2018 Volkswagen AtlasPosted on April 6th, 2017
Midsize sport-utility vehicle with room for seven
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen’s newest family member, the Atlas, is a midsize SUV based on the automaker’s MQB platform first introduced in the current-generation Golf. Volkswagen is building the Atlas along with the Passat at its newly expanded Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like the Golf and Passat, the Atlas is a front-wheel drive vehicle, and as with the new Golf Alltrack wagon, is available with all-wheel drive. Although the Atlas competes in the same segment as the Volkswagen Touareg, the vehicles are quite different.
The premium Touareg is available only as an all-wheel drive vehicle, and with two rows of seating as opposed to three for the new Atlas. While the Touareg can tow more- up to 7,716 pounds as opposed to 5,000 for the Atlas equipped with the V-6 engine, the Atlas holds more on the inside: something that should appeal to growing families with active lifestyles.
It’s also more affordable. The front-wheel drive four-cylinder model that arrives in dealerships later this year starts at $30,500, while the V-6 front-wheel drive base model starts at $31,900. Buyers can add all-wheel drive for $33,700 excluding destination and handling.
Test drive in Texas hill country
This week I had the opportunity to test drive the front-wheel drive SE grade with a technology package that adds adaptive cruise control, front park assist, power liftgate and remote start to the mid-grade model. Other standard comfort and convenience features include blind spot monitoring, leatherette seating with ten-way power driver’s seat, eight-inch center stack screen keyless start. All models come with 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps and daytime running lamps, and a rearview camera. MSRP is $37,090 excluding $925 destination.
The V-6 engine rated at 276-horsepower with 266 pound-feet of peak torque is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Together, they make for a top-notch powertrain, with excellent low-end acceleration and plenty on the high end to pass slower vehicles on the highway.
The eight-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no noticeable shift shock under normal driving conditions. Despite the car’s mass, the transmission does not hunt on hills. Part of the reason is that the engine reaches peak torque 2750 rpm: quite low for a naturally-aspirated block.
An electric power steering system, delivers plenty of assist on the low end for good maneuverability. A 38.1-foot turning circle is pretty-good for a vehicle with a 117.3-inch wheelbase. At higher speeds, there’s a bit of wiggle in the steering wheel, but overall, steering feel is pleasantly heavy. We felt confident taking a cloverleaf entrance ramp at a good clip.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts with coil springs up front and rear multi-link setup. A front anti-roll bar keeps the chassis flat in the corners. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Atlas in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the vehicle in the center stack screen when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots beneath the rear glass and around the rear pillars. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes on the highway pass through the driver’s blind spots.
The adaptive cruise control system that comes with the technology package maintains a preset distance between the Atlas and the vehicle in front. It will work down to a full-stop as-long-as traffic re-starts after a few seconds.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior. There is some tire noise on certain types of asphalt, but it is not excessive.
While the Atlas is on the top end of vehicles in its segment in terms of size, it’s still amazing that a midsize SUV can offer such a spacious interior. My driving partner who is six-foot-seven remarked that he had more head and legroom than in some full-size vehicles. Second-row seats move fore and aft 7.7-inches to ease access and egress to the third row. Optional captain’s chairs will be available later this year.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support for drives over an hour in length. I was-able-to adjust the seat high enough for a clear forward view.
A standard USB port enables drivers to plug in phones and other electronic devices. Infotainment features on the test car include Bluetooth interface and VW Car-Net with smartphone apps and emergency assistance.
With second and third-row seats folded flat the Atlas has plenty of room to stash a couple of road bikes inside. Roof rails are standard, but cyclists might prefer a rear hitch mount due to the vehicle’s high profile.
The Volkswagen Atlas comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, automatic post-collision braking and intelligent crash response that automatically unlocks the doors, cuts the fuel supply and illuminates interior lights if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
The family-friendly Atlas rolls into dealerships next month.
Like: An affordably-priced sport-utility vehicle with roomy interior and extensive active safety technology.
Dislike: Poor fuel economy
Model: Atlas SE with Technology FWD
Base price: $37,090
As tested: $38,015
Horsepower: 276 HP @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 266 lbs.-ft. @ 2750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway2018, Best Value 2018, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Atlas, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volkswagen