We're spending 12 months with this Volkswagen Atlas reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates. We've named the Atlas one of the Best Family Cars for 2019.

Overly sensitive Park Distance Control warnings and chimes

by Frankie Rogers on July 5, 2019 

Price$49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 18,351
Latest MPG: 14.04
Lifetime MPG: 18.06
Maintenance/Service Costs: $152.68
Time out of Service: 0 days

Our Volkswagen Atlas is equipped with a Park Distance Control (PDC) system which uses ultrasonic sensors, located in the front and rear bumpers, to calculate the range to an obstacle. The system calculates the time it takes for the ultrasonic waves to bounce back from the obstacle to determine the distance between the vehicle and the obstacle. This is a very useful feature to help guide the driver when parking a large vehicle like the Atlas, but also to help take the guesswork out of judging parking distance.

The PDC in the Atlas is too sensitive in our opinion. Most of the time when approaching a stop sign or a red light near a curb or median the chimes will sound and the PDC warning will pop up on the infotainment screen. The system only works at speeds of up to 5-10 mph, which is about the speed driven when approaching a stop sign or to creep in traffic. The PDC seems unable to differentiate between slowing down to stop versus slowing down to park. It treats almost every stop as if the vehicle is parking which is annoying. The chimes became so bothersome that we muted them but left the onscreen warnings alone. Turning the sound off was done by tapping on the mute symbol located in the PDC display. You can also mute the chime by engaging the electronic parking brake.

So, until the next iteration of the PDC is released and addresses the parking distance sensitivity issue we’ll just keep the chimes off and drive along in peace and quiet.

 

Intricacies of the foot-activated liftgate

by Frankie Rogers on June 21, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 17,231

Latest MPG: 18.50 
Lifetime MPG: 18.10
Maintenance/Service Costs: $152.68
Time out of Service: 0 days

One of the nifty features available on our 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is the hands-free power liftgate. All you need to do is have the key fob on your person and move your foot and shin in a quick kicking motion close to the center of the rear bumper and it will open automatically. Unfortunately, you still need to use your hand or the key fob to close it.

The hands-free power liftgate has been around since about 2012 when Ford debuted it on the C-Max. BMW also launched the hands-free liftgate on its European-only 5 Series wagon around the same time.  It’s a feature that is being offered on more vehicles and is probably something to consider on your next car if you always find yourself digging around for the key to open the liftgate.

We have discovered that while it sounds easy to open with just your foot, it does take a little practice to get it to open each time. First, you must find the sweet spot which seems to be slightly off center and to the left of the hitch on our Atlas. Second, and this one is important, a quick kick and a step back must happen simultaneously for the liftgate to open. Initially I tried to swipe my foot and shin in a side-to-side motion under the bumper and that did not work. Also, just holding your foot under the rear bumper will not work. Now that the intricacies of opening the liftgate with my foot have been unraveled I can finally use it when my hands are otherwise occupied with shopping bags or other stuff.

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Time for a real road trip

by Frankie Rogers on June 7, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 16,721
Latest MPG: 20.77 
Lifetime MPG: 18.10
Maintenance/Service Costs: $152.68
Time out of Service: 0 days

As with all our long-term vehicles it was time to take the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas on a road trip. Our destination for this trip would be the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, which would add about 1,500 miles to the odometer when all was said and done. I have been to the Grand Canyon many times and try to fit in a visit every two or three years just to take in its scope and beauty.

We usually stay in Flagstaff which is about an hour and half south of the park since there are more choices for lodging, restaurants and shopping when compared with staying inside the park. We also planned on visiting Monument Valley during this trip and staying in Flagstaff put us slightly closer, but not by much since it was still three hours away.  Good thing for audio books and the Atlas’ Fender premium audio system. With 12 speakers and 480 watts of power listening to Titus Welliver narrate as detective Harry Bosch in the Michael Connelly crime series was an enjoyable experience.

The Volkswagen Atlas behaved well on the long highway stretches where the average speed maintained by most drivers was around 80 mph. The ride was quiet and compliant and with only two of us as passengers there was plenty of room.  

When it came time to pass vehicles on the two-lane highway into the Grand Canyon though the Atlas’ 3.6-liter V6 seemed to struggle. I had to mash the gas pedal and make sure I was in the best possible position before attempting a passing maneuver. One other thing that was noticed during this trip was a vibration when driving in the speed range of 65-70 mph. The vibration could be felt in the driver’s seat and could be seen in the shaking water bottles we had in the console cupholders. We may have to get this evaluated at our next service visit.

