2018 Volkswagen Atlas

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Review

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is a midsize SUV with more than enough room for the whole family.
4 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Ed Hellwig
Edmunds Editor

Designed and built in America to suit American tastes, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is the three-row crossover SUV Volkswagen has desperately needed for quite some time. The Touareg SUV that has been around for a while doesn't offer third-row seating, and it's not as competitive on price. The Atlas not only competes well with its rivals in terms of value, it has the kind of passenger space American families typically shop for in a family-hauling crossover.

Like other Volkswagens, the Atlas features an interior design that's both simple and sophisticated. Base Atlas models have easy-to-read gauges, intuitive controls and above-average quality materials. The top-end SEL and SEL Premium offer plenty of technology features as well, but their inclusion never makes the cabin seem overly complicated.

Our only real concern at this point is performance on the open highway. Even with the optional V6, the Atlas doesn't feel particularly powerful. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder is going to feel even more taxed, especially under a full load of kids and cargo. To its credit, the Atlas has a very refined ride quality and a quiet cabin, so if the engine has enough guts for your tastes, you're not likely to find issue elsewhere.



what's new

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is an all-new midsize crossover. It slots in between the compact Tiguan and high-end Touareg in Volkswagen's lineup. The Atlas is actually larger than the Touareg, but it doesn't offer the same level of features or options.

we recommend

We like the Atlas SE w/technology as the best compromise considering price, performance and features. It comes standard with the base four-cylinder engine, but we would opt for the V6. Front-wheel drive is standard, but V6 models offer optional all-wheel drive as well. The SE w/technology package trim builds on the already well-equipped SE by adding key safety systems such as automatic emergency braking along with convenience features including a power-operated liftgate and remote start.




trim levels & features

The Atlas is offered in five trim levels — S, SE, SE w/technology, SEL and SEL Premium. The first four trim levels can be paired with either the base four-cylinder engine (235 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) or the optional V6 engine (276 hp, 258 lb-ft). The SEL Premium comes with the V6 engine as standard. Front-wheel drive is standard, and V6 models can also be ordered with all-wheel drive (standard on the SEL Premium). For all Atlas versions, an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard.

Base Atlas S models have cloth seating, a bench seat in the second row, LED headlights and dual-zone manual climate control along with typical features such as power mirrors, a rearview camera and cruise control. There's also a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen interface that offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity. A limited run of Atlas S Launch Edition models will be offered with the V6 engine only and the addition of a panoramic sunroof, HomeLink programmable garage door opener and an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen with satellite radio.

Upgrading to the SE adds simulated leather upholstery, push-button start, automatic headlights, a power driver seat, heated front seats, rear sunshades, a blind-spot monitoring system, a larger 8-inch touchscreen interface and the option of captain's chairs in the second row. The SE w/technology builds on the SE's equipment list with the addition of remote engine start, automatic three-zone climate control, a power rear liftgate, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.

Moving up to the SEL adds a panoramic sunroof, power-adjustable front passenger seats, park distance control and two available options: black 20-inch wheels and the R-Line appearance package. The top-of-the-line SEL Premium adds several exclusive features. The most notable among them is the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, a display that replaces the standard gauge cluster with a video screen that can be reconfigured to show a wide variety of information beyond basic speed, fuel and temperature readings. All SEL Premium models also get LED taillights, full leather seating, an upgraded touchscreen display with navigation, and a parking assist system. The same 20-inch black wheels offered on the SEL are also optional on the SEL Premium, but the R-Line package is not.



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium (3.6L V6 | 8-speed automatic | AWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0

Driving

3.5 / 5.0

Acceleration2.5 / 5.0
Braking4.0 / 5.0
Steering5.0 / 5.0
Handling3.5 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.5 / 5.0
Climate control5.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.5 / 5.0
Roominess5.0 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality3.5 / 5.0

Utility

4.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.5 / 5.0
Cargo space5.0 / 5.0

Technology

4.0 / 5.0

Audio & navigation4.5 / 5.0
Smartphone integration4.0 / 5.0
Driver aids4.5 / 5.0
Voice control2.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
With the exception of a horsepower deficit, the Atlas is a pretty pleasant crossover to wheel around, especially considering its size. Effortless but direct steering, a quick-shifting transmission and confident brakes are the main components to credit for the pleasant driving experience.

Acceleration

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The optional V6 engine delivers decent acceleration off the line, but it feels just barely adequate when merging at speed — even with an empty cabin. Both the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander are a step or more quicker, with the Atlas needing a full 8 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph.

Braking

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Braking in the Atlas is confident, smooth and effortless. It's also one of its stronger performance qualities, needing only 115 feet to execute a panic stop from 60 mph. That's not only better than average, but it's also a surprise because the Atlas is heavier than most of its segment competition.

Steering

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The way the steering is tuned is a big reason the Atlas drives much smaller than it is. It feels light, quick and precise, but it also manages to avoid feeling disconnected like so many overboosted steering systems. This is a hard balance to achieve, but Volkswagen managed to get it very right.

Handling

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As much as the steering helps the Atlas feel nimble, it's no athlete. Sure, its ultimate road-holding grip is above average, but mostly it feels heavy and resistant to midcorner adjustments. The Atlas is great to wheel around town; just don't expect agility on curvy roads.

Drivability

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The eight-speed automatic is a good match to the V6, delivering smooth and quick shifts in both casual and spirited situations. We thought we may have heard some odd noises at some point during the test, but it didn't affect performance and we couldn't replicate it a second time.

