Volkswagen has finally gotten into the family crossover game like many others. The main SUV/hybrid that Volkswagen has sold in North America up to this point is the Touareg, which in the past hasn’ sold well despite it being a premium model. We were welcome to San Antonio, Texas to test the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, the main ever three-row crossover by VW.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review

The Atlas is significantly larger than the Touareg, and does so proudly. Although the front and rear are that of a Volkswagen, it does lend itself to be a that of a fairly generic two-box crossover design. An upscale chrome stripe goes over the trunklid joining the two taillights, and as usual, there are flawless wheel designs to pick from. LED headlights are standard design. The square shaped styling is genuinely great looking, and the Atlas is 18cm longer than the Toyota Highlander, allowing passengers significantly more room for comfort and luggage.

Though the Touareg sits on an indistinguishable stage ;like the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Atlas is on a broadened variant of the MQB stage. The sharp will take note of that these are the same underpinnings for vehicles like the Audi TT and Volkswagen Golf. As we’ve seen, MQB is extremely adaptable and is an incredible overall chassis. Of the two powertrains available, the EA888-series 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder will be the entry level engine. Offering 235 torque in the range of 4,500 to 6,200RPM, and 258 lb-ft. of torque in the range of 1,600 to 4,000RPM, this engine is on front-drive models of the Atlas only.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review

The 3.6L VR6 motor is what most purchasers in Canada will need if choosing the all-wheel-drive on their crossover. As the four-cylinder motor is was not available when testing this vehicle, we imagine it could be a bit sluggish hauling this huge kahuna around. The VR6 has an amazing power sending 276 horsepower at 6,200RPM and 266 lt-ft at 2,750RPM to all four wheels, this alongside its mark orchestra of motor and exhaust sounds. This is the one to have, as it appears this huge Volkswagen appears to shrivel when cruising at highway speeds with this powertrain murmuring endlessly. Both motors are matched to an Aisin eight-speed automatic, with a manual mode should you wish to have a tiny bit more control.

VR6 models have 4MOTION all-wheel-drive as the standard, however it generally works in front-drive mode unless required. That said, it can send up to half of torque to the back wheels. There is an Active Control system which modifies the motor, transmission, and steering for specific conditions. In the “Snow” mode, motor power is decreased if slip is distinguished. There is a “Rough terrain” setting for handling mild trails that changes to terrains as needed. Also, the driving profiles can be modified between “Eco”, “Ordinary”, “Sport”, and “Individual”.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review

Volkswagen has used fairly standard items like faux-wood and high quality materials on the interior. A significant piece of conversation is the extremely generous cabin space. There should be no issues with head or legroom for even those more than six feet tall as the first and second columns are both customizable. Outdoing the Mazda CX-9 and others, the third row is actually made for youngsters, however is the roomiest-feeling in the segment. An optional Digital Cockpit that transform the instrument gauge cluster into a full color screen is available, which is like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.

Innovation is based on a 6.5″ touchscreen (a 8.0″ setup is standard on everything except the base Trendline) bragging Volkswagen is anything but difficult to-use infotainment system. Like the rest of the Volkswagen lineup the Alta features ample connectivity options including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Although a WiFi hotspot is not in this vehicle at launch there are still the regular USB ports available to connect your mobile device. For those that already have a late-model VW you will not find any surprises inside the Atlas, however an additional knob for the Active Control mode select has been provided.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review

Two of the Volkswagen Atlas standard features are a rear-view camera and automatic post-collision braking. Other safety features available (varying by trim level) are adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, lane assist, Park Distance Control (front and back), and Park Assist with active self-parking. An especially neat feature is the active Park Assist as it is able to parallel park and additionally forward/reverse perpendicular park all alone.

VR6-powered models are rated for 13.1L/100km city and 10.1L/100km highway, for a consolidated rating of 12.1L/100km. Thanks to idle start/stop technology and the ability for all models to take 87-octane regular fuel, the fuel efficiency is helped considerable. The Atlas can tow up to 5,000lbs with a factory-installed hitch.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review

Starting at $35,690 will be the pricing for the front-drive Trendline. All models come standard with 18″ wheels, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, App-Connect, along with many other features. The VR6 additionally begins at the Trendline level, at $39,790. Expected to be the volume seller in Canada is the Comfortline ($43,790 with AWD), which includes the greater convenience feathers Canadians would use. The Highline would be the next in line, followed by the Execline at $52,540, which could be compared to the likes of the GMC Acadia Denali and Mazda CX-9 Signature.

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas might be a more traditionalist vehicle generally speaking than the Touareg, however is expected to be the greater volume seller. The Atlas is considered to be a better drive than the Nissan Pathfinder, comparable in best value with the Honda Pilot and far more usable than a Mazda CX-9. Surpassing interior space of Japanese rivals, modern technology with actual connectivity, and rugged enough to withstand dirt country roads, we wait in anticipation to see these Volkswagens populate our roads.

by: Adi Desai