Volkswagen’s all-new, midsize, seven-passenger Atlas crossover utility vehicle has arrived, although only the V-6 versions are offered currently; a four-cylinder turbo engine is coming later this year.
Prices for now start at $33,500 (plus $925 freight), which brings the “S Launch Edition” with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Later this year, although VW hasn’t said exactly when, there will be a base S model that begins at $30,500 (plus freight), equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, front drive and an eight-speed automatic.
There also will be a base S V-6 model starting at $31,900. Prices range as high as $48,490 for the SEL Premium version with all-wheel drive. This top-end model is now available and was our test vehicle for this report.
Also for now, all-wheel-drive models begin at $35,300 for the S Launch version.
The Atlas – aimed at competitors such as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer – was originally promised to dealers as a 2015 model.
Just the two gasoline engines are planned for now; VW is not offering any diesels in the wake of its emissions scandal.
The four-cylinder produces 235 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque, while the normally aspirated V-6 cranks out 276 horsepower and 266 foot-pounds of torque. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available only with the V-6 engine.
Launch models have all of the base S features, along with a panoramic sunroof, universal garage/gate opener, footwell lighting, eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system and satellite radio with a three-month trial subscription.
Other trim levels include the SE four-cylinder with front drive ($33,590), a V-6 SE front-drive version ($34,990), and a V-6 SE all-wheel drive ($36,790). Extras with this trim include heated door mirrors; automatic headlights; rain-sensing wipers; blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert; fog lights; keyless access with pushbutton start; multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel; V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; heated front seats; rear sunshades; and 10-way power driver seats.
SE models also come with the eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system with satellite radio, eight speakers and three additional USB ports.
There is also a model called SE with Technology that will start at $35,690 for the four-cylinder front-drive version (when it arrives), and $37,090 for the V-6 front-drive. The V-6 all-wheel-drive is $38,890.
The SE with Technology grade brings adaptive cruise control; forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring (front assist); lane departure warning with lane-keep assist; a power liftgate; remote start; three-zone automatic climate control; and a self-dimming rearview mirror.
Next up the ladder are the SEL front-drive four-cylinder ($39,160); SEL front-drive V-6 ($40,890); and all-wheel-drive V-6 ($42,690). SEL models come with most of the extras of the SE Technology model, but also get the panoramic sunroof, easy open liftgate, eight-way power passenger seat, memory function for driver’s seat and exterior mirrors, front and rear park distance control, and a 115-volt power outlet in the rear of the center console. The V-6 models come with a tow hitch.
Our tester, the SEL Premium, comes only with the 4Motion all-wheel drive system and V-6 engine. It also includes the 12.3-inch Volkswagen digital cockpit; 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; navigation; LED taillights; power-folding outside mirrors with puddle lights; leather front and outboard middle-row rear seats; heated/ventilated front seats and heated rear seats and steering wheel; automatic high beams; and ambient lighting.
That’s not all, though. Also included are the parking steering assistant; around-view camera; and a Fender premium audio system, with a 12-channel, 480-watt amplifier and 12 speakers.
Atlas options include captain’s chairs for the second row ($625), which cut the capacity to six passengers; the sporty R-Line package ($1,960) for the SE and SEL models; and black aluminum-alloy wheels ($995 on SEL, $235 on SEL Premium).
None of these options were included on our test vehicle, but it was still very well equipped, and came across as a luxury/premium SUV. Total sticker price was $49,415, including freight.
Although it was somewhat based on the CrossBlue concept vehicle that Volkswagen showed at the Detroit auto show in January 2013, the Atlas is bigger and more feature-packed than the original.
Available interior features include the driver-configurable Volkswagen digital cockpit instrument panel.
Among standard exterior features are LED headlights and daytime running lights, with LED taillights offered as an option.
Inside, there is room for two people up front, three in the middle row and two in the rear, and space has been maximized to allow all seven passengers to be comfortable, even if they are adults. Access to the third row is easy with the folding middle-row seatback, which works even with child seats installed in the second row.