Like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley was created through timeless erosion by water, wind and ice. Similarly, it is still being shaped by the forces of nature right before our eyes. Our visit to Monument Valley included taking the 17-mile drive loop which is a winding, unpaved dirt road through and around the famous rock formations. The road was well maintained so the Volkswagen Atlas didn’t have to work too hard. Some sections of the road where recent rains had created ruts and trenches were handled with ease and stability by the big SUV and its 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.

On our way back to Flagstaff we noted the thick layer of red dirt that clung to the rear hatch like a protective second skin. It was also caked under the wheel wells. This clingy red earth would remain on the Atlas and make it all the way back to California. Most of the red soil rinsed off from the Atlas’ undersides and turned my driveway a bright orange color. I looked at it as a free souvenir.

We’ll see where the next road trip takes us and if there will be more free souvenirs to bring back. 

 

Windshield washer fluid, please

by Frankie Rogers on May 24, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 14,468
Latest MPG: 17.62 
Lifetime MPG: 17.68
Maintenance/Service Costs: $152.68
Time out of Service: 0 days

Thanks to Volkswagen’s wonderful little warnings and chimes for everything from parking assist to low fuel to traffic incidents, we got a notification that the Atlas’ windshield washer fluid needed to be replenished. The chimed reminders worked so well after the initial warning was displayed that it seemed we were being scolded each time we got in to start the vehicle. We acted quickly and following Volkswagen’s instructions, purchased windshield washer fluid from one of the well-known auto supply stores in our neighborhood.

Now here is where you need to be careful with the type of fluid you buy. We opted for the basic windshield washer fluid found in most auto parts stores, as well other well-known retailers, like Target and Walmart. But you should stay away from those that have too many additives. When we researched the Atlas online owners forum, we learned that washer fluid with water repelling properties can clog or gum up the Atlas’ nozzles thereby causing more harm than good.

Adding the fluid is a snap as the reservoir is well-marked with a blue cap and located in an easy-to-reach spot, which is toward the front of the engine on the driver’s side. We filled it until we could see the blue fluid reach just below a line on the filler neck. Volkswagen says it can hold between 3-5 quarts. Once that was done we closed the hood, got back in the vehicle and were treated to a quiet startup, no more “fill me” chimes or warnings.

 

How to access the windshield wipers

by Frankie Rogers on May 10, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 13,769
Latest MPG: 17.47 
Lifetime MPG: 17.68
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

For most vehicles you wouldn’t give a second thought as to how to lift up the windshield wipers. All you do is reach over grab the wiper and pull it up. Not so on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. When in their normal position the wiper arms will not clear the top of the hood making it impossible to lift them up without damaging the hood and wiper arm.

So, how do you get the wiper up and out of the way so that you can clean the windshield or replace the blade? It takes a few steps to achieve this. First, you must turn the ignition off, then on briefly, then off again. Second, push down on the windshield wiper lever and hold for one to two seconds. The wipers will have moved into their service position, which means they are now in a vertical position and accessible.

At this point you can lift the wiper away from the windshield and gain access to the windshield for cleaning. You can also clean or replace the blade while in this position. Removing the blade involves pressing and holding the release button on the arm while also pulling with force on the blade in the direction of the wiper arm. Installing a new blade is kind of a reverse action and is accomplished by pushing it in the opposite direction until it latches in place. Fold the wiper back onto the windshield when done.

To get the wipers back to their parked position turn on the ignition and press the windshield wiper lever down briefly and watch as they magically move back into position. That’s it, you’re done! 

 

Putting the VW Atlas to the Bike Test

by Matt Degen on April 26, 2019

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 13,279
Latest MPG: 21.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 19.5 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

I have a simple but important task when living with an SUV for any appreciable time: I call it the Bike Test, and it’s exactly what you think – seeing how well a bicycle fits inside the cargo bay.

Granted, most SUVs will fit a bicycle; it’s that kind of cargo-carrying flexibility for which many of us own them. But not all are created equal. In smaller crossover SUVs, I sometimes need to remove the front wheel or at the very least turn it as I finagle the bike in the back once the seats are down.

This past weekend I put our long-term Volkswagen Atlas to the Bike Test. And it passed with flying colors.

