By on October 28, 2016

Volkswagen Atlas, Image: Seth Parks

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.

Volkswagen Atlas Interior, Image: Volkswagen

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.

Volkswagen Atlas Front, Image: Volkswagen

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 Atlas in front of Chattanooga sign, Image: VW

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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66 Comments on “Volkswagen Reveals Atlas, the Midsize Three-Row Crossover with VW’s Future on its Shoulders...”

  • avatar

    The fact that I’m mildly responsible for the success or failure of this vehicle’s driveline brings me a mild amount of pleasure.

    The fact that my future economic prosperity is no longer linked to the success or failure of this vehicle’s driveline brings me a diablo amount of pleasure.

    That’s not an indictment of the vehicle or the work that went into it. I’m confident in the vehicle’s performance. The company bringing it to market on the other hand…

    • 0 avatar

      This review, the latest in the hotly contested online car review segment, is unlikely to save its publisher. TTAC’s unbalanced viewpoint may be the culprit. There’s all the nagging, the reflexive criticism and snarky attitude. This is a even a gender-neutral front clip can correct that problem with readers (if they can find any).

      It’s a conventional review, consistent with TTAC’s conservative, anti-Teutonic temperament. The brand that invented smart, entertaining auto reviews on the internet has lost at least 30% of its best and brightest readers and writers in recent years. TTAC delayed the launch of this review for years, awaiting a few photos lacking camouflage for illustration, so that these opinions could be designed from the outside in, but it feels like the review was also pre-written for years.

      The instant verdict? Just a dead cat under the carpet amid the ongoing VW Death Watch. ; >

      • 0 avatar
        Seth Parks

        I love your comment Wheatridger. It was cleaver. Thanks for sharing.

        Yes, the car review business is competitive. And we know you read a variety of sources. We further know that bland news and near-commentary are easy to come by. I bring a critical eye to every topic I elect to write about and it’s ok if not everybody agrees with me.

        TTAC is always looking for witty, insightful writers to improving our product. We welcome you to submit a writing sample.

      • 0 avatar

        The ” VW Deathwatch” has been done to death on this site, time to move on. Also would help to have more of an idea what is happening outside NA, there is an awful lot of activity currently happening, that is misinterpreted or not completely understood by posters.

  • avatar

    That square front end says “Chevy” to me – or maybe GMC.

  • avatar

    Late to the party VW. GM, Toyota, Honda, Ford, they’ve dominated this market since the mid 2000s. Nobody will notice or care about your 3 row suv at this point.

    This is the core problem with vw in the us. They don’t get the US consumer. They want the US to be like Europe and it never will be but because the stupid BEETLE and their vans were so successful and an iconic part of pop culture for so long 50 YEARS AGO they think we will be like Europe if we just get it… but we’re not and they resent us for it..hence their shitty ignorable forgettabe product line.

    with the exception of the golf I do like the golf

    • 0 avatar

      Except that VW has been burned by US-focused products too.

    • 0 avatar

      The VW brand is far worse shape than Audi, of course, but remember how far behind the curve Audi was with the Q7, Q5 and most recently, Q3. They’ve had no problem carving out strong sales, the Q5 and Q7 gaining year over year and the Q3 being based on an 11 year old platform.

      As sales of the Tiguan have demonstrated (once VW packaged and priced it appropriately), build it and they will come. I don’t think VW will have too much difficulty moving Atlas metal, though it may not be in the numbers the corporate overloads desire due to the fallout from dieselgate and the competitiveness of this space.

  • avatar

    Everyone knows young families love paying a premium for products that are going to be much less reliable than the mainstream choices, by companies that are currently only known for being polluters & cheats…

    The Atlas might be slightly more competitive within its class, but thanks to their timing, it’ll do even worse than the Tiguan did against the CR-V and RAV4.

  • avatar

    Behold… the VW Biguan.

  • avatar

    I think it’ll do better than people predict here. Not that I’m saying it’ll be a sales leader in the category, but SUVs sell here.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I think it will be a late bloomer like the Tiguan, which is enjoying it’s best sales years now in the US.

      As GM and Toyota have demonstrated, most US consumers aren’t as obsessed with past wrongs as TTAC pundits claim to be. If it’s a good product it will sell, provided that VWoA cleans-up its act (pun intended). They have a well-deserved rep for providing the worse after-sales support of any major brand, and denying warranty claims for known issues.

      The two powertrain options have been solid in the Passat, so there’s reason to believe they will be OK in this application too.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m with heavy handle. Yes, I have a VW bias, but outside of the car enthusiasts, the broader market has demonstrated time and time again that it is willing to forgive the sins of the father if there is compelling product to be had.

        If exploding Firestone tires didn’t doom Ford, fire breathing gas tanks didn’t end Jeep and ignition locks that burned people alive didn’t crucify GM – I suspect that outside of the auto pundits and environmentalists, Volkswagen will recover and if anything, come out of this mess with a clearer focus than before.

      • 0 avatar

        Who do you think you are, using words like “good product” and “OK” here? Nothing is good enough for the Instant Judges of the Internet! Which shall not rest until it can dance on the graves of VW, Fiat, Jeep, GM, Toyota and the rest of those pretenders, and we’re all driving Mazdas and Accord Coupes…

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Wow, this early in the game they were able to grab a Kia Borrego and Ford Explorer do some reverse engineering and come up with this beast. Good on them for bringing this innovative SUV concept to market in a timely fashion.

