2018 Volkswagen Atlas Review

While automotive classifications tend to rise and fall in popularity, the midsize sport utility vehicle (SUV) appears poised for a permanent high. Most manufacturers have major players in this segment and Volkswagen is the latest to join the crowd with the all-new 2018 Atlas, which slots into its SUV lineup just above Tiguan and below Touareg.

 

Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the seven-passenger Atlas is available in five trim levels—S, SE, SE w/Technology, SEL and SEL Premium. At the press launch I attended, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium and S models were available for test drives.

VW's Chattanooga Tennessee Factory

More than $10,000 in price separates the two and their interior treatments reflect this fact. For openers, the SEL Premium offers a digital gauge cluster while the S uses traditional hardware. Measuring 12.3-inches, the distinctive display can be customized to the driver’s preferences. The Atlas SEL Premium interior also includes heated leather seats, where the S comes with fabric upholstery.

Still, all Atlas models offer seating for seven, with second and third rows that fold flat to provide a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cubic feet. Captain’s chairs are offered as an option for the second row. Comfort is good all around, though the third row is most ideal for younger children. As expected from Volkswagen, the driving position is outstanding and outward visibility is good all around.

For those a little more concerned with fuel economy than outright performance, the Atlas can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 235 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque. For families who’d like more power, there’s a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 horses and 266 lb.–ft. of torque. Both are matched to an eight-speed transmission. The maximum tow rating for the V6 is 5,000 lbs. with a factory-installed hitch.

I tested an Atlas equipped with the V6. Acceleration was good and the engine exhibited outstanding quiet and smoothness. Start/Stop technology shuts the powerplant off at a stop to help conserve fuel. While noticeable, it was less jarring than other systems I’ve experienced. Both the 2.0-liter and the 3.6 are available on all trims with the exception of the Premium SEL, which is exclusively the domain of the V6 and 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Along with AWD comes Driving Mode Selection for various conditions. The primary choices are Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. Within the “Onroad” setting are also Normal, Sport, Comfort and Individual calibrations.

 

While EPA testing is still underway, front-wheel drive V6 models are expected to earn around 18 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. As the 2.0-liter engine will have late availability, no mpg information was available at the time of testing.  

Family vehicles need to be packed with safety features as well as utility. Setting the Atlas apart is Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is a standard feature across the board for each version of the mid-size SUV. This system automatically initiates braking after the Atlas suffers a collision and continues to brake for as long as necessary to reduce the speed of the vehicle to six mph in an effort to prevent and/or minimize the severity of subsequent collisions.  

Blind spot monitoring is standard on Atlas SE and above, while Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with emergency braking and pedestrian warning, as well as Lane Assist come with the SE w/Technology and above. Park Distance Control is standard on SEL Premium. Convenience features include a rearview camera, dual-zone (first row and second/third row) climate control, cruise control, the MIB II infotainment system, and a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display.

Forcing its way into an already crowded field, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has what it takes to carve out a niche for itself. Pricing starts at $33,500 for Atlas S, while Atlas SEL Premium starts at $48,490.

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