A longer “bed” than a pickup truck

The VW Atlas is one of my favorite 3-row crossovers because it has huge cargo room with the rear two rows folded – a whopping 96.8 cubic feet, to be exact. Even better, the space is super usable because the seats fold flat. And I mean, flat like you-could-sleep-in-here flat.

That combination of size and no-angle enables the Atlas to easily swallow large gear like a mountain bike. Mine fit in, and there was even room to spare. If you have, say, a beach cruiser, the Atlas should be ready to transport one of those, too. From the front seats to the rear, the VW Atlas’ rear cargo floor stretches over 80 inches – or more than 6 ½ feet. That’s comparable or longer than the bed of most midsize pickups.

One other aspect I appreciated is that the Atlas’ cargo area isn’t terribly high. That’s one of the benefits of a crossover SUV. Unlike a traditional, body-on-frame SUV that has to make room for heavy-duty drive components and thus has a higher load floor, crossovers ride on a sedan-like unibody chassis and thus have a lower load floor.

The Atlas’ cargo-carrying capacity is just one more feather in its practicality cap. With all three rows up, it happily ferries seven passengers. Put those seats down, and you have a longer bed than a midsize pickup truck that will easily carry all your active lifestyle gear.

 

Palm Springs Road Trip

by Matt DeLorenzo on April 8, 2019

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 12,089
Latest MPG: 19.19

Lifetime MPG: 17.51
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

Comfort is paramount when taking to the open road and our VW Atlas one of the tops in our current fleet when it comes to delivering on that point when the freeway beckons.

Recently, I attended a press event in in Rancho Mirage, which was a solid 2-plus hour drive (or roughly the same as Michael Harley’s commute from points north). Since I live within 15 minutes of the office, I don’t get the opportunity to spend as much time behind the wheel as some of our more geographically-extended staff.

So, I looked forward to the drive and wasn’t disappointed. And the usefulness of the Atlas was underscored with a Home Depot run to pick up 10 bags of mulch the day before hitting the road to the Palm Springs area.

The freeway run was uneventful, the Atlas performed flawlessly except for a slight nibble in the steering. I don’t know if it was the road surface or perhaps a slightly unbalanced wheel, but we’ll get that looked at during the next service call. Earlier comments on the relatively small fuel tank and less than spectacular fuel economy are relevant here, however, the highway cruise did yield more than 19 mpg and I was able to go nearly 300 miles on a tank and put just about 15 gallons in the tank. The dash readout said I had about 40 miles to empty when I stopped.

Overall, the Atlas is a solid freeway cruiser, the high seating position the perfect perch to see over and around traffic and the engine, when prodded, provides sufficient passing power. The air conditioning worked well in the desert and I appreciate the high resolution of the infotainment screen that made it easy to see and use in the brightest light. The roomy layout and driving ease are two strong selling points for the Atlas, especially if it’s pressed into family car duty.

 

Unlock the door with just a touch

by Frankie Rogers on March 25, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 11,792
Latest MPG: 15.64
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.51
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

Our long-term Atlas is equipped with KESSY, which is Volkswagen’s nickname for its electronic locking and starting system. This keyless access system allows you to unlock the vehicle without having to touch the key fob. It’s available on the SE as well as the SEL trims. This feature has proven to be extremely useful each time I enter the Atlas. The ability to walk up and simply touch the door handle to unlock it, or touch the small indentation to lock it, is mind-blowingly easy. There’s no need to pull the key fob out of your pocket or purse, let alone push one of its buttons.

The keyless entry system has been around for a couple of decades now and was first introduced by Siemens in 1995. Mercedes-Benz was the first automaker to use it in the 1998 S-Class. Volkswagen first introduced its keyless access system in the Phaeton in 2002. When the key fob is within range of about 5 feet of the vehicle’s keyless access system and the door handle sensor is activated it will unlock, or lock depending on whether the driver is entering or exiting.

The only downside I have discovered with the Atlas’ keyless access system is its level of sensitivity. If you happen to inadvertently brush against the door handle it will lock if you had it unlocked and vice versa. I have been caught in a few losing tournaments of the lock and unlock game while cleaning the Atlas’ exterior more than I care to admit. I guess this is a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to use an actual key each time you need to get into the car.

 

What we like and don't like about our Volkswagen Atlas

by Frankie Rogers on March 11, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 11,174
Latest MPG: 22.18
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.55
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

We have had our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Atlas for eight months now and have put 11,174 miles on the odometer using it as a daily driver, family hauler, cargo hauler, as well as for short road trips to various points in Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire. Our time behind the wheel so far has produced some likes and dislikes about the Atlas.

