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VW’s Cross Sport concept will hypnotize you with its glowing LED grille

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Blinded by the light

Coming off its dizzy vision of the future in Geneva, Volkswagen brought things back to reality at the New York International Auto Show with new SUV and pickup truck concepts. But just because these are the kind of cars that Americans have been known to buy doesn’t make them any less flamboyant. Both the Atlas Tanoak truck and its SUV cousin the Cross Sport have LED badges, headlights, and running lights that flow across the grille crossbars. The effect is like something out of Blade Runner.

Don’t let the glowing faces distract you from important specs like the powertrain. The Cross Sport is powered by the same 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 as the production Atlas, but the concept adds a pair of electric motors, one in front and the other in back. Volkswagen says the plug-in hybrid drivetrain delivers 355 horsepower and an anticipated 26 miles of all-electric range. A conventional mild hybrid version of the same powertrain would make 310 horsepower. A production version of the Cross Sport is scheduled to be launched in the US starting in 2019.

The Atlas Tanoak, meanwhile, has a similarly brilliant visage, though VW cautioned there are currently no plans to bring the pickup to production. (The automaker said the same for the I.D. Buzz microbus throwback, and now it’s expected to roll off the assembly line by 2022.) It’s a midsized pickup that will likely compete against new trucks like the Ford Ranger.

VW is clearly trying to satiate America’s bottomless appetite for SUVs and crossovers, but there are other forces at play. The Dieselgate scandal continues to cast a long shadow over the German automaker’s business, even as it has been an inspiration for VW’s renewed interest in electrified powertrains. Several executives have gone to jail, and VW is on the hook for billions of dollars in settlement money.

But don’t look at that, look over here! A new SUV that will be featured on dealers’ lots alongside the I.D. Crozz, a sharp-looking electric concept that’s expected to enter into production in 2020. The company is funneling cash into lineup refreshes and brand rehabilitation, but it will be up to consumers to decide whether VW is worth saving.

Image: Volkswagen
Photo by Friso Gentsch / Volkswagen