While most German cars have a distinctly European focus, Volkswagen designed the Atlas expressly for American buyers. This is a big three-row, seven-passenger crossover SUV sized to compete against vehicles such as the Honda Pilot and the Ford Explorer. It has the soft ride and quiet cabin that Americans prefer, and it's even built in America.
And yet the Atlas maintains most of the characteristics found on other VWs. The dashboard layout is as straightforward and simple as can be, and despite the soft ride, the Volkswagen Atlas handles competently. Our one concern is power: V6-powered models aren't exactly lightning-quick, and while we haven't yet driven the four-cylinder version, we imagine it'll be pretty slow. Still, we like the Atlas' packaging and price, and we think it's an excellent choice for American families.
Current Volkswagen Atlas
The Volkswagen Atlas can be had in five trim levels: S, SE, SE with Technology Package, SEL and SEL Premium. The cloth-upholstered S is pretty basic, though VW will offer a limited-run S Launch Edition with V6 power and a panoramic sunroof. The SE adds a faux leather interior and push-button ignition, but we think the SE with Technology Package, which bundles in desirable features such as a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control and automatic braking, represents the best value in the lineup. The panoramic sunroof on the SEL is nice to have, and a full leather interior, navigation and video-screen dashboard make the SEL Premium rather tempting.
All Volkswagen Atlas models except the top-of-the-line SEL Premium can be ordered with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 235 horsepower. We haven't yet sampled this powerplant, but we can't imagine it will be any more than adequate. The 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 sometimes struggles with the Atlas' weight, especially on models equipped with all-wheel drive. EPA-rated fuel economy with the V6 is right around 20 mpg.
Aside from the power issues, the Volkswagen Atlas is well-mannered. The steering is very light, but it doesn't feel overboosted. Likewise, the ride is comfortable and compliant, and the Atlas feels stable and secure when you're driving around the turns. It's an accomplishment for a vehicle this large.
Space is what really matters in an SUV, though, and the Volkswagen Atlas delivers. The front seats are roomy and supportive. Second-row seat space is excellent, and the third row provides adequate room for adults, which is a rarity in this class of vehicle. Even with all three rows of space, the Atlas offers a useful 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space, which balloons to 55.5 cubic feet with the third-row seats folded.
Read the most recent 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Atlas page.