Let’s start with what we like:

Lots of room: With seating for seven and an impressive 96.8 cubic feet of cargo space, when the second and third rows are folded flat, there is plenty of space for people and cargo. The amount of space in the Atlas is best summed up by one of our editors as consisting of “universe-class roominess in all three rows.”

Easy third row access: The second row folds and slides far forward with the pull of a lever making access to the third row effortless. Once in the third row passengers are afforded ample room and as our tallest editor on staff noted, “he was simply unable to make himself uncomfortable.”

Sport mode: Our Atlas has four on-road driving modes from which to choose: Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom. With Custom mode the driver can adjust steering, the drive system, Adaptive Cruise Control, and climate control to their preference. Drive modes add a variety of characteristics to the driving experience and so far we have found the Sport mode to be the most responsive and engaging.

Digital instrument cluster: Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit is a customizable, high resolution instrument cluster. Being able to tailor the information in the cluster to the driver’s liking allows only that information that is useful to the driver to be displayed.

Here’s what we dislike:

Feels underpowered: Our Atlas is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 which seems underpowered for a vehicle of its size and weight. There are times when trying to pass another car or attempting to merge onto a freeway is a challenge unless you mash the gas pedal. Maybe a turbo version of the V6 would help?

Small fuel tank: We have found that the Atlas requires frequent refueling and while this may be due to fuel consumption during our daily commute in heavy traffic, we feel it may also be due to the smaller gas tank.

Finicky liftgate foot activation: A few of the editors have tried, unsuccessfully, to find the sweet spot for the Easy Open liftgate. Whether swinging your foot from side to side, or in a forward kicking motion it’s only worked in a handful of instances.

 

Time for a service visit

by Frankie Rogers on February 22, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 9,823
Latest MPG: 17.34
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.39
Maintenance/Service Costs: $149.69
Time out of Service: 0 days

Our long-term Volkswagen Atlas has been reminding us that it will need its 10,000-mile service soon. Recently each time we get in the Atlas and start it up a service message pops up in the virtual cockpit. It’s been counting down the miles until we reach 10,000, so it has been doing this for the last 900 miles.

For the 10,000-mile service that Volkswagen recommends the oil and filter would be changed, various systems inspected and the tires rotated. Since a staff member also has a road trip planned with the Atlas in the next couple of weeks taking it in for service sooner rather than later seems like the appropriate thing to do. Plus, the constant service reminder is getting a bit annoying.

After my last experience with a dealership located near our office in Irvine (see the December 4, 2018 update) I opted to take our midsize SUV back to CardinaleWay Volkswagen which is close to my home. I had scheduled an appointment for 9:00 am so all I had to do was show up, check in and hand over the key. While they did not say how long it would take I assumed at least 2 hours and settled in to one of the well-used chairs in the waiting area. Wi-Fi was available so I could work while waiting for the Atlas’ service to be completed.

From where I was seated I had a very good view of the service queue and made note that the Atlas sat exactly where I left it for 30 minutes before it was moved to a service bay. This got me wondering if it was going to sit in the service bay for yet another 30 minutes before a technician would start working on it. My concern was put to rest when one of the service advisors came over about 25 minutes later and informed me the work had been completed and the Atlas was being washed and would be ready soon. All told the entire visit lasted a little over an hour and cost $119.58. I paid the bill and was handed the key and off I went.

 

It fits with room for more

by Frankie Rogers on February 8, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 9,340
Latest MPG: 17.06
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.37
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.11
Time out of Service: 0 days

Over the recent Super Bowl weekend my husband and I decided to pull the trigger and replace one of our TVs. We had been researching prices and options on a couple of models and finally settled on one from Sony. We knew from experience that holding out and waiting for a sale that takes place over a holiday weekend, like Memorial Day, Black Friday or the Super Bowl, could save us a few hundred dollars. So, when the price dropped $300 on the model we had our eye on we knew it was time to buy.

Enter our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, a large midsize SUV with 96.8 cubic feet of space available when the second and third rows are folded flat. Did I mention that the new TV was 65-inches? Well that TV in its box fit easily in the rear cargo area with room to spare. Heck, we could have stacked five 65-inch TVs in the back of the Atlas if we were so inclined. We only needed one though so in it went with ease. The rear hatch opens tall and wide which allowed for easy maneuverability of an awkwardly-shaped box.  The hatch even provided a bit of shelter between the SUV and our garage while we unloaded the TV during a rain storm that was pummeling Southern California.

