On Tuesday evening Volkswagen rolled out a new bodykit for its thoroughly uninteresting Taos crossover intended to make it look more off-roady without actually making it more off-roady. Where the Taos Basecamp concept was actually kind of cool, the production version is basically a set of stick-on black plastic cladding (with integrated splash guards), fancy rocker covers, and a grille badge. We’ve seen stuff like this before. In the 1970s.
At the height of the 1970s malaise, automakers were incapable of figuring out a way to deliver performance and economy at the same time, and as a result some of the most ridiculous cars of all time were delivered to customers with a straight face. In 1978 Dodge and Plymouth offered NASCAR-aping body kits for their Aspen and Volare coupes. The kits consisted of a front lip, an adjustable rear spoiler, tack-on fender flares for all four wheels, quarter window louvers, and faux hood pins.
Because the companies couldn’t deliver actual performance in any meaningful way, Mopar just offered the facsimile of performance. At the end of the day, none of the stuff tacked on to the car improved performance, it just looked sorta neat. I guess the front and rear aero might have added a smidge of downforce, but with just 175 horsepower, who knows what good that might have done. It definitely made the car slower overall.
Volkswagen now, like Mopar then, doesn’t care about actually delivering on the promises of the body kits tacked on to their car. The Taos Basecamp package is nothing more than a visual package, and if I’m honest, it doesn’t even look better. The promise of the Basecamp concept with raised suspension and beefy off-roady wheels and tires, has not been delivered on with the version you can buy at your VW dealer now.
“The Taos makes a bold first impression,” said Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy at Volkswagen of America. “Our goal is to build on the vehicle’s dynamic exterior design and provide customers with an extensive catalog of accessory options that cater directly to their desires for distinctive styling and functionality.”
Cladding. He’s talking about cladding. That’s it. The rocker covers and fender flares will run you $999 as installed by your local VW dealer, and you can get all of the parts independently of the package, but the grille badge only comes with the full kit. You gotta get the grille badge, obviously. Otherwise how will people know you’re a wannabe off-roader?
I’m not sure if this is indicative of a second wave of internal combustion malaise, but whatever the Taos Basecamp is a harbinger for, it can’t be good. If you’re going to build a package called Basecamp, at least give it some kind of performance advantage. At the very least make it a wheel and tire package with a taller sidewall and more aggressive tread pattern. Sheesh.