Off-road

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With an approach angle that's top of class, a departure angle that's squarely midpack, and VW 4motion all-wheel drive, the Atlas should hold its own against the rest of the class. Three-row unibody crossovers are meant for light off-road duty and inclement weather, not trailblazing exploration.

Comfort

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The Atlas is well-suited for long-distance trips. Ample climate system capacity and vents for all rows will keep passengers from fighting over the controls. Ride quality is good, too, even with the optional 20-inch wheels. But we found the front seats a little flat and lacking in adjustability.

Seat comfort

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The front seats lack some adjustability, and the bottom cushions feel a little flat and long, which might be uncomfortable for short drivers. Both back rows recline; the second row slides and has a slightly firmer middle seat. All armrests have excellent padding with the exception of the third row.

Ride comfort

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The ride comfort in the Atlas is pretty nice considering it's on large 20-inch wheels. The ride feels settled and not floaty, yet it manages to suppress most small and large bumps it rolls over. The standard 18-inch wheels might even ride a little better, but they don't look nearly as nice.

Noise & vibration

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Some big vehicle cabins can sound boomy when empty, but the Atlas isn't one of them. There's some road noise and the large mirrors generate wind noise at highway speeds, but it's nothing the audio system can't conceal. The VR6 engine thankfully makes a pleasant noise when you rev it out.

Climate control

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The front seats are heated and ventilated with heat for the second row. The climate dials provide easy access, but you can also control everything through the touchscreen, even adjusting, syncing or locking out the rear controls. Plenty of heating and cooling capacity and the third row has vents.

Interior

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Space, space, space! That's what the Atlas is all about. But it also gets high marks for its clever sliding second-row seat with good rear visibility to boot. The upgraded Digital Cockpit interface offers a ton of functionality to go with its good looks.

Ease of use

edmunds rating
The Atlas is pretty easy to figure out. It does take some time to become familiar with VW's Digital Cockpit, but once you're accustomed, functionality is wide-ranging. One downside to the touchscreen interface is having to look at what you're pressing, which takes attention away from driving.

Getting in/getting out

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Entry and exit are about as easy as they get for this class. The Atlas is low enough to not require a step rail, and and there's virtually no sill to step over. Third-row passengers have decent access to the back because of the clever sliding second-row seat, but you'll need to be somewhat limber.

Driving position

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You can sit low to maximize headroom or high for a more commanding view of the road, what most people want in an SUV. The steering column has a good range of tilt and reach adjustments too. The driver's seat lacks a little bit of fine-tuning adjustments, but that doesn't compromise driving position.

Roominess

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Space is one of the Atlas' biggest strengths. It has plenty of room in all directions upfront and enough second-row seat width for three adults across. Also the third row will accommodate adults 6 feet tall or shorter with surprisingly little compromise to comfort. This roomy cabin uses space well.

Visibility

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Visibility is good for a vehicle this big. The windows are large all around, and the rear headrests don't impede the rear view unless people are seated in the third row. Big side mirrors create small blind spots at the 45-degree front view, but the available 360-degree camera system helps.

Quality

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The cabin's build quality is a mixed bag. Up front, the Atlas feels like a near luxury car at this trim level, especially with the Digital Cockpit option. Everything behind the front seats is more durable hard plastic with the high likelihood of kids sitting in back. Overall, the Atlas feels solid.

Utility

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If it's utility you value most in your midsize crossover, then the Atlas could rise to the top of your list. Impressive cargo-carrying capacity and easy-folding seats are strong selling points. Small-item storage isn't as clever as others, but the sliding second-row bench more than makes up for it.

Small-item storage

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There's a pretty good amount of storage space for small items, but its cabin isn't quite as clever as the Honda Pilot's. There's no clear storage cubbies for items such as sunglasses or sectioned compartments within the center armrest bin. The rear cabin cubbies are also sparse and relatively basic.

Cargo space

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At 20.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row, and a maximum of 96.8 cubic feet with all rows folded, the Atlas dominates the midsize segment competition. The flexibility of the manual-folding flat seats is great, and our tester also has a hands-free tailgate feature.

Child safety seat accommodation

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There's plenty of space in the second row, but the anchors are tucked behind slits in the backseat cushion, which are a little difficult to access. Otherwise there shouldn't be any issues fitting a rear-facing car seat in the second row, which is designed to tilt and slide with a seat installed.

Towing

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With a max tow capacity of 5,000 pounds, this Atlas matches both the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander and will pull 1,500 pounds more than the Mazda CX-9. The 2-inch receiver is nicely integrated into the rear bumper.

Technology

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The Atlas shows strong on the tech front at the SEL Premium trim level. The Digital Cockpit interface looks of Audi quality and the advanced driver aids are some of the better tuned systems we've experienced in this class. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make smartphone integration a snap.

Audio & navigation

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The audio-navigation system is really slick. The optional Fender audio system delivers great sound and tons of bass from a trunk-mounted subwoofer. The infotainment proximity sensor cues additional menus when your hand gets close and the nav responds quickly to swipe and pinch-to-zoom gestures.

Smartphone integration

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The Wi-Fi hotspot works pretty well, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make smartphone connections easy. Bluetooth was also fairly quick and simple to pair.

Driver aids

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Driving aids work well and are easy to switch on and off. The adaptive cruise control in particular maintained a really small gap for such a big car, and the lane keeping assist is subtle but effective. The camera system provides crisp, clear HD images on the infotainment system, which is handy for parking.

Voice control

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The voice control system provides clear and convenient screen prompts, but it had a difficult time understanding our commands. Functions are limited to the usual navigation, audio and phone commands, but even simple tasks such as requesting a satellite radio station were a hassle for some reason.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.