I wonder what else we can fit in the back of the Atlas? Stay tuned.

 

The warmth of a steering wheel

by Frankie Rogers on January 25, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 9,140
Latest MPG: 18.76
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.37
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.11
Time out of Service: 0 days

The heated steering wheel was once an amenity exclusive to luxury vehicles, but now this hand-warming feature can be found on many non-luxury brands. The heated steering wheel is essential for vehicles driven in areas where the climate produces low temperatures that make handling an extremely cold steering wheel rather uncomfortable without a decent pair of gloves. It’s especially beneficial for those who work from their vehicle rather than the confines of a warm office.

Our 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is not only equipped with a heated steering wheel but one that has three settings: low, medium and high. I suffer from cold hands constantly, even on warm summer days, so I find the variety of heat settings useful. Accessing and choosing the right setting only requires a few inputs from the Climate control menu. After selecting the heated steering wheel icon in the bottom center of the screen another pop up will be displayed allowing the user to choose from the three temperature options. Once a selection has been made it will heat the steering wheel to that level each time it is activated. Activation is achieved by engaging the button with the heated steering wheel icon located next to the auto start-stop deactivation button. And what a treat it is to drive with your hands holding a warm steering wheel rather than an icy cold one. 

 

Two of my favorite storage cubbies

by Frankie Rogers on January 9, 2019 

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 8,025
Latest MPG: 16.47
 
Lifetime MPG: 17.17
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.11
Time out of Service: 0 days

For some there is that one favorite thing we always go back to whether it is a vacation spot, a pair of jeans or some food dish we’ve got to have. For me it is two of the storage cubbies in our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

I know it’s just storage space but I find them useful every time I get in the Atlas. The one on top of the dash is my favorite. Whether placing my glasses, wallet, or other tchotchkes I need to keep close by, I find myself tickled with its eagerness to hold my little items. It’s just deep enough to hold eyeglass cases and a women’s wallet without obstructing my view, but not so deep as to swallow items that would be difficult to retrieve. And yes, I know this isn’t the first or only vehicle to have this feature but I find its size, shape, depth and reach to be just right.

The other storage cubby I find useful is the one right below the climate controls. It is wide and deep and can hold multiple items of varying size. I have placed my phone, wallet, charge cables, and a small notebook in it all at once and still had a little space for more. I especially like the angle at which the storage space is positioned as it keeps things from spilling out. In some vehicles this storage area is flat and items tend to slide out when the vehicle is in motion – but not with the Atlas.

In the months ahead we’ll have to see what else we can try to fit into the Atlas’ storage cubbies.

 

Weekend duties made easy

by Matt DeLorenzo on December 18, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 7,171
Latest MPG: 19.15
Lifetime MPG: 16.97
 
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.11
Time out of Service: 0 days

I had the opportunity to take the Atlas for a weekend that was filled with pre-holiday rushing around, including some shopping, a fun side trip to Cars & Coffee at a local outlet mall (with more shopping) and moving around some large items including a donation run to Salvation Army and transporting a bike.

Our 2018 VW Atlas performed well in all instances and was up to the task as functioning more as a 2-row SUV than a people-hauling 3-row. With the third row stowed, there is a huge cargo space that swallowed up the clothes, books, and some rather unique lawn ornaments that perhaps fellow staffer Matt Degen may be interested in if he hits the same thrift shop to which I gave the stuff.

Easy rear access

On another shopping run for Christmas, the Atlas had no trouble ingesting a rather long, unspecified item that I won’t reveal for fear the recipient may come across this post. The flat floor of the cargo area makes loading and unloading a breeze. This lack of liftover and a hatch that is both wide and tall made loading the bike into the back a snap.

Driving the V6 Atlas is a pleasure. Plenty of power, great visibility from behind the wheel and a linear feel to the steering and brakes make this large SUV easy to wheel around. The only nit to pick is the touchscreen, which is a bit overly sensitive. I went to twist the volume knob and my knuckle inadvertently got close enough to the screen to initiate a channel change. It has a proximity sensor to make features more accessible, but you must be careful where you put your hand.

Overall, the VW Atlas is proving its worth as both a people and cargo mover.

