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2018 Volkswagen Atlas

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Top Expert-Rated 2018 Crossovers
2018 Volkswagen Atlas Expert Review

By

The Atlas is Volkswagen's first foray into the world of midsize 3-row SUVs. It came late to the party, but brought a low starting price and an excellent warranty to make up for it. The attractive SUV offers two things you would expect from a VW: an elegant, tech-friendly cabin and a European-inspired driving attitude. Appealing additions to the mix are a spacious, easy-to-access third row, and seats that actually fold flat. While the Atlas could use an engine with more power than the V6 provides, this SUV is a bona-fide competitor for midsize SUV heavyweights like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander.

You'll Like This Car If...

With arguably the roomiest and most easily accessible third row in its class, the 2018 Atlas is a breath of fresh air for tall sixth and seventh passengers. This is also the only midsize SUV that can give you the Euro-inspired driving experience that endears fans to the Volkswagen brand.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The 3.6-liter engine is underpowered in a vehicle this size. In addition, while there's plenty of appealing technology in the Atlas, the route you have to take to reach it can be counterintuitive. Accessing it can take navigating through multiple menus. Plus, maximum towing capacity is only 5,000 pounds.

How It Ranks

#2

out of 4

Horsepower

#2

out of 4

MSRP
View all rankings
What's New for 2018

The 2018 Atlas is an all-new vehicle. Tech-friendly and loaded with safety features, Volkswagen's first 3-row SUV combines entertaining driving dynamics with an interior that's both practical and luxurious. The Atlas's base 2.0-liter turbo-4 is the newest engine in VW's portfolio.

Driving the Atlas
Driving Impressions

The new Atlas initially will be available with a 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission (front- or all-wheel drive [FWD, AWD]) and later, a 235-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder...

... (FWD only) with V6-like torque. The V6/8-speed is a refined combination, but power is just adequate. With two people aboard, climbing grades was acceptable, but the engine may be overtasked when the Atlas is filled with people and gear. There are Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual driving modes. In Normal mode, steering is very light and lacks the trademark VW fun. We put it in Sport mode and kept it there: it makes the Atlas engaging, with greatly improved steering and transmission response, and snaking through canyons, it's agile like a smaller vehicle. The comfortable ride did not come at the expense of handling, and the interior was quiet. Braking was linear and smooth, with just the right amount of response.

THIRD ROW
We can't say enough about how good this third row is. It's easy to get into and out of, and there's so much head- and legroom that tall adults can sit back there comfortably. Also, when it and the second row are folded down, the cargo area is legitimately flat

SPORT MODE
The new Atlas offers four on-road driving modes, including Normal and Sport. With Sport mode, the Atlas comes to life, with sharper steering, and quicker throttle and transmission response. It even changes how the Adaptive Cruise Control responds. This is how to make driving the Atlas feel like driving a VW.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Details
2018 Volkswagen Atlas photo Interior

The Atlas's interior design is elegant and clean, not unlike the simple modern layout of the upscale Audi brand. But the best part of the cabin is its versatility. The 60/40-split second row reclines and slides 7.7 inches back and forth. It folds in such a way that it can hold a child seat in place while someone gets into the third row. The third row is very easy to get into and out of, and is roomy enough to comfortably accommodate two tall adults. And when the two back rows are down, the cavernous space created is legitimately flat.

Exterior
2018 Volkswagen Atlas photo

With all this talk of interior volume and spaciousness, you might think the 2018 Atlas is too big to fit in a garage. However, the Atlas is smaller than other SUVs in its class. Full credit goes to Volkswagen for some of the smartest interior packaging we've seen in quite some time. In addition, the large cargo area is easy to access, with an optional power tailgate that can be upgraded to allow opening with the sweep of one foot under the rear bumper. You can even add 20-inch wheels, LED taillights (SEL Premium), or an R-Line styling package.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Those who buy the Atlas S will get a front-drive SUV equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Cruise control, power mirrors, 2-zone climate control, Bluetooth, CarPlay/Android Auto, 6.5-inch touch screen and a 6-speaker audio system also come at the Atlas's $31,425 starting price. The S comes with three rows of cloth-covered seats, front LED lighting and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Standard safety equipment includes six airbags, automatic post-collision braking, and VW's Intelligent Crash Response System, which cuts the fuel supply, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights in the event of a crash.

Optional Equipment

Volkswagen offers an extensive list of options for the 2018 Atlas. A V6 engine and all-wheel drive are available, as are VW's Digital Cockpit, an 8-inch touch screen with navigation, an area-view camera, adaptive cruise control, 3-zone climate control, leather seats with heating in the first two rows and cooling up front, a power liftgate you can open by moving your foot, panoramic sunroof, remote start, 115-volt power outlet, rain-sensing windshield wipers and an 8-speaker audio system. Power-folding heated side mirrors and 20-inch black wheels are also available. Added safety includes blind-spot monitoring, lane assist and park assist.

Under the Hood

When the Atlas first went on sale, the sole engine was a 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission, with either front- or all-wheel drive. Later, a 235-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder will round out the line, also using an 8-speed automatic. While fuel economy hasn’t been announced for the Atlas with this engine, it should be higher than that of the V6, while offering nearly as much torque. All Atlases that have all-wheel drive come with driving mode selections. Off-road modes let you choose the ideal setup for the type of terrain and weather you encounter, while on-road modes alter throttle, transmission and steering for Eco, Normal and Sport modes.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
235 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: not yet rated

3.6-liter V6
276 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
266 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg (FWD), 17/23 mpg (AWD)

There are five Atlas trim levels, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $31,425 for the FWD base S model with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. All Atlases come with an impressive transferrable 6-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The trim levels move up, through SE, SE with Technology, SEL, and the top-line V6-only SEL Premium, which at $49,415 comes with basically everything. In fact, some of the Atlas's features are only available on the SEL Premium. The Atlas's pricing aligns nicely with what you’d expect in a Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander. Fair Purchase Pricing and resale value are not yet available for the Atlas.

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