We're spending 12 months with this Volkswagen Atlas reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates.

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, Cardinale Way 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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