Volkswagen released the all-new Atlas midsize SUV for the 2018 model year, and it’s essentially remained unchanged for 2019. The large three-row family hauler has gotten off to a strong start, selling over 100,000 units globally thanks to its good looks, strong feature set and low starting price.
Perhaps one of its more valuable assets is the Atlas’ looks, sure to please many buyers. It’s a modern, contemporary take on the SUV, with large wheel arches giving it a decidedly beefy stance. The test vehicle I drove came with the $1,960 R-Line package, which includes 20-inch Trenton alloy wheels, R-Line exterior fascia, R-Line exterior badging, R-Line steering wheel and stainless-steel pedals.
All Atlas models feature full LED front lighting, including low beams, high beams, turn signal indicators, daytime running lights and side marker lights. LED taillights are standard on the higher end trims, and I cannot say enough good things about having proper, modern lighting. It’s a real buzzkill to spend a chunk of money on a brand-new vehicle only to discover that (gasp) the automaker decided to use 100-year old incandescent bulbs. Good job, VW!
Two Engine Options
There are two available options to power the Atlas. A 235-hp, 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder engine mated with an 8-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive system handles entry-level duty, while a 3.6L V6 with 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque mated to a Tiptronic 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system is optional.
The V6 can propel the Atlas around town just fine but this is no screamer as this crossover weighs quite a bit (2,042 kg). That being said, you can still tow 5,000 lb in the Atlas. The transmission is smooth enough and the ride is elegant and enjoyable. I did find the size to be a bit of an issue in tight parking spaces but this comes with the package. On several occasions I misjudged the parking and ended up where I didn’t intend to be which is rare, and it might be an indication that the turning radius could be improved.
I do mainly city driving so my observed fuel economy wasn’t all that great at 15.0L/100km. In that respect, I would benefit from the smaller engine; however I fail to see the purpose of owning such a vehicle without all-wheel drive in a country with a winter climate such as ours.
Unlike the now-discontinued Volkswagen Touareg, the Atlas is a six or seven-seater capable of hauling your large family. The interior can be configured with captain’s chairs in the middle row ($625) but this means you lose one seat position. On the other hand, that setup makes entry and exit from the third row a breeze. The operation of the seats is a cinch and can be completed with one hand only. Same with the third-row bench folding operation.
The dash layout is modern and efficient with good control placement. The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display is a worthy investment and the extra-large 12.3-inch customizable gauge cluster display for speed, RPMs and other vehicle info is similarly very useful. You can display your navigation route on it and even adjust the size of the gauges. Base models come equipped with a 6.5-inch main infotainment display.
Volkswagen is known for good build quality and tight-feeling interiors, but I found I was encountering just a bit too much hard plastic, making for a somewhat dated feel. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a treat to put your hands on and the wheel-mounted controls are among my favorite in the industry. The audio and heating controls are very easy and efficient to operate and use proper dials rather than touchscreen buttons. In their constant quest to modernize and one-up the Joneses, some manufacturers have made basic operation of the most rudimentary systems a nightmare, but not Volkswagen.
In Canada we have four different trim levels. The entry-level Trendline starts at a very reasonable $36,740 and has 18-inch wheels, a backup camera and front emergency breaking.
Comfortline will run you $41,340 and adds keyless entry and push-button start, the larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote start three-zone climate control and a power liftgate.
Highline ($49,940) will add park distance control, a panoramic roof, navigation, power heated exterior mirrors and heated front and rear seats.
Finally, the Execline will comes with 20-inch wheels, park assist, a 12-speaker Fender audio system and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit for $53,590.
- Good-looking utility model, with at least some distinctive elements
- Intuitive, easily found commands on the central console and steering wheel
- Easy access to the third row (when with captain’s chairs in second row)
- Highly adjustable instrument cluster
- Updated LED lighting on the nose
- Elegant ride
We like less
- An overdose of cheapish plastic elements inside
- Fuel consumption that will have you forking it over at the pump
- Base engine comes only with front-wheel drive
- Big turning radius might lead you astray