I’ve been seeing a large number of Volkswagen’s Atlas SUVs on the road of late. Car buyers, it appears, have discovered that this three-row, seven passenger AWD SUV fits their requirements, and fetches a competitive price.
Prior to these sightings, I would see a lot of VW Tiguan’s, the slightly smaller AWD SUV, that is still a good seller for VW. But for three-row capability, the larger Atlas affords increased interior space and cargo space over the Tiguan.
Offered in base SE, SE w/Technology package, SEL, SEL R-Line Black and top line and SEL Premium R-Line that was tested.
The Atlas has a bold but upscale look with just the right amount of chrome trim to accent its handsome lines. R-Line adds distinctive trim items including eye catching wheels.
Inside, the spacious interior has a low 19-inch step-in that boasts generous space for all three rows. And the heated/cooled Vienna leather front seats are nicely supportive. The second-row seats are also heated with the Premium package and they slide fore/aft for easy third row access. Add to this a moon roof for added family riding comfort. The moon roof cover is the only feature we weren’t crazy about. Instead of a solid sliding panel as on most cars, VW uses a nylon screen shade covering the sunroof. As such, the sun still leaches in and makes the car hotter especially in the summer heat we’ve been having.
Stainless steel pedal caps and a flat-bottom steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, adds a touch of sportiness to the interior.
An 8-inch infotainment display serves the audio, navigation, mode selections, XM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity, climate selections, rearview and frontal camera’s and more. Plus, it offers some voice control.
Over on the 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro configurable gauge cluster, it provides a driver information display between the speedo and tach that gives alerts, features and operating functions.
On the vertical stack, large HVAC controls are easy to view and use. Below them is a wireless phone charger with receptacles for wired charging.
A robust gear selector controls the 8-speed automatic transmission that shares the console space with the rotary driving mode selector for Eco, Normal, Sport, Custom modes. With AWD and VWs Active Control system, you get additional modes of On-Road, Snow, Off-Road Auto and Off-Road Custom. All modes display on the vivid infotainment display.
Back in the cargo area that has a hands-free liftgate and a low 30-inch lift-over, and with the third row upright, there’s 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 24 inches deep, 47 wide and 32.5 wide. Flip them and space increases to 55.5 cubic feet for 51 inches of loading depth. Flip the second row and capacity expands to a whopping 96.8 cubic feet for 82 inches of load depth. That’s over 6 foot, enough to stow a mountain bike with the front wheel off.
Powertrain wise, two engines are offered. The standard is a 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder that puts out 235-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 20/24 mpg with AWD.
Our test car came with the potent 3.6-liter V6 that generates 276-hp and 266 lb/ft of torque for EPA’s of 18 city, 23-highway mpg with engine auto on/off technology and 8-speed auto transmission. The combination moved the hefty Atlas with ease with good low and top end power. And it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Driving wise, Atlas offers a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride. It’s planted in sharp turns with virtually no body lean. And it parks easily with its relatively tight turning radius of 41 feet.
For snowy conditions, it can handle modest snow depths and some light off-roading with its 7.5-inch ground clearance.
With the SEL, you get IQ Drive which is a semi-autonomous drive mode that still needs a light touch on the steering wheel. Plus it came with Park Assist that can park the Atlas with inputs from the driver.
Atlas SEL had but one extra cost option as a long list of safety features such as post collision braking system, rear traffic alert, forward collision warning/autonomous braking, pedestrian warning, active blind spot monitor and many more are standard. So equipped, the Atlas SEL carried a base price of $51,790 to which the only extra cost was for Aurora Red metallic paint ($395) that along with delivery ($1,295) took the bottom line to $53,480.
To its credit, Atlas SEL came with top government 5-star safety ratings of five for an overall score, four each for driver/passenger frontal crash, five each for front/rear seat side crash and four for rollover.
With all this, Atlas is an example of fine German engineering in an SUV that was enjoyable to drive and ride in. It’d make a great family SUV for a trip to the shore this summer, or mountains in winter.