By on March 27, 2018

Regardless of where we think Volkswagen’s true strengths prevail, the company is dead set on electrification. Granted, much of this is the direct result of the diesel emissions fiasco. But it doesn’t appear to be solely interested in providing lip service to an angry public; it wants to build these cars and it really wants you to be excited about that.

The brand’s current lineup doesn’t include much in the way of electrics, e-Golf notwithstanding, but CEO Matthias Mueller has promised to unveil a new EV “virtually every month” as its multi-billion-dollar investments into new battery technologies and charging infrastructure begins to bear fruit. In the meantime, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing VW parade a steady stream of electric concept vehicles. Normally, these are part of Audi’s e-tron lineup or the VW’s new I.D. sub-brand. However, the electric push has started spilling over into the core brand, and the latest product is more than just a battery-driven green machine. It feels tangible, like it might be meant for everyone — not just EV enthusiasts.

Volkswagen’s Atlas is a relatively spacious three-row, midsize crossover — fairly fuel efficient for its size, but not a hoot to drive. VW wants to remedy this by hybridizing the MQB platform, chopping a row of seats, and adding a helping of power that won’t jack up your weekly fuel bill. More importantly, this two-row model seems to bridge the gap between practicality and fun. 

Debuting today in New York, the Atlas Cross Sport is technically a concept vehicle. But, unlike the I.D. concepts, we can see this morphing into a production model without much trouble. The recipe involves making a more capacious two-row Atlas, chucking in the optional 3.6-liter V6 FSI, and affixing a pair of electric motors to boost the powertrain’s total output.

The end result is an Atlas offering superior performance to the existing V6-equipped model with vastly improved fuel efficiency. While the real-deal Atlas’ direct-injection V6 already offers noteworthy horsepower gains over the base 2.0-liter, the torque improvement isn’t particularly impressive. The larger engine is really more for towing than performance. VW solves this issue with the addition of dual electric motors. The front unit develops 54 hp and 162 lb-ft, while the rear outputs 114 hp and 199 lb-ft.

Volkswagen estimates a 0-to-60 rush of 5.4 seconds with the all-wheel drive PHEV, which would beat the piss out of the base 2.0-liter’s 7.3-second average (the V6-equipped model is actually slower off the line).

Energy for the electric mills comes from a compact 18 kWh lithium-ion battery housed in the center tunnel. As a plug-in model, the battery can also be tapped to usher the vehicle around town for up to 26 miles without the use of gasoline, making it ideal for short errands. But VW hasn’t decided if this is the best way to go.

While the Atlas Cross Sport will become a production model, Volkswagen says it going to weigh consumer response before it decides whether to go plug-in or mild hybrid. Were it to ditch the power port, the mild hybrid would use a smaller 2.0 kWh battery and boast a lessened sum of 310 horsepower — good for a 0-to-60 time of around 6.5 seconds.

Either way, both prospective hybrids top out at 130 mph and would be massive improvements over the existing model. They would, however, operate very differently. Whereas the mild hybrid would function more or less like a standard car, the PHEV would gain multiple drive modes: E-Mode, Hybrid, GTE, Off-road, and Battery Hold/Battery Charge.

E-Mode runs the car as a pure electric, operating only the rear motor, until the battery loses enough charge to swap over to normal hybrid operation. GTE is the performance mode and alters the throttle mapping, tightens up the steering, and tweaks the six-speed DSG transmission. It also provides full access to the vehicle’s 355 hp and 494 pound-feet of torque.

The other modes should be self-explanatory. Charge and hold optimizes the battery for E-Mode if an operator cannot access a charging point, while off-road prioritizes all-wheel drive. The various driving modes can be further broken down to mitigate poor road conditions (like snow) or place an emphasis on comfort. This can all be controlled