Volkswagen Reveals Atlas, the Midsize Three-Row Crossover With VW's Future on Its Shoulders
The Atlas, Volkswagen’s entry into the hotly contested three-row crossover segment, is here — and it has the company’s future fortunes resting on its shoulders.
Volkswagen has not been doing well in the United States. Since 2012, its best sales year this millennia, VW has shed 30 percent of its sales volume. The brand that invented the compact car in the eyes of many Americans now finds itself in 14th place on the brand leaderboard with a 1.6 percent market share.
Dieselgate didn’t help, but its unbalanced product range may be the more nagging culprit. This is VW’s first mainstream, three-row crossover.
The Atlas arrives in showrooms this spring powered by two familiar transverse mounted engines. A 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine delivering 238 horsepower will be the base option in the Atlas, though customers (if Volkswagen finds any) can opt for the same 3.6-liter V6 that does duty in the Passat. Both engines will send power through an eight-speed automatic transmission. V6 buyers can opt for 4Motion all-wheel drive.
Pricing, fuel economy figures and tow ratings are not yet available.
It’s a conventional design, inside and out, consistent with Volkswagen’s conservative Teutonic temperament.
Its MQB architecture, shared with everything from the A3 to the Tiguan, results in a 198.3 inch overall length, identical to the class leading Explorer and seven inches longer than the Highlander. The front end is in line with VW’s current design language and offers a prominent gender neutral grille with standard LED headlamps and daytime running lights.
One of this crossover’s most distinctive design elements is its wheel arches. Love them or hate them, they contain undeniable hints of Grand Cherokee and the discontinued Mitsubishi Endeavor. Overall, the exterior styling is nondescript to our eyes, unlikely to wow consumers, though equally unlikely to offend.
Regardless of which of the five trim levels one selects, the interior is roomy. It looks and feels like a typical, near-premium VW interior with a mix of soft touch materials and hard plastics, all balanced by logical, well-considered ergonomics.
A mountain of tech will be on offer, from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, to a 12-speaker Fender audio system and Digital Cockpit akin to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane departure with steering assist, and a cornucopia of other safety features will also be available. Add to that adult compatible third-row seating and enough space for a minimalist family of up to seven to stow their things behind the third row.
The Atlas appears to be designed from the inside out, which should make for a user-friendly product, the stock-in-trade of three-row crossovers.
Volkswagen delayed the Atlas launch for years, in part to ensure its Chattanooga factory could deal with anticipated demand. Clearly, VW has has high expectations for its new mid-size SUV, and so it should. But as nondescript as Atlas may be, it’s better late than never for VW. The flight of consumers from cars to SUVs and crossovers is both well documented and continuing. A rising tide lifts all ships, ensuring that Atlas will find enough takers to propel the brand north from the 308,000 unit low-water mark it’s on pace to set in 2016.
[Images: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars, Volkswagen]
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