In a world where the SUV has replaced both the sedan and the hatchback, it’s surprising that a manufacturer such as Volkswagen only has two SUVs in their lineup and neither have 3rd row seating. Most large and even medium-sized manufacturers offer at least three SUVs, with some going as far as serving up five, as is the case with Chevrolet and Nissan.
With the potential for profit in this ever-increasing segment, VW decided to introduce a brand new model to fill the existing gap between the Tiguan and the Touareg. Although the name Atlas was speculated for quite a while, the moniker “Teramont” was also trademarked by VW and was in play right up until the debut. As far as competition goes, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has to really make a name for itself if it’s going to take some market share from the established three row SUVs currently on the market.
Visually, the 2018 VW Atlas shares a lot of similarities with the CrossBlue Concept, although he concept ended up being used by other manufacturers in the VW Group for the Audi Q7 and Skoda Kodiaq. The front end of the 2018 Atlas resembles the CrossBlue concept much more than its fellow VW SUVs – the Tiguan and the Touareg. The rectangular grille has been carried over straight from the concept, but VW modified it a bit to fit the production car’s design better. The end result is an overall square front end that suits the brutish character of the SUV. The square headlights are nicely integrated into the front end, but I feel like the small, angled foglights don’t belong on the front fascia. They could have made them squarer as well, just to keep the entire theme going.
The bulky profile of the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas exudes a brutish and solid persona. The low and wide stance, slightly sloped roofline, dual exhaust and front and side contour lines all tie into a bold and pronounced exterior that’s a welcomed change from the typical sleekly styled modern designs. The side profile very much resembles a Range Rover with a long rectangular body accompanied by a sloped tailgate.
The first, unmistakable thing you notice when you enter the cabin of the 2018 Atlas, is just how enormous the interior feels. Often large SUVs end up sacrificing cabin room for the sake of angular design, and you end up feeling disappointed with the lack of useable interior space. Definitely not so with the Atlas! The wide and tall cabin is bright and spacious with plenty leg, knee, elbow and shoulder room to seat a full load of adult passengers comfortably. Easy access to the third row seating is provided by a generously sized opening created from a fold and slide function on the second row seats.
The materials used in the 2018 VW Atlas are high quality and elegant in design. A combination of polished black, chrome and wood grain adorn the interior along with soft touch, double stitched leather. A huge display sits squarely in the center of the console, removing the clutter of buttons and dials, while large chrome trimmed rectangular air vents are scattered across the full width of the dash. The controls and design are all put together in a logical and straightforward manner with great ergonomics and everything where you would expect it to be. While the over dash design is more utilitarian than unique and special, I found it a refreshing change to have a simple and uncluttered dash from which to operate the controls.
Real world-wise, the 2018 Atlas provides a very functional driving experience. The firm and beautifully stitched leather seats will provide a supportive and comfortable ride over long distances. There’s lots of storage areas throughout the center console and doors in the front middle and rear to allow for many items being stored securely and out of the way. My favorite feature is the driver’s display between the gauges, which shows a real time map to help navigate while driving.
ENGINE AND DRIVE
The Atlas’ base engine option is a 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder engine creating 235hp. This entry level engine is a perfect choice for passenger hauling as well as up to 2,000lbs of towing capacity and overall is more than capable of moving the rather large Atlas at a decent pace. If you’re after more performance, the 3.6L V6 engine outputting 280hp will surely impress. With a lot more torque, it creates a lot of power for impressive accelerations, even with a full load. Also, it can haul anything you require with a 5,000lbs towing capacity.
The 2018 Atlas pairs the V6 engine to an eight speed automatic transmission with VW’s 4MOTION all wheel drive system to redirect power to wheels with traction. Enhancing the AWD system even further is the drive selector knob which tunes the AWD system to certain road conditions for added control.
On the road, the Atlas feels large, but never cumbersome. It copes in most situations with ease and clearly exudes the feel of driving a Volkswagen. A perfect amount of stiffness to absorb bumps, a solid and true handling with decent steering feedback and a responsive acceleration all combine to provide an enjoyable driving experience. The larger size of the 2018 Atlas does provide some drawbacks like a slower acceleration and a higher fuel consumption, but this is to be expected from a vehicle of this size.
As a model targeted to the North American market, filling in the gap between the Tiguan and the Touareg, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is nicely equipped at a base price of $35,690. While it stays true to a VW driving experience, you will also benefit from a high quality build backed by German engineering and an enormous and versatile interior. Take a closer look with a test drive to see if it’s the right vehicle for your family!