We had adults riding in the middle outboard seating positions, but did not have a need for the third-row seat during our week in the Atlas. All three rows of seating can accommodate average-size adults, although getting into the third row requires some measure of agility, so it’s best left to younger people.
Up front, the driver and passenger ride in comfort in the SEL Premium’s leather bucket seats. The driver has 10-way power adjust with lumbar support and a memory feature; the front passenger has eight-way power adjust.
There is a center console that holds two cupholders, with a tray in front of the cupholders and gearshift that can accommodate two or more smartphones. There is a 12-volt power outlet in the front of the tray area, along with a single USB port. A console box at the rear has another USB port and outlet inside.
And on the rear of the console, accessible to middle-row passengers, are heating/air conditioning vents, USB ports and switches for the seat heaters.
The sporty three-spoke steering wheel is heated, and includes cruise, audio and driver-information controls. The digital cockpit provides an array of virtual instruments, and the center-dash infotainment display also shows rear- and overhead-view camera pictures when the transmission is in reverse.
The technology in this fully equipped Atlas can almost keep the car on the road without the driver’s assistance, but don’t try that. We found the lane-keep assist system to be somewhat annoying, though, trying hard to pull us back into our lane if we tried to change lanes without signaling. That would take some getting used to for me.
Our Atlas also had the radar cruise control, which paces the vehicle to the one in front, and can apply automatic emergency braking without the driver’s input if it detects the vehicle ahead stopping too abruptly.
While we haven’t had the opportunity to drive the four-cylinder version yet, the V-6 SEL Premium has plenty of power. This engine gives the Atlas, even with its more than 4,500 pound curb weight, enough zip for highway, byway and hill driving.
The Atlas does have quite a heavy feel to it, which makes it seem more stable in tight turns. The ride was smooth and cushy, but not to the detriment of handling, which was typically Volkswagen-like. Even at this size, this is a driver’s car.
No fuel economy ratings have been released yet for the four-cylinder engine, but for the V-6 models with front drive, they are 18 mpg city/25 highway/20 combined; and with all-wheel drive, 17/23/19. With our test vehicle, we averaged about 18.3 mpg during our week of driving, with a mix of about 50-50 local and highway driving.
Other options include Volkswagen CarNet, a suite of connected vehicle services, including standard App-Connect technology that offers integration with the three major smartphone systems. They include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
VW says the Atlas is the only vehicle in its class to offer automatic post-collision braking, which applies the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the air-bag sensors, helping reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.
Towing capacity of the Atlas is 2,000 pounds with the four-cylinder engine, and 5,000 pounds with the V-6 (with optional factory tow hitch).
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Volkswagen Atlas
The package: Full-size, six- or seven-passenger, five-door, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder or V-6 powered, crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: The all-new Volkswagen Atlas is the second product to find a home at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant. It’s a family-size crossover designed to compete in the heart of the full-size class with vehicles ranging from the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder to the premium models such as the Buick Enclave and Infiniti QX60. It has decent styling, lots of standard and optional amenities, and available all-wheel drive.
Negatives: Marginal fuel economy with the V-6 engine.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder (late availability); 3.6-liter V-6, normally aspirated.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (both engines).
Power/torque: 235 HP./258 foot-pounds (I-4); 276 HP./266 foot-pounds (V-6).
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Length: 198.3 inches.
Base curb weight: To be determined (2.0-liter); 4,336 pounds (V-6, 2WD); 4,502 pounds (V-6, AWD).
Cargo volume: 20.6 cubic feet (behind third row); 55,5 cubic feet (behind second row, seatback folded); 96.8 cubic feet (both rear seats folded).
Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds (I-4); 5,000 pounds (V-6, with towing package).
EPA fuel economy: To be determined (2.0-liter); 18 mpg city/25 highway/20 combined (V-6, 2WD); 17/23/19 (V-6, AWD).
Fuel capacity/type: 18.6 gallons/unleaded regular.
Base price: $30,500-$48,490, plus $925 freight.
Price as tested: $49,415, including freight and options (SEL Premium, AWD).
Major competitors: Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, Ford Explorer, Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Infiniti QX60, Dodge Durango.
On the Road rating: 8.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.