Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen’s Atlas has become an impressive contender in the midsize crossover SUV market. And we’ve been seeing a lot of them cropping up on local roads.
Atlas 4Motion AWD can now be had with a more economical 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder, whereas earlier it came with a standard V6. Atlas is also offered with third row seating for up to seven, or six with second row Captain’s Chairs.
Trim levels include S, SE, SE Technology, SE Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line. R-Lines are the more sportier versions. Atlas is also available as an Atlas Sport that is a bit smaller in proportions.
We were privileged to test the SE Technology model with the 2.0L turbo four engine and 4Motion AWD and three row seating for seven. Even with the third row, Atlas had an appreciable amount of interior space that qualifies it as a true family hauler with, get this, 17 cup holders.
Atlas’s cockpit is stylish and sporty and includes a racy flat-bottom steering wheel. With heated front leatherette seats plus an 8-inch touchscreen serving the audio, rearview camera, climate, features and functions, it’s complete with Wi-Fi Hotspot capability along with MirrorLink, smartphone connectivity through VW’s App-Connect. And with VW’s Car-Net system, it allows starting the engine, locking/unlocking the doors and more through a linked Apple/Android watch.
The SUVs HVAC controls are large and easy to use. Included too is a wireless phone charger. On the console housing a burly 8-speed automatic transmission shifter, is a rotary AWD mode switch to select On-Road, Snow, Off-Road and Custom Off-Road driving positions. In Snow mode, controls are adjusted to help negate excessive wheel spin and the transmission upshifts earlier to help optimize traction says VW. With 8 inches of ground clearance, Atlas can handle modest snow depths and mild off-roads.
For Atlas’s Hill Descent Control feature, the system automatically activates on gradients of more than 10 percent. It functions at speeds between 1-19 mph and is adjustable via brakes or throttle. A nice feature in that it saves the brakes from added wear.
In addition, and for driver preference, there’s Normal, Sport, Comfort and Individual driving modes.
Over on the deep-set gauge cluster, a driver information display slots between the tach and speedometer for alerts and functions plus it displays a digital speed readout.
With a low 19-inch step-in, the rear seats are comfy with loads of leg and head room. The second-row seats slide fore-aft seven inches to make third row access easier. Those third-row seats are mainly suited for youngsters.
Back in the cargo area, that has a hands-free liftgate (merely wave a foot under the rear bumper to open it) and a low 30-inch lift-over, both make loading heavy, bulky items easier.
With the third-row seats upright, there’s 20.6 cubic feet of space that measures 23.5 inches deep, 47 wide and 32.5 high. Flip the third row and capacity expands to 55.5 cubic feet for 53 inches of loading depth. Flip the second row and capacity expands to a generous 96.8 cubic feet for 82 inches of cargo depth. It’s a spacious cargo area that can hold a mountain bike with the front wheel off and stacked. Beneath the cargo floor is a 5-inch deep bin for small item storage.
As mentioned, our SE Technology was powered by the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that generates 235-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 20 city, 24-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology and standard 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Acceleration is quick with impressive low-end torque. Highway passing power is equally as energetic and responsive, especially helpful when passing 18-wheelers.
Optionally available on the SE is the larger 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 276-hp and 266 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage ratings of 16 city, 22-highway mpg. And with the towing package, can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Shod with 20-inch Goodyear tires, Atlas offers exceptional ride quality. It’s quiet and poised even during spirited driving. There’s virtually no body lean in sharp tight turns. And it’s a quiet ride.
Atlas SE Technology came with a long list of safety features and functions such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning w/automatic emergency braking plus pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitoring/rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring and more. So equipped, the only extra cost options were for Aurora Red metallic finish ($395); Monster mats and trunk liner ($285); and Volkswagen’s prepaid Scheduled maintenance for 30,000 miles ($195) that took the base price of $38,795 to $40,890 with delivery. This price is competitive and in-line with comparable midsize SUVs on the market.
Overall, this impressively spacious SUV is especially maneuverable, enjoyable to drive and ride in. All combined, it’s a compelling choice in a crowded SUV field. And it’s made in the good ole USA.