Crossover SUVs are the adoration of millions of Americans who are spending money on new cars. Up until this point, Volkswagen has had only the diminutive Tiguan and the beautifully crafted but expensive Touareg. Meanwhile, big-name rivals such as Honda and Toyota have cleaned up with three-row models like the Pilot and Highlander, respectively. All that is about to change, as VW recently revealed the three-row Volkswagen Atlas.
Open the Atlas, and the best ideas from all of its rivals seem to have been cribbed here to make an immensely practical vehicle. There are seven seats, and they’re seven real seats that can accommodate American adults, even in the third row.
Second-row seats are also accommodating. A child seat can be latched into the second row, but it will still tilt forward to let people climb into the rearmost positions (something modeled after the Nissan Pathfinder). Each of the five positions in the second and third rows appears to be the same size, something the Volvo XC90 made a big point about. And best still, all seats fold flat to create a cavernous area when you need to haul lots of cargo. Some rivals create lumpen cargo floors, but not this VW.
Those familiar with the most-recent VW Passat should feel at home in the Atlas, which is unsurprising since the two are both built in Volkswagen’s Tennessee factory. Yet the Atlas is noticeably wider than any VW sedan before, perhaps even more spacious than a few of its closest rivals.
The dashboard appears to be a modicum of common sense, without much of the flourish of technology other automakers are introducing. VW’s biggest nod to advanced tech is the available digital instrument panel which, much like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, is configurable in a number of ways to present vital information to the driver.
Outside, the Atlas looks rugged. Whether or not it lives up to the look seems yet to be determined. Still, the Atlas shares numerous underbody components with the Golf Alltrack (and likely most of the all-wheel drive system), which should make VW’s three-row crossover more than competent on the gravel campground roads and snowy inclines that most owners will travel.
Base Atlas models will get front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbo four, likely the one that motivates the Golf GTI and CC. Most models, however, will get a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower as in the Passat V6, with optional all-wheel drive. That’s competitive with what the Highlander and Pilot offer, if short on what a Ford Explorer produces with its multitude of engine combinations.
And there are no diesel or hybrid or plug-in electric versions – yet.
Count on Atlas prices to range from $30,000 to just below $50,000 when it goes on sale in spring 2017. That’s also right around what big-selling rivals are priced at. Which also proves VW has studied what Americans like and how it can attract new fans.