January 23, 2021
Volkswagen Taos off-road version under study

Volkswagen Taos off-road version under study

VW’s Taos may get the equipment to venture a bit further off-road — or at least look like it can.


The new 2022 Volkswagen Taos won’t go on sale until next year, but that doesn’t mean VW isn’t already thinking of ways to expand the appeal of its entry-level compact SUV. According to Hein Schafer, VW’s senior vice president of product marketing and strategy, those efforts could include a new model trim or option pack to give the diminutive utility vehicle a tougher, more off-road-ready appearance — if not actual augmented capability.

During a media teleconference discussing the new 2022 Taos, Schafer told Roadshow that his company is “currently also studying potentially some sort of off-road trim which may, or may not still arrive on the Taos and/or some of our other SUVs.”

To be clear, it doesn’t sound like Volkswagen is looking to pursue a model with significantly improved off-road ability. According to Schafer, “We’re also not fooled. 99% [of the] use cases of these vehicles is on road. People like the higher seating position [and] at times they like their vehicles to look a little bit more rugged. But, you know, I don’t think that any of those cars come with extremely credible off-roading features. It is a trend in the US market, trying to dress your vehicle up in a rugged way is one way to go. We are potentially looking at exercising that [ability].”

Similarly, the German automaker recently announced it would sell a raft of dealer-installed off-road bits for its popular midsize Atlas SUV in April. These accessories are available à la carte or combined as the VW Atlas Basecamp. While the vehicle may pick up some additional off-road ability thanks to chunkier features like all-terrain tires, the Basecamp is primarily a cosmetic package consisting of burlier lower-body cladding and a set of 17-inch Fifteen52 wheels.

The move to make a tougher-looking Taos or Tiguan could pay off for Volkswagen, as the company has already found significant success with its R-Line range, which dresses up many of its cars and SUVs with a lowered ride height and a more street-oriented, high-performance appearance. 

With America’s SUV landscape now choked with offerings, automakers have been increasingly looking to off-roading — both in appearance and ability — as a way to separate their models from the pack. Subaru and Jeep have long led the market in this regard. In fact, those brands’ Taos-rivaling Crosstrek and Compass ranges will almost certainly enjoy significantly more baked-in off-road ability than VW’s Taos thanks to superior ground clearance and various driveline features. But while Subaru’s and Jeep’s crossovers have had the trailheads to themselves for a while, newer models like the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport and the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road suggest there are new customers and profits to be found venturing off the beaten path.

Judging by Schafer’s comments, it doesn’t sound like VW has officially green-lit a Taos Basecamp or any other sort of off-road appearance package so far, and any such model almost certainly won’t launch alongside the regular model in the second quarter of 2021. That said, don’t be surprised to see something land in showrooms not long after.

VW knows that this is about as far as most modern crossover SUVs venture off-road.


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