 

Two dealerships and a leaking tire

by Frankie Rogers on December 4, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 6,733
Latest MPG: 19.39
Lifetime MPG: 16.90
 
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.11
Time out of Service: 0 days

Recently the low-pressure warning came on again in our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. As mentioned before in a previous update we’ve experienced Volkswagen’s extremely sensitive tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). We were a bit skeptical this time since just two weeks prior we had checked the pressure of all four tires and they were within normal limits. On this occasion though the warning specifically called out one of the tires, the left rear. So, with an abundance of tire inflators and gauges at our disposal we set out and verified that the tire pressure was down to 30 psi from 36. A visual inspection of the tire showed no signs of road hazard culprits such as a nail, screw, or other sharp metal object embedded in the tire. No audible hiss could be heard, nor did any bubbles show up after hosing the tire down with water. We inflated the tire back up to 36 psi and made a note to keep an eye on it. After two more warnings popped up, which seemed to take place every third or fourth day, we decided it was time to take it to a local dealer and have it properly inspected.

You would think taking it to one dealer would solve the problem. Not so. The first dealer, Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore Irvine, had the vehicle for less than 30 minutes and said they couldn’t find the leak and didn’t know what else to do. Our impression was that they did the minimum in trying to locate the leak and when it wasn’t obvious what was causing it they gave up. In addition, no paperwork was created for this visit which seemed odd, but since they really didn’t fix anything, we let it go.

Like clockwork three days later the low-pressure warning came on once again and it was decided that a visit to a different Volkswagen dealership would be in order. The second dealer, CardinaleWay Volkswagen in Corona, not only found the nail causing the air leak they also informed us there were two open recalls on the Atlas that needed to be addressed. The recalls were for a front brake caliper carrier bolt (campaign 46H6) that needed to be inspected and torqued to spec, and the other was an ECM software update (campaign 23X1). All told it only took about an hour and a half to get the tire patched and both recalls addressed, and they washed the Atlas too.  We sure know which dealership we’ll be visiting for future service on our 2018 Atlas.

 

Impressive SUV, Unimpressive Fuel Efficiency

by Michael Harley on November 19, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 5,890
Latest MPG: 15.82
Lifetime MPG: 16.73
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Recently, I borrowed the Volkswagen Atlas for an evening so I could test its fuel economy on my 100-mile commute across the LA Basin. While the EPA follows odd procedures and runs algorithms to determine its official fuel economy estimates, I do real-world testing – driving on a busy fast-moving highway – and pull the numbers off the vehicle’s on-board computer (OBC). Technically speaking, my “test” covers 86.2 miles of highway driving at an average speed of about 74 mph – it takes about 70 minutes.

I’ve run about 40 vehicles through my test cycle this year, and the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas delivered 24.6 mpg during the drive. While that number beats the EPA’s estimates (17 mpg city/23 mpg highway), my experience says that my 86-mile drive generally delivers 15-20 percent better than the government’s numbers (my route is slightly downhill, losing about 600 feet of elevation from start to finish). For comparison, the 2018 Acura MDX (27.8 mpg), 2018 Audi Q7 2.0T (28.0 mpg), and 2019 Infiniti QX50 (30.1 mpg) all beat the Volkswagen Atlas – and they feel more powerful from behind the wheel.

Blame the VW’s naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, which struggles to move the 4,700-pound SUV around town and isn’t a fuel miser on the open road – it must work too hard. It’s a shame Volkswagen doesn’t offer the turbocharged 2.0-liter on the all-wheel drive, premium, variant. That small engine delivers plenty of torque off the line, and it sips fuel on the highway. 

 

Fill ups are frequent and sometimes tricky

by Frankie Rogers on November 5, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 5,122
Latest MPG: 15.96 
Lifetime MPG: 16.77 
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0 
Time out of Service: 0 days

We’ve had our 2018 Volkswagen Atlas for about four months now and one thing is apparent, the Atlas is a thirsty SUV. The Atlas has an EPA rating of 17 city/23 highway/19 combined, and so far our commutes are averaging around 16 mpg. Our fuel economy numbers are close to the EPA-rated figures but still under. This could be due to various driving habits from each staffer, distance driven and the drive mode selected. Currently, we have the Atlas set in the Sport mode and prefer the more direct driving response, easier steering and overall sportier feel.

Another variable to consider is the size of the Atlas’ fuel tank, which holds 18.6 gallons. Competitors such as the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder each have fuel capacities of 19.5 gallons while the Toyota Highlander holds 19.2 gallons. A slightly larger fuel tank might make a difference, then again it might not.

