Volkswagen’s Atlas is the German auto makers first midsize, 3-row SUV. Although they’re a bit tardy in the game, VW took its time and did it right.
Atlas maintains good German quality, spacious cabin, impressive Euro handling and base models are attractively priced. But it comes up against some tough competition from all the car makers, domestic and foreign.
This three-row is offered in several configurations of S, V6S, Launch Edition, SE, SEL, SEL Premium and in FWD and AWD. We tested the SEL 4Motion AWD model that comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 276-hp and 266-lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 23-highway mpg. And this is with a standard 8-speed automatic transmission and Start/Stop engine shut-off. So powered, Atlas carries a tow rating of 5,000 pounds.
Offered in lower endowed models is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder putting out 235-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque with EPA’s of 22/26 mpg. This engine has almost as much torque as the V6.
With the V6, performance was energetic with two adults aboard. But the SUVs heft (4,502 pounds) can be felt when climbing hills and when attempting to merge into high-speed traffic lanes. And that’s in the miserly Eco mode.
Step-in into the spacious cabin is 19 inches. Front leather seats are nicely supportive and Euro firm. And the heated steering wheel has a sporty flat bottom ala Ferrari.
The center stack features large and easy to use HVAC controls and an 8-inch display (a 12.3-inch is optional with VWs Digital Cockpit) serving the audio, apps and rearview camera that offers an overhead birds-eye view of the vehicle showing any obstructions around it. The LCD also displays one of four selected modes of Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom with designs associated to the mode such as leafs for Eco and mud splashes in off-road mode. There’s also a dial to select one of four off-road modes 4Motion offers. In the owner’s manual, there are 17 pages dedicated to driving off-road.
Like many cars being offered today, Atlas came with Park Assist to help park the vehicle. A feature we still don’t trust in any vehicle. If I can’t park a vehicle, then it’s time to stop driving and take Uber.
The test car came with captain’s chairs in the second row that slid fore/aft 3.5 inches making for easier access to the third row. There’s actually 12 inches between the Captains chairs where youngsters can scoot into the third row instead of sliding the seats forward. And the third row has a surprisingly amount of legroom for even two adults. My 5’7” frame fit comfortably back there.
Back in the especially spacious cargo area (whose hatch can open by merely swiping a foot beneath a sensor under the rear bumper) and behind the third row split folding seats, the area measures 24 inches deep, 47 wide and 32.5 high. Flip the third row and depth increases to 55 inches. Flip the second row and depth extends to 82 inches for a total of 96.8 cubic feet. There’s also some small item storage beneath the cargo floor.
Ride wise on Continental 20-inch tires is smooth and exceptionally quiet. On the handling end, there’s nary any body lean in sharp turns and the car feels planted. And despite its size, is easy to park.
Since there was no Monroney (price sticker) in the test vehicle, VW’s website lists the S trim model starting at $30,750 with the nicely equipped SE at $37,340 while the exceptionally equipped SEL with every available safety feature offered today such as cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, auto braking, rain sensing wipers and more, is listed for $50,730. With that, VW offers an exceptional 6-year, 72,000 limited warranty and any remainder transferable to the next vehicle owner.
Added to this, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association gave Atlas its full 5-star safety rating.
As this is VWs first three-row, Atlas provides interior spaciousness not often found in competitive vehicles. It’s a solid performer with a long list of attributes many families desire, including a panoramic sunroof.