Based on the Atlas, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport adopts a more rakish design but as a result loses the third row of seats in the process. Other than that, the Cross Sport is nearly identical to its bigger brother. Even the engine options are the same: A 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter is standard, and a 276-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is optional. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either front- or 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Despite the lower roofline and abbreviated rear end, the Atlas Cross Sport offers plenty of space for both passengers and cargo. With a focus on interior space and comfort, plus an eye toward technology on upscale trims, the Atlas Cross Sport is one of the more opulent offerings in its class.
The 3.6-liter V-6 delivers a 7.5-second 60-mph time, and is slightly quicker than a similarly equipped three-row Atlas. During our test drive, we found the Cross Sport lacks the sporty driving dynamics that its fastback rear end would suggest. The 4-cylinder Atlas Cross Sport has a max tow rating of only 2,000 pounds. With the V6 and the addition of the optional tow package, that increases to 5,000 pounds.
The four-cylinder Atlas Cross Sport comes with EPA fuel-economy ratings of 21 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive model and 18, 23, and 20 mpg, respectively, for the all-wheel-drive version. The V-6 is as expected thirstier, with ratings of 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined for the front-driver. The all-wheel-drive model with the six-cylinder returns the same combined rating but drops to 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway.
Those familiar with the three-row VW will find the Atlas Cross Sport’s interior quite familiar, despite an updated steering wheel and stitched door panels. Because the Atlas Cross Sport has only two rows of seats, its backbench is super spacious, and it has three more inches of legroom than a standard Atlas. What’s more, the cargo area behind the rear seat is huge and able to hold over 40 cubic feet.
All Atlas Cross Sports come with an updated touchscreen MIB3 infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation is optional, as is a reconfigurable gauge display and SiriusXM satellite radio. VW‘s Car-Net connectivity app allows for remote starting and analytics. Plus, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot lets occupants remain connected to the internet while on the go. All of the new VW Atlas Cross Sports also are equipped with a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. We like both of these safety technologies. The former makes lane changes much safer by letting the driver know if there is a vehicle in the Cross Sport’s rear three-quarter blind spot. The latter makes reversing out of a parking spot much easier.
Our loan vehicle was the top of the line SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion and had the following features over the base model which certainly helped provide a grand experience when racking up the miles:
Standard all-wheel drive
21-inch wheels from SEL
Power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights
12-speaker Fender sound system
Ventilated front seats
Heated rear seats
Rear side window sunshades
Park assist (automatic steering system allowing the Atlas Cross Sport to fit into tight parallel parking spaces)
Surround-view camera (gives you a top-down view of the Atlas Cross Sport and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
We had previously tested the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport and it does enter 2021 with minimal changes but that “minimal change” is very cool. The SEL has been upgraded with Travel Assist and Emergency Assist. Travel Assist is VW’s semi-autonomous driving system in which the Atlas Cross Sport steers, accelerates, and brakes by itself on the highway. With Emergency Assist, if the Atlas Cross Sport detects no steering, braking or acceleration inputs, it will awaken the driver by jiggling the steering wheel. If there’s no driver response, the hazard lights will start flashing and the Cross Sport will be brought to a safe stop, using the radar of the adaptive cruise to prevent a collision with a vehicle ahead. The R-Line appearance package adds sports styling with new front and rear bumpers, metal pedal caps.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Atlas Cross Sport a five-star overall crash-test rating but it missed out on a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Volkswagen is equipping all Atlas Cross Sports with automated emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, but if you want more advanced driver-assistance features, you’ll have to go with one of the higher trim levels. Volkswagen offers a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper policy. The powertrain warranty falls behind others, which stretch to five or even 10 years. However VW does cover the first two years of scheduled maintenance for its owners.
Like the regular Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport was designed and developed for the U.S. market, and it’s built at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 2021 VW Atlas starts out at an affordable $32,565 before destination (for FWD; AWD adds $1,900 to the bottom line), but things increase rapidly rather quickly, with the highest I4 trim costing $48,215 and V6 models ranging from $39,315 to $51,715. The Atlas Cross Sport will not do as much off-roading as other vehicles in the class like the Honda Passport, Grand Cherokee and Subaru Outback. Instead, it is more at home on suburban streets with trips to school or the grocery store thanks to its space and the comfortable ride.