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2018 Volkswagen Atlas vs 2017 Ford Explorer: What to Buy?

With the cost of gasoline remaining relatively reasonable, midsize SUVs continue to appeal strongly to Canadian families. With summer upon us, these roomy and practical vehicles also prove their worth as summer holiday companions – especially the ones fitted with three rows of seats or able to tow a trailer.

Earlier this year we published a top 10 list of midsize SUVs for 2017; featured on it were, among other models, the Mazda CX-9 (for our money the best in the segment), Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse.

We also reviewed, not once but twice, the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, the largest vehicle ever offered to North American consumers by the German automaker and a model designed specifically with our market in mind. Now the team at pits it in a head-to-head against another typically American midsize SUV, the venerable Ford Explorer. Two quick notes before we begin in earnest: Both models are able to tow up to 5,000 lbs, and the 4-cylinder Atlas will only be available as of this fall.

Here’s to making your buying decision easier and not harder!

By the numbers…

2018 Volkswagen Atlas – Winter road testSpring road testPhoto gallery

  • Trendline - $35,690
  • Comfortline - $39,690
  • Highline - $48,990
  • Execline - $52,540

Strong points

  1. Very contemporary lines
  2. Excellent available 4MOTION all-wheel drive
  3. Impressive agility and handling
  4. More space (including for cargo) and premium comfort for all occupants
  5. Interior could be mistaken for that of an Audi (especially with the available digital instruments)

Weak points

  1. Less power and selection than the Explorer
  2. Love-it-or-hate-it design
  3. Certain plastics could be of better quality
  4. 2.0L engine not available with all-wheel drive
  5. New product that has yet to prove itself

2017 Ford Explorer – Technical specificationsReviewPhoto gallery

  • Base - $34,499
  • XLT - $38,699
  • Limited - $49,399
  • Sport - $52,999
  • Platinum - $60,099

Strong points

  1. Powerful engines (4-cylinder is unmatched in the category)
  2. Quiet cabin on the highway
  3. Refined materials inside
  4. Abundance of technologies and safety systems
  5. In Platinum version, level of luxury on par with a Lincoln

Weak points

  1. Styling too conventional?
  2. Aging platform with heavy feel on the road
  3. Still waiting for the new 10-speed automatic transmission
  4. Legroom more limited in the back rows
  5. Price jumps quickly when adding options