There’s no doubt Volkswagen needs its new midsize Atlas to be a home run (or, at least, a ground rule double) to keep its American dealers appeased following the now-year-long diesel emissions scandal. Even before the scandal, Volkswagen USA could neither create a product mix befitting American sensibilities nor price its ill-marketed product at price points palatable to the American public.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, I had a chance encounter with an employee of Volkswagen responsible for part of the company’s design process. As we sat together, I queried him on the Atlas’ design from a designer’s perspective.
The answers were equal parts shocking and expected.
When asked about how much the Atlas excites him from a visual standpoint, the employee stated, “It’s boring. Of course it’s boring.”
Prodded further, the person stated, “That vehicle is four years old. And by that, I mean it looks four years old.”
However, the comparison with another make drove the point home.
“It looks like a 2012 Ford whatever. It could be anything.”
The Atlas, in addition to the Golf Alltrack, is part of Volkswagen’s plan to rebrand the automaker from a purveyor of efficient diesels to an expert in all-wheel-drive capability and its associated Subaru-esque lifestyle.
In the future, Atlas derivatives could have additional wheelbase lengths and sport seating for five instead of the current seven. A partially electrified model is also in the cards.
Two engines will power the Atlas at launch: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 238 horsepower, and the company’s VR6 3.6-liter V6 engine with 280 hp. Both will be mated to an eight-speed automatic sending power to just front or all four wheels via Volkswagen’s 4Motion all wheel drive system.
The design, unfortunately, is standard equipment.
[Image: Volkswagen of America]