside. Somehow, a Corvair with a terraced pickup bed and the tailgate in the middle of the right-side wheelbase never took off. That, or the 90-degree fan belt that became known for self-ejecting off the engine kept buyers away. It wasn’t the lack of a diesel option in those days.
Photo 2/14   |   Upright as a phone booth, VW’s Tristar is built off a short-wheelbase version of the upcoming sixth-generation Transporter platform. The blacked-out front fascia and LED headlamps give a little ’tude to what could appear comical if the designers aren’t careful. Did you catch the winch above the license plate?
But now VW is preparing to unleash the sixth generation of its Transporter van—and what better way to tease the market than with a pickup concept built off the upcoming T6 platform? This time, diesel is the thing, and the Tristar concept is motorvated by Wolfsburg’s ubiquitous 2.0L, common-rail, four-cylinder engine. Tuned for 201 hp at 4,000 rpm and 332 lb-ft of torque at a chugging 1,400 rpm, the TDI engine is matched to VW’s familiar seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and 4Motion full-time all-wheel-drive system.
There’s no word yet on curb weight or fuel consumption, but VW says there’s enough power for a 115-mph top speed and a 0-to-62-mph time of 10 seconds—presumably without any compost in the bed. Not exactly sled-pulling power, but positively rocket-sled acceleration compared to VW’s traditional Type 2 single-cab dynamics.
Photo 3/14   |   Vw Tristar Tdi Concept Truck Slide Out Storage Compartment
Oriented more for use in nasty weather and on the odd dirt road rather than rockcrawling the Rubicon Trail, 4Motion uses Haldex mechanicals to mainly power the front wheels, then shunts power to the rears via a computer-controlled clutch when the fronts slip. The clutch pack lives in front of the rear differential, which boasts mechanical locking for extra grunt in deep muck. And, instead of a limited-slip differential, VW uses brake intervention for shuttling power side to side across the chassis.
Keeping with the rough terrain capability, the Tristar sits 1.2 inches taller compared to the regular T6, plus it wears knobby 245/70R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain TAs. Impact protection is provided via plastic skidplates.
Storage space in the Tristar’s cargo box is shallow but, in a unique twist, it offers a water-tight storage compartment in the basement. The fullsize spare tire sits upright in a well at the front of the bed. It’s secured by a macho restraining bar that’s sure to impress natives when running empty, but wrestling tires through a fully loaded bed might take the fun out of fixing a flat.
Photo 4/14   |   Looking strongly sedan-like in the dash, the flat steering wheel is true to the Tristar’s van roots. For a bit of pizzazz, VW fit a 20-inch video conferencing work table between the slide-and-swivel seats.
The cab is extended for internal storage, with seating for two in captain’s chairs. The interior trim is definitely car-like, with the flat steering wheel and upright seating carrying the Tristar’s van lineage literally into the driver’s hands. Because it’s a concept vehicle, there is foolishness—an espresso machine and video conferencing equipment—but it takes little imagination to see the extended cab employed in more practical terms.
Obviously not competing against the common fullsize North American pickup truck, the commercially oriented Tristar could suggest the future of the shop truck in our market. It’s practical, fuel-efficient, and cute like an awkward adolescent—not quite a full-grown pickup but not a garden-cart anymore, either. If the admittedly unique Tristar has a natural competitor, it’s the strictly conventional, sometimes diesel-powered Amarok mid-side pickup VW sells almost everywhere save North America, although the recent lack of small pickup competition here has got VW looking.
Photo 5/14   |   Abbreviated overhangs should give the Tristar a tight turning radius and great city manners. VW says the Tristar is designed to multitask as pickup, mobile office, around-town utility, and true off-road transport—so it ought to be handy.
Specifications
Vehicle: VW Tristar
Engine: EA288
Displacement: 2.0L
Configuration: Inline four-cylinder
Power: 201 hp at 4,000 rpm
Torque:332 lb-ft at 1,400 rpm
Bore x Stroke: 3.19 x 3.76 inches
Valvetrain: DOHC 16 valves
Head Material: Aluminum
Block Material: Cast iron
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch DSG
Drivetrain: 4MOTION with Haldex all-wheel drive
Length: 188 inches
Width: 91 inches
Height: 81 inches
Wheels: 17-inch
Tires: 245/70R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A

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