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  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

    Posted on February 22nd, 2018 ninarussin

    Three-row crossover geared towards active families

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    The midsize Atlas three-row crossover that debuted last year shares the same basic underpinnings as the Golf hatchback. Both are built on the automaker’s MQB modular platform, enabling engineers to share technology such as laser clamp welding that contributes to a more rigid body structure between various models.

    Buyers can choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder block or V-6 engine and front or all-wheel drive. The test car is the front-wheel drive V-6 SE with Technology starting from $35,940 excluding the $925 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, leatherette seating, three-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, power liftgate, an eight-speaker sound system with high definition and Sirius XM radio and eight-inch touchscreen display.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Over the past week, I drove the Atlas around the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan areas including east valley cities, Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert as well as along some rural roads in the Gila River Indian Community south of town.

    In terms of size, the Atlas sits in the middle of its competitive segment that also includes the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia and Mazda CX-9. There is not as much room in the third row as larger vehicles including the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Expedition offer, but the Atlas is a more maneuverable car that fits better in standard issue parking slots.

    While the four-cylinder engine provides adequate power, the V-6 is a better choice for this car with its 4,336-pound curb weight. Add in multiple passengers and their cargo and that number easily exceeds 5,000 pounds.

    That’s a lot of mass to move, especially in a high-profile vehicle. Buyers lose about four miles-per-gallon in terms of average fuel economy as compared to the four-cylinder turbo, but anyone planning trips with significant altitude gain will find the V-6 engine’s additional 40 horsepower worth the compromise.

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    All cars come equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, offering several large overdrive gears to maximize highway fuel economy. The transmission seems nicely matched to the engine, with no hunting or shift shock under normal driving conditions.

    Electric power steering provides plenty of assist at lower speeds for maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. A 38.1-foot turning circle makes it possible to perform U-turns on wider suburban roads.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a strut-type setup with coil springs and telescopic dampers up front and multilink setup in the rear. An anti-roll bar on the front axle keeps the chassis flat while cornering.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Atlas in firm, linear fashion.

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. A standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass. Blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert is standard on this and other upscale grades. LEDs in the side mirrors illuminate when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier to maneuver through dense traffic.

    LED headlamps provide long, bright beams of light after dark, while standard LED daytime running lamps make the Atlas easier for other drivers to spot in low light circumstances.

    Engineers did a good job of minimizing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior, so occupants in all three rows can converse or enjoy the audio system.

    Versatile interior

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    The Atlas can seat 6-7 passengers, depending on whether the buyer opts for standard bench seats or captain’s chairs in the second row. In either case, the seats move forward and out of the way to ease access to the third row. Both second and third-row seats fold flat for loading in bicycles and other large cargo.

    Keyless entry saves the driver from digging for the key fob, adding a measure of safety after dark. I found the power seat adjustments easy to use, with enough lower lumbar support for longer trips.

    Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.

    Standard roof rails enable owners to add a cargo carrier up top, which comes in handy when all three rows of seats are occupied. Cyclists will probably prefer a rear hitch rack since the roof is difficult to reach.

    Standard safety

    The Atlas comes with six airbags, antilock braking, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps, and post-collision braking. Available VW Car-Net security and service automatically notifies emergency personnel in the event of a serious collision, as well as diagnostics and maintenance information.

    Volkswagen builds the Atlas at its Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant.

    Like: A three-row crossover with a solid powertrain, high level of standard safety and good handling.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Atlas SE FWD with Technology
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $35,940
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 276 HP @ 6200 rpm
    Torque: 266 lbs.-ft. @ 2750 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: AWD models only
    Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway

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