Atlas brings VW into full-size SUV territory

SHARE Atlas brings VW into full-size SUV territory
SHARE Atlas brings VW into full-size SUV territory

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is the German brand’s first entry in the full-size, seven-passenger SUV market and is the largest Volkswagen ever sold in the U.S. It’s 198.3 inches long, 78.3 inches wide and 69.6 inches tall, with 8.0 inches of ground clearance. It offers extra room and utility for modern families at a competitive price point.

Atlas comes in five trims (S, SE, SE with Technology, SEL and SEL Premium), two engine choices with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and available all-wheel-drive. The four-cylinder SE front-drive model begins at $30,500; the V-6-powered SE all-wheel-drive starts at $31,900.

Volkswagen’s designers have penned the new sport ute with a bold look that is both modern and muscular, with clean lines and good proportions. All trim levels have attractive full LED front lighting for low beams and high beams, turn signal indicators, side marker lights and daytime running lights; all ride on standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

Other features are standard or available depending on the model; some of these add-ons include roof rails, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with puddle lamps, heated washer nozzles, LED taillights, a power tailgate with hands-free open and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

Inside are three rows of seating for seven adults in the 153.7-cubic-foot cabin, with good head- and legroom — even in the third row. The second-row 60/40-split bench seat has a 14-degree backrest recline function and a 7.7-inch sliding range for comfort and access. A tilt-and-slide folding mechanism enables the second-row bench to slide forward, even with child seats in place, for easy third-row access. Fold-flat second- and third-row seats allow a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cubic feet.

Volkswagen’s standard MIB II infotainment system delivers entertainment, information and connectivity. Depending on the trim, 6.5- or 8.0-inch color-capacitive displays support the system.

Atlas is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 235 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 rpm, or an available 3.6-liter V-6 that delivers 276 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 266 pound-feet at 2,750 rpm; both have start/stop technology. The V-6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when set up with a factory-installed trailer hitch; dealer-installed hitches have a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.

We drove a V-6 AWD version of the new model over a course of 150 miles. Atlas had plenty of power on tap and handled its length and weight admirably, benefiting from an independent suspension and standard three-channel ABS with electronic brake pressure distribution. We also liked its electric rack-and-pinion, speed-sensitive variable-assist steering. We preferred the Sport mode for tighter, more sports-minded driving.

Standard and available driver assistance systems provide safety and mannered control. Atlas provides an assortment of both passive and active safety systems, with six airbags, standard electronic stability control and segment-exclusive automatic post-collision braking system.

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