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Volkswagen’s Atlas holds up its end of the SUV market
Big SUV makes play in crossover market
Published Saturday, October 21, 2017 8:00 pm
by Winfred Cross

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Atlas was the Titan god who led a 10-year war with Zeus to take Mt. Olympus. That didn't go well, with the gods finally driving the upstarts back. Atlas was punished by having to support the world on his shoulders for eternity.

Hmmmmmm. Is Volkswagen trying to tell us something? Is its new Atlas the vehicle to support the crossover world for years to come? The company hopes so. The Atlas is very well done for a big SUV, but is it the best thing going right now?

No, but it’s good enough to consider as your next big vehicle.

The Atlas slots between the also-new Tiguan and the waaaay more expensive Touareg. It’s actually bigger than the Touareg, offering a third row of seats. It’s also roomier. The Atlas comes standard with the 2.0-liter turbo engine that seems able to do anything. It may be outclassed in the Atlas. My test car was loaded with the V6, which is more powerful, but maybe needs a few more horses to make this great vehicle even better.

I love the clean lines. The variation of the Volkswagen corporate face fits well on the vehicle’s bold, burly body. Its manly enough for men to take a peak but has a hint of wagon to make women feel comfortable. Actually, I think women like the big, bulky look as much as men, but I digress.

The inside is tastefully done. The trim pieces look and feel expensive and are designed with a very modern look. My test vehicle, SEL Premium, comes with leather seats and a very cool digital cockpit that can be configured to give a variety of different displays. It’s crisp – almost 3D looking – and large enough to display a movie (didn’t check to see if it did).

The front seats are comfortable, covered in premium leather, but don’t have many adjustments. That’s not a problem with me because I typically leave the seats in the same position on all vehicles. The second row of seats is roomy and can be moved even with child seats installed. Adults fit in the third row if you move the second row forward a bit. If not, be prepared to have your knees hit the back of the seats. Kids will fit fine.

The Atlas performs like a champ on the highway. It has a refined ride that belies its heft. The suspension soaks up most road imperfections but still gives you that taught, German feel despite being designed primarily for the American market.

The 3.6-liter V6 is mated to an eight-speed transmission that shifts flawlessly. The engine makes 276 horses with 266 pounds-feet of torque. That sounds like a lot, but I think under a heavy load it could feel sluggish. It felt fine with me but I never taxed the vehicle by loading it up with people and stuff. My vehicle’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system was added weight but I loved the confidence it provided driving in pouring rain. I suggest the system.

My week with the Atlas was pleasant. My daily commute of about 80 miles was achieved in comfort and style. The vehicle’s road manners are impeccable and the ride is nearly plush. When pushed, the vehicle shows how well it corners. Braking and steering was also great.

The SEL premium comes equipped with a lot of stuff: Apple Car Play, blind-side detection, lane departure detection, ABS, traction control, 480-watt Fender stereo, massive sunroof, leather, power everything, quad zone climate control and smart cruise control.

That’s not the complete list but you get the picture. With 4Motion and a few more goodies, the as-tested price is somewhere close to $50,000. That’s about average for a fully loaded crossover or SUV, and not new territory for Volkswagen The Touareg costs more.

I wouldn’t let the price scare you. Volkswagen is doing some great things with its lineup and the Atlas is one of them. Put this on your shortlist of larger SUVs. You owe this a good, long look.

Email Winfred Cross at: cross@alldaytech.


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