Also worth noting, during a couple of visits to the gas station some staffers had issues while refueling where the nozzle clicked off too soon thus not filling up the tank. This got us wondering if it could be a common occurrence with the Atlas. A quick search on a VW Atlas owner’s forum did not result in any findings or mention of such an issue, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on it and see if it persists. 

 

Cup holders galore

by Frankie Rogers on October 19, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 4,499
Latest MPG: 16.91
Lifetime MPG: 16.16
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Ah, the cup holder. What we know of as the cup holder today came about in 1983 when Chrysler launched the minivan. The Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager, essentially the same vehicle, rolled off the assembly line with not one but two cup holders. Although it would take years for other car makers to add cup holders to their vehicles a trend was started and eventually every manufacturer would offer a cup holder in their cars.

Now while most vehicles have at least two cup holders, usually placed in the console, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has a whopping 17 cup holders positioned throughout the vehicle.  The cup holders vary in size to accommodate water bottles, cans of energy drinks or soda, fast food drink cups, baby bottles and large coffee cups, with a couple that are large enough to hold a small thermos. It may even be possible to fit a juice box in the rear cup holders if you squeeze it in just so.

I tried placing different brands of water bottles, plus a drink cup, in each of the cup holders to get a sense of what fits and what doesn’t. I must say that you can probably fit more water bottles in the passenger doors than is recommended, so you could conceivably up the total cup holder number to 19. With so many cup holders available in the Atlas the possibility of running out of space isn’t likely, in fact you would probably run out of available seats before you would run out of cup holders. Ok, who’s up for a coffee run? I’m driving.

 

The view from up here

by Frankie Rogers on October 5, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 4,149
Latest MPG: 17.16
Lifetime MPG: 17.47
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Full-size SUVs may be large and sometimes hard to maneuver in some parking lots and garages but a positive aspect of driving one is the higher seating position. Personally, I prefer being able to look over and across the front end of vehicles I drive. It gives the driver a better view of what lies ahead in terms of the road and other cars. Our long-term Volkswagen Atlas is one of those SUVs that sits high, 70 inches to be exact. Factor in the amount of height adjustment that can be made with the seat adjuster and an average-sized person can sit high and mighty while navigating the Atlas. Seat adjustment is easily achieved by using the switches (which resemble a tiny seat) located on the lower left side of the driver seat.

Another advantage to larger SUVs is visibility. The VW Atlas has a large windshield and a large rear window, that isn’t blocked by protruding headrests, plus passenger windows large enough to allow for unrestricted access to the outside world. I have found that I rely more on looking through the ample-sized windows when parking than using the rear view camera with overhead view. Although when backing into the tight parking spots at the Kelley Blue Book offices the rear view camera does comes in handy each and every time.

 

Personalization

by Frankie Rogers on September 17, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 3,358
Latest MPG: 17.42
Lifetime MPG: 17.30
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

A nifty feature that’s available on our long-term Volkswagen Atlas is the ability to personalize driver profiles. If you are the sole driver then this feature probably isn’t that important to you, but if you will be sharing your Atlas with your spouse or other family members then this can come in handy. Driver profiles are associated with the specific key of each driver so if the keys are shared between family members selecting the correct profile will keep each driver happy. The Driver Profile selection feature can store up to 4 profiles that remember personalized preferences such as seat and mirror positions, climate settings, navigation, favorite radio stations and other audio settings to name a few.

Setting up the individual profiles is simple enough and can be accomplished through the vehicle settings menu. Select menu on the infotainment screen, then the vehicle function key, then the vehicle settings icon which will get you to the Vehicle Settings menu where you can select Personalization. From there it’s just a matter of choosing the driver profile and assigning a name.

Switching driver profiles follows the same set-up path but instead of assigning a name the driver just selects the desired profile from the list. In addition, a vehicle key can be assigned to a specific driver profile. This is also done within the Personalization feature under settings. Just select the manual key assignment then tap assign key to current account, then press the unlock button on the actual vehicle key and hold for 5 seconds and you’re all set. 

