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.
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.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
child safety seat accomodation
audio & navigation
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.