In Greek mythology, Atlas was the figure that was tasked to carry the sky on his shoulders for eternity.
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has a role very close to the mythical Atlas, as VW is counting on Atlas to be a sales star as the company rebounds from its diesel emissions scandal.
The Atlas is large and in charge. It’s the only VW that seats seven, now that the Routan Minivan is kaput. And the Atlas third row is unique, as you can leave three child safety seats firmly connected in the second row and still have adult access to the adult-sized third row. Yes, you can be more than five feet tall and sit comfortably in the Atlas third row.
And while the Atlas is large, it drives like smaller brothers Touareg and Tiguan. Touareg is considerably more expensive than Atlas ($30,500 base versus $49,495 for Touareg) and priced competitively with the much smaller Tiguan (base MSRP $24,495), which in 2018 guise, is larger than the previous generation’s offering. This begs the question: Why would anyone buy the smaller, more expensive Toaureg instead of the Atlas? I put this question to VW’s media team, and the answer was: “Touareg is a more premium offering.” Well, on paper it may be, but in reality the all-new Atlas is so well contented, it’s bound to cannibalize sales from the Toaureg. Let’s see what happens.
Speaking of Atlas content, you’ll be impressed at base or SEL trim levels. Let’s start with safety, where VW is world class in terms of content. If there is a system on the market today that helps to keep you safe, it’s standard or optional on Atlas. From electronic stability control to full autonomous braking, it’s offered.
Atlas is the only vehicle in its class to offer the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is standard on all models. This system builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact-the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System addresses this by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, helping reduce the chance of additional damage.
Atlas also offers a number of standard and available driver assistance systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, front and rear Park Distance Control, Parking Steering Assistant, High Beam Control and Overhead View Camera.
On the road, the Atlas really excels. As stated earlier, it drives much smaller than its size. I expected it to offer ponderous handling like some other large SUVs in its class. Atlas underpinnings include front coils springs with tube shock absorbers, and a multilink setup rear. Meaty 245-section rubber mounted to standard 18” wheels offer an aggressive side profile. Atlas gives the impression that it’s just as comfortable on road as it is off.
And Atlas is indeed off-road capable. Use the console mounted rotary controller to select from four 4MOTION All-Wheel Drive modes: Dry, Rainy, Snowy and Rough. When the going is smooth, the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission handles shifting duties with consummate ease.
And while you can ‘rough it’ off-road, you’ll be hard pressed to rough it in Atlas’ well appointed interior.
It’s hard to know where to start. Choose the expansive panoramic sunroof, and you’ll get three rows of a clear view to the skies. It’s a very large section of glass, but it doesn’t squeak or rattle over washboard surfaces. Impressive.
Another impressive standard feature is the 17 cup holders throughout the three rows. Yes, each passenger can have 2.42857143 drinks at their disposal. To keep all entertained, choose from myriad audio options via the 12.3” center console display. It’s crisp, informative and intuitive, among the best I’ve experienced. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment, and a rockin’ 480 watt Fender Premium Audio System is optional.
At present, the only powertrain available is a 3.6-liter V6 outputting 276 horsepower with either Front or All-Wheel Drive. Later this year, a Front-Wheel Drive only 2.0-liter turbo four with 235 horsepower will be available at a lower MSRP. During the media launch, we drove both, and either is more than capable of putting a smile on your face when highway-merging duties call for an authoritative burst of power. The V6 is available with a towing package and factory tow hitch capable of hauling 5,000 pounds.
For those with excellent credit, VW Credit is offering 1.9% on all new Atlas’. If VW doesn’t sell every Atlas they build, I’ll be incredibly surprised. It’s one heck of a great SUV at a most impressive and affordable price point. Well done VW!