 

VW Atlas: Large and in charge

by Andy Bornhop on August 30, 2018

Price: $49,665 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 2,061
Latest MPG: 11.86
Lifetime MPG: 19.20
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

One of my sons works as a valet at a local Embassy Suites, parking cars. It’s a good gig, even though he occasionally has to squeeze his 6-foot, 6-inch frame into a sports coupe more suitable for folks who are about 5-foot, 8 inches. But he manages. And on one recent day, when he spied KBB’s long-term VW Atlas in our driveway, he exclaimed: “An Atlas! I love those things. I actually fit in them. I’m seeing them all over the place now, and they’re way roomier than I ever expected.”

Indeed it is. KBB’s long-term Volkswagen Atlas, an SEL Premium model with 4Motion all-wheel drive, has headroom, legroom and interior width to spare. Moreover, tall drivers don’t have to look down to see out the windshield. Two things must be clear to VW: 1) Interior space is an oft-overlooked element of luxury (can you ever be comfortable when you’re cramped?) and 2) Americans, the primary audience for the Chattanooga, Tennessee-built Atlas, are a big people, not unlike Germans.  

While we appreciate the plus-size interior volume of the 3-row 7-seat Atlas, the big overall footprint of VW’s large SUV does have some ramifications. Parking at the office (in spots seemingly sized for compact cars) is a pain, and the turning radius reminds one of our staffers of her old Suburban.

Also, fuel economy thus far has been a little underwhelming. The Atlas is averaging a respectable 19.3 mpg overall, but there have been a few tanks in which it returned only 15 mpg. For the record, our KBB long-term Atlas, with its 3.6-liter V6, is ranked by the EPA at 17/23, while the Atlas with the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder is rated quite a bit better, at 22/26.

Most recently: En route to the office this morning, a warning light illuminated, telling us that a pressure loss had been detected in one of the Atlas’ big 20-inch tires. Cycling through the various menus, I tried to see a readout of which tire was the offender -- and the pressure it was down to -- but getting individual pressure readouts doesn’t appear to be possible on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Using a gauge, we confirmed that the Atlas tire pressures were fine, all at 36 psi. Note: We’ve had issues with VW’s overly finnicky tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) before. For more about this issue, and for instructions on how to reset the VW’s TPMS warning light, see “Tire pressure tips” in our 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Ownership Review.    

 

Introduction

by Frankie Rogers on August 17, 2018

  • Price: $49,665 | Price yours
  • Powertrain: 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6
  • EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23

 

The newest member to join our long-term test fleet is the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. The Atlas is Volkswagen’s first 3-row SUV and it’s the largest vehicle it sells. With 153.7 cubic feet of passenger space and 96.8 cubic feet of cargo space large doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of room offered in this SUV. Add to that ease of ingress and egress of the third row, the newest technology and safety features, plus a superb warranty that happens to be transferable and suddenly you have a midsize SUV that is a major gameplayer in its class. And what a class it’s in with the such competitors as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander.

The Volkswagen Atlas starts at $31,425 for the base trim but we opted to go with the top-level SEL Premium with 4Motion (Volkswagen’s all-wheel drive system) in Fortana Red Metallic which tallied up to $49,665, including a $925 destination charge. What do you get on the top-level trim? Lots of great options and features. Included on the SEL Premium are Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit with a 12.3-inch display that can be personalized with up to four driver profiles. There is also a slew of safety tech features such as forward collision and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring (Front Assist), blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, lane departure warning and park distance control (Park Pilot), and an all-around view camera.

And yet more tech

A notable feature in our long-term Atlas is VW Car-Net with App-Connect which enables the use of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto thus allowing your smartphone to connect with the vehicle. App-Connect locks and unlocks the vehicle without needing the key. You can also use it to check the vehicle’s fuel level and use Family Guardian to keep tabs on the younger drivers in the family. Other notable tech features include an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, Fender audio, 4 USB ports, adaptive cruise control, and a nifty hands-free power liftgate activated by kicking under the rear bumper.

What’s under the hood

Our 2018 Atlas is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 with 276-horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque and is mated to an 8-speed automatic. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo with 235-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque is also available but only on the S, SE, SE w/Technology and the SEL. Its estimated city/highway mpg is 22/26 compared to 17/23 for the V6 with 4Motion in our long-term tester.

We’ve had our VW Atlas for just under a month and have about 1,600 miles on the odometer so far. We plan on putting it through its paces with commuting, road trips, shopping trips, home improvement projects and anything else we can conceive of that will test its ability and capabilities. Bookmark this page so that you can follow along on the adventure.

More 2018 Volkswagen Atlas:

See our full review of the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.

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