Hitch the words “Volkswagen” and “the great outdoors” together in a sentence, and most peoples’ thoughts are liable to run to underpowered camper vans old and new with pop-up roofs and reconfigurable interiors. But while Europeans can still order a new VW camper van from their local dealership in order to fulfil their #vanlife dreams, Americans are forced to scrounge around local classifieds and online listings for Vanagons and Westphalias of old.
So what’s l’il ol’ VW of America to do to capitalize on the growing trend of people seeking a return to the great outdoors? Well, why not turn that massive three-row SUV it’s building right here in the States into an off-road-ready machine ready to serve as the home base for all sorts of outdoor activities?
Unlike those modified minivans and Microbuses of old, the Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept has the sort of credentials needed to carry its occupants well beyond the beaten paths. It’s no Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Land Rover Defender, but this burly Vee-Dub has been appropriately geared up for off-road duty.
While it still uses the stock Atlas SEL Premium’s powertrain—a 276-horsepower 3.6-liter VR6 paired with an eight-speed automatic, flowing power to all four wheels—the body has been jacked up an inch and a half via an H&R coilover lift kit. Added grip in the mud and dirt comes thanks to beefy 265/70/17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires wrapped around new fifteen52 Traverse MX Concept wheels, which make their debut on the Basecamp ahead of production later this year.
On the cosmetic side, the Atlas Basecamp is decked out in a matte Platinum Gray and Black Uni paint job with contrasting orange trim, along with an Air Design body kit for added visual panache. Up top, a Front Runner Slimline II roof rack sits ready to hold mountain bikes, and packs LED light bars fore and aft to better light up the trails when you’re far from the ambient light of mankind.
But the concept’s piece de resistance lies hitched to the Atlas’s tail: the off-road-ready Hive EX camping trailer designed specifically to be paired with the Basecamp. While compact, the trailer still has enough space for a queen-sized bed and kitchenette featuring a sink, a stove, a propane tank, potable water storage, a hot-water shower, a portable toilet, and a freezer/fridge combo that runs off a 12-volt battery. Oh, and there’s also a retractable canopy.
If there’s one disappointment here, it lies in the last word of the car’s formal name: Concept. While it’ll be appearing at the New York International Auto Show (as well as the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas this fall), VW’s announcement said nothing about if or when water-fording Waterfesters could buy it at some point. Still, considering almost all the parts that turn a regular Atlas into a Basecamp are available from aftermarket providers, it shouldn’t be too hard to convert your existing three-row VW crossover into something like this.
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