It almost seems as if the world has America confused. Due to our massive highway system, over-sized lanes and extra-large parking spaces, the rest of the realm is believing our love affair for mammoth sized SUV’s is the only thing we seem to care about. Despite there being space for 6, 7 or even 8 passengers; truthfully, do we never see more than one person in these urban sized carriers and is the demand really that extenuating for them?
Volkswagen believes to think so with their first attempt at their all-new three-row Atlas crossover. Despite sales figures being down with the previous generation Tiguan and the recently deceased euro-designed Touareg, Volkswagen figured a US driven crossover is surely what we need. In the grand scheme of things, we guess they’re not wrong – we do love our colossal crossovers.
The Atlas’ overall 200-inch length is deemed the perfect length for this 3-row, 7-passenger non-minivan hauler. If the design seems a bit blocky, there is a reason for that. Its chunky, cereal box cutting design steams for more interior volume and space for its passengers. Thus making all the room in the world (pun not intended) more comfortable for second and third row occupants. With occupancy at full capacity, the Atlas’ design allocated plenty of leg, hip, arms and elbow room for all occupants – including those in the third row. The easy to use, slide, and tilt second row seats made for a large opening and easy access to the additional row for any sized passenger.
Starting at 30,895, the Atlas provides 7 varieties of trim levels with a choice of an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder on the base S and SE front-wheel drive models or a more powerful, 3.6-liter narrow angle V-6 producing 276-horsepower and 266lb-ft of torque. Both engines get matted to a smoother operating 8-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 offers a 4Motion all-wheel drive system at a mere $1800 additional charge.
Our tester seen here sits near the bottom end of the trim line range as the SE with Technology. The SE with Technology incorporates small little touches of modern flair with Remote Start, Adaptive Cruise Control, Four USB Ports, Three-Zone Climate Control and a large 8-inch touch screen display with incorporated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Forgoing the all-wheel drive option, our V-6 SE stickerat $38,290.
Considering the Volkswagen lineup, the Atlas carries many similarities to the Golf, Jetta, and new Tiguan in its urban interior development. The use of soft touch materials and accent trim pieces is attractively executed throughout the cabin. While the Atlas S makes due with a cloth base interior, the SE and SEL trim options use a faux leatherette material that adds a certain level of premium-like aesthetics to the Atlas overall interior seating arrangement. The SEL Premium receives the official upgrade into leather.
With the Atlas’ weight coming in at nearly 5000lbs, it is one of more hefty crossovers on the market and requires a significant amount of time to achieve highway speeds. Pushing nearly 8 seconds to 60 mph, it is is one of the slower three-rowers on the market. To put that in comparison, the Subaru Ascent is 7.5 seconds, Toyota Highlander is 7 seconds and Chevrolet Traverse is 6.5 seconds. Despite its slow and steady demeanor, the Atlas puts on a display of willingness – its power distribution is linear and cohesive. The transmission manages its effort flawlessly with responsive changes in manual mode. In hindsight, the Atlas, is one of the more fuel conscious V-6’s on the market average 23 mpg combined – 4 more than the EPA rating.
Sharing similar chassis development with the Golf, the Atlas sort of inherits some of its Golf-like behavior. Not to say the Atlas drives like a bloated hatchback, but its suspension set up and ride quality mimics similar traits. It road mannerism are solid and poise like the Golf – the ride is subtle and quiet with positive feedback into the cabin. The handling is light through the steering and carries a well in tuned on center feel. In the corners, the Atlas starts to show its size given the body lean and swollen return from the suspension.
In a world already full of large three-row crossovers, adding another one to the pile is a bit daring. Given this is Volkswagen first attempt at a large 3-rower, it’s an attempt they’ve fruitfully fared. Carrying all the right fundamentals we harness out of a large crossover and the long list of standard safety features, the Atlas is on the right track to world domination.