The Volkswagen Atlas is the German brand’s foray into the three-row SUV class and it is built in Tennessee. The Atlas is one of the more practical three-row SUVs available. Thanks to a vast cabin, the Atlas is one of only a handful of vehicles in its segment that comfortably fits adults in the third row while retaining a usable amount of cargo capacity. The refreshed 2021 models are rolling out now, complete with prettier styling and additional features.
The face of the Atlas has been transformed with a more prominent grille bearing Volkswagen‘s new logo and more naturally integrated headlights. Its front and rear bumpers have also been reshaped and add 2.4 inches to the crossover’s overall length. The interior is virtually untouched compared with the 2020 model, but there are revised controls and a new steering wheel with a more substantial feel. A wireless charging pad located beneath the center stack is now available, too. The Atlas gets enhanced adaptive cruise control with the addition of stop-and-go capability, and we confirmed that the improved lane-assist camera does a great job of smoothly centering the vehicle in its lane. Traffic-sign recognition also joins the crossover’s roster of driver-assistance technology, which already included standard automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Rather than offer many distinct option packages, VW bundles features according to trim, which is why there are seven trims. The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is powered by either a 2.0-liter turbo-four cylinder with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque which feels very underpowered or a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 276 hp and 266 lb-ft, which we tested in the Atlas Cross Sport and the one we would go with. However, a vehicle this heavy could use a lot more power under the hood, both engines are coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings for the four-cylinder 2021 Atlas are 21/24 mpg city/highway in FWD guise or 20/24 mpg with AWD. Models with the V-6 are less efficient at 17/23 mpg for FWD models or 16/22 mpg for AWD-equipped models.
The inside of the Atlas is not as handsome as the exterior. The hard plastics and trim pieces underwhelm compared to cabins in competitors such as the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Telluride. The base 2021 Volkswagen Atlas gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Higher trims are available with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, built-in navigation, a Fender audio system, and Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit system, which replaces the analog gauges with a configurable digital display. We however do appreciate the VW’s commitment to physical switchgear, with traditional knobs for volume, tuning, and climate control. Also, the cabin is well-insulated from outside noise. For tech savvy consumers the upgraded VW Car-Net service also offers a wealth of handy features that allow you to interact with your vehicle remotely via a smartphone app.
The driver’s seat has a wide range of motion that provides a seating position for all preferences. The VW’s second-row bench seat is comfortable and flexible, with folding seat backs and sliding bases that can be separately adjusted. It’s also easy to access the Atlas’s third row thanks to an intuitive folding mechanism that easily tilts and slides the second-row seat forward, which can also be done without removing a child seat. The third row is surprisingly spacious as long as you don’t try to cram more than two average-sized adults back there and provided that the second-row seats are positioned closer to the middle of their adjustable tracks. There’s plenty of room, but you don’t want to spend much time inside an Atlas, with all seats up, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the third row increases capacity to 55.5 cubic feet. Dropping the second and third rows creates a cavernous 96.8-cubic-foot area that’s perfect for big, bulky items.
The Atlas is 16.5 feet long and the curb weight starts at 4,248 pounds, it is built on VW’s ubiquitous MQB platform and when properly equipped, the Atlas can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Volkswagen covers the Atlas with a limited four-year/50,000-mile warranty. The three-row 2021 Volkswagen Atlas starts at $31,555 and reaches $47,225 for the highest trim level. While we appreciate the competence of the Atlas, the best compliment we can give the biggest VW is that it is fine and there is nothing wrong with it, we do think however that the Atlas would be a good option for a family of five or six, due to its head and legroom in all three rows.