Three-row crossover utility vehicles are popular and they are putting a real pinch on minivan and sedan sales across the showrooms. And while they have been around for some time now there apparently is still room for competition as Volkswagen has just rolled out its entry into the segment, dubbed Atlas.
The Volkswagen Atlas is currently the largest vehicle in the VW showroom with seating for up to seven and room for (some) cargo in the rear. Sure, we have seen images of piles of folks cramming into Beetles and Microbuses decades ago, but Atlas is the current high occupancy “people’s vehicle” and it came as no surprise how well it drove and rode. Atlas is built on the MQB midsize global architecture shared with Passat and is assembled alongside the midsize sedan in Tennessee. The CUV is offered in front- and 4Motion all-wheel drive running gear and powered by turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6 gas engines.
We recently spent the week with the 2018 VW Atlas in SEL trim powered by the 3.6-liter V-6 engine and in 4Motion running gear. It came as no surprise how well the vehicle performed as I have been impressed with all of Volkswagen’s products in recent years. Atlas rides very stable and smooth and exhibits very good manners on road. The V-6 engine provided plenty of power during acceleration and through the powerband. An 8-speed automatic transmission is mated to both Atlas engines and features smooth shifting as well as manual shift mode. Drivers can choose one of several drive modes including normal, sport, and eco. I spent time between normal and sport depending on my mood and type steering and throttle response I wanted. My least favorite feature is the automatic (but driver defeatable) start/stop technology but it is supposed to help fuel economy a bit and Atlas needs all the help it can get in that arena.
The new Atlas is an evolution of the CrossBlue concept that debuted in 2013 on the auto show circuits. Gone is the plug-in hybrid technology but styling and other features are close to the concept. Atlas features more straight lines than curves and kept reminding me of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, especially from the rear. Its competitive set includes Explorer, Highlander, and Pilot and offers nearly all the amenities as those models, depending on trim. Some of those include large, color touchscreen infotainment atop center dash along with creature comforts like leather, heated seats, fold-flat second and third-row seats, sliding second-row seating, panoramic power sunroof, premium audio, remote engine start and keyless ignition, etc.