  • avatar

    So any bets on what expensive, systemic issue this car develops?

    I’ve been burned by 3 VWs – thank god my GTI’s intake developed the carbon fouling problem and caused me to get rid of it before the timing chain tensioner fiasco developed.

    Sorry VW – when I see LOTS of your vehicles running around with 150,000 miles on nothing but fluid changes, brakes and tires, maybe I’ll consider one.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Look at those tiny seats. Whats the point of this large CUV when hip room looks terrible and the huge center console and armrest is just a waste. When are these companies going to put real seats and hip/legroom into these things?

  • avatar

    “It looks and feels like a typical, near-premium VW interior with a mix of soft touch materials and hard plastics”

    oh, so now hard plastics are “near premium?”

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, when applied properly. Most folks aren’t dry (or wet) humping the storage cubbies in their lower door panels. Most if not all quasi premium cars like Acuras and Buicks employ the same strategy.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, sportyaccordy. The problem is the past was that when mixing and matching materials it was hard to blend grains to make the panel look good, and there was also a tendency for lots of squeaks and rattles to be introduced at the panel where you joined those two materials. As such, it was easier, more cost effective and reduced complaints to go with a solid panel of whatever (hard plastic or soft touch, but no combo).

        Today, materials science and joining techniques are far improved and makers can mix and match far more successfully.

        It is slightly irritating that the rear door panels in my GTI are hard plastic versus soft touch in the front, but this is a cost cutting area that makes sense considering I have dogs in the backseat far more often than I have humans.

        • 0 avatar

          They’re getting cheaper. For 2017 VW has removed the nicely-damped door and soft fuzzy glovebox interior, replaing it with cheap plastic just like a Ford or Kia. There’s probably more cost cutting if I look more closely.

      • 0 avatar

        I prefer premium carpet to line the lower parts of my door panels

        *pre-cost cut Lexus snob*

  • avatar

    70% of them will be delivered in Reflex Silver or Platinum Gray with Anthracite V-Tex. Snoozefest.

    A Diesel 4Motion ‘S’ with an entry pricetag ~$34,9 would’ve made a compelling jack-of-all-trades tow rig, but that’s a future long since forgotten.

  • avatar

    I predict sales success based simply on the fact that they HAVE something to sell in this market segment for which there is insatiable demand for. I agree with the others that overestimate the average consumer’s awareness or memory of previous issues in regards to reliability. Make it roomy enough, price it right and it will sell.

  • avatar

    I can’t wait to see what VW charges for this thing…I love my VW CC company cars but that car is going away. I don’t like the American Passat and would actually like an SUV for some extra room but if this is stupid priced…I’m out.

  • avatar

    As someone with an aversion to dark interiors, I’m loving that second pic.
    The outside, pretty generic.
    Two brand new VW stores here in central Indiana, maybe I’ll stop by and take one for a ride in the spring, with about a 1% chance of actually purchasing.

  • avatar
    Pig Hater

    Yawn, nothing but another annoying grocery getting pig and VW abandoning their roots that once made them so great. Unless you are some kind of “I must have German” snob, I don’t see how it’s going to pull moms away from the CRV’s, RAV4’s, Cherokee’s, etc that they’re brainwashed to like for the time being.

  • avatar

    The front grille reminds me of the space heater I had in my college dorm. Interior looks good though.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m having a change of heart, despite my VW aversion. It looks very good to me, inside and out. That grille is a nice departure from the huge Audi grilles, and the Lexus monstrosities these days.

    A roomy interior will help sell product.

  • avatar

    VW better be prepared to do one heck of an ad blitz for this sucker. Like buying time at the Superbowl so Americans even know that this exists.

  • avatar

    Anyone have towing capacity for the Atlas?

  • avatar

    Did I read that right? The only way to get AWD is to opt for the V6?

    Given VW pricing and option bundling, that must mean that an AWD model will start near $40k? WTF? Good luck with that.

  • avatar

    So after all those years of R&D this is the end product?

    It looks like every bland feature of every mid-sized SUV came together to make a caricature to illustrate everyhting wrong with styling in this segment.

  • avatar

    For a professional, factual first look preview, there’s Autoweek. Somehow, they actually got a person into the car, where they found all an SUV needs for US sales success: the biggest interior in the class, good visibility due to thin roof pillars, and 18, that’s a dozen-and-a-half, cupholders.

  • avatar

    I saw two unique things in Texas due to the Mexican proximity which were VW Group. A white Seat Ibiza in downtown, and out on the highway a new Amarok in silver. I was aghast!

  • avatar

    Nothing has really resonated with me since the Corrado. That was in 1993? Yeah, simply boring looking cars that look like everything else. I will still with my 92 VW GTI 16v. No character. They look like “cars”.. like nothing cool. The GTI has gotten better post Mark 4, but still.. nothing has excited me.

  • avatar

    The size and style makes me think that with a little cut-and-shut they could create a Tundra style four door pickup to nab a little of that market.

    The “Atlas Shrugger” ?

  • avatar

    Wonder can I get a deal on a Touareg now

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