2021 Volkswagen Atlas preview


VW’s biggest people mover gets its most substantial update since it arrived on the streets. With the 2021 Atlas, Volkswagen has two crossovers: a three-row Atlas and two-row Atlas Cross Sport. Both crossovers share many similarities, including powertrains and available features. 

Much like their namesake, the crossovers carry a large burden to attract family shoppers to VW showrooms. The Atlas is a relative newcomer among three-row family crossovers, but it’s one of the most spacious. The Cross Sport is large among competitors too, which may push shoppers past its conservative style. 

The 2021 VW Atlas will go on sale in spring 2020. VW hasn’t yet said what trims will be available, or how much they’ll cost, although we expect S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trims with R-Line appearance packages scattered throughout. Last year, the base Atlas cost about $34,000 and the base Atlas Cross Sport cost about $31,500. 

Review continues below

Style and performance

This year, the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport draw closer in looks thanks to updated front and rear bumpers on the three-row Atlas. 

Both crossovers look wide on the road with long, thin rectangular grilles that stretch into the headlights. The mass of the Atlas is further punctuated in wide fender flares that wrap around the wheel wells. In back, a chrome strip runs the width of the tailgate, which is otherwise mostly plain. Bigger 20- or 21-inch wheels give the Atlas a more athletic look and better fill out the wide wheel arches. 

The same theme carries on inside, where the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport have low, wide dashboards that span the width of the interior. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is planted in the dash and draws most of the attention away from the plain interior.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 or 3.6-liter V-6. The turbo-4 makes 235 horsepower and is paired to an 8-speed automatic. For the first time this year, the turbo-4 can be paired with all-wheel drive, but we haven’t yet driven those models. 

The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 276 hp and is paired to the same 8-speed and standard front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive when optionally equipped. 

The Atlas has a four-wheel independent suspension that mostly smothers bumps—its long wheelbase helps, too. 

Comfort, safety, and features

The three-row Atlas and two-row Atlas Cross provide plenty of room for adults, although the interior isn’t as plush as some rivals. 

The third row in the Atlas offers room for two average-size adults, which is more than most competitors can say. 

Behind the third row in the Atlas there’s 21 cubic feet of cargo room, which expands to more than 55 cubic feet with the second row folded. The Cross Sport offers more than 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, with more than 77 cubes open with the second row folded. 

Most Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport crossovers will be shod in durable synthetic leather upholstery, although real hides are available on top trims. 

Every crossover is equipped with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control and parking assistants are available on top trims. 

New for Atlas this year (and continuing on Atlas Cross Sport), VW offers its traffic jam driver-assistance program that can brake, accelerate, and steer the car at speeds slower than 37 mph. 

VW hasn’t yet said what features will be available on the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, although an 8.0-inch touchscreen will be standard on more models (a 6.5-inch screen is standard on base S versions) that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available on top trims. 

The 2021 VW Atlas goes on sale in spring 2020.

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