Volkswagen has a few options when it comes to SUVs. The Tiguan and Touareg are two small and mid-sized SUVs that can haul most families without trouble. If you needed a third-row seat then you had to look elsewhere, until now. The new VW Atlas is the seven or eight passenger SUV that will hold people and their stuff.
Under the hood is a 3.6L V6 producing 276 horsepower mated to an 8-speed automatic and sport mode for the highway merges. Power is placed to the road via 4Motion all-wheel drive. The standard motor is a 2.0L Turbo producing a healthy 235 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery is smooth at times but has its moments where it can’t seem to find the correct gear.
Exterior styling is what the American public loves, large and sturdy. Large up front LED headlamps illuminate the road ahead with a large horizontal grill. Around back are LED tail lamps and dual exhaust tips for the SEL Premium model. The wheels are average but are also 20-inches so they add to the overall large appearance. While we know the Audi Q7 is a relative, the Atlas has its own personality for sure.
Slide inside and be treated to a very clean and usable interior. The driver’s instrument cluster, called the VW digital cockpit, provides a clear and customizable display. You can adjust the style of the gauges, what is displayed in the middle and it even changes when you select Sport mode. Centering the dash is a large touch screen with buttons around the edge. Below are the HVAC controls for front passengers. The engine start/stop button is next to the gear selector which takes a couple tries to get used to. I was able to mount all of my car seats with ease. The second row tilts and slides forward allowing passengers to easily climb into the third row. Not to mention you can tilt and slide the seats with car seats already installed, getting high marks in our family. I was able to sit in the third row, but I wouldn’t want to be there for too long.
On road the Atlas drives like a smaller SUV. It handles urban driving very well and can motor around suburban streets with ease. I felt the power was limited and wasn’t all that aggressive when you leaned on the throttle. Lots of noise, but no go. Steering is tight and has good feedback. I took the Atlas on my favorite hill climb and bumpy roads just to see how it would respond, and I wasn’t disappointed. While it fumbled a little on the slow hill climb, the bumpy roads were no match even with the 20-inch tires.
The Atlas is a good all-around contender and will work well with active families. If you need passenger volume, storage behind the third row and a luxurious interior, the SEL Premium might be worth a peek. There are several variations of the Atlas from front-wheel drive to all-wheel and a long list of option groups to suit any budget.
VW claims 19 mpg average, and I was able to manage 16 mpg during my road test. MSRP for the very well-equipped SEL Premium with 4Motion is $49,415.
Will Chamberlain is a local freelance automotive journalist and full time Realtor with eXp Realty in Beaver. He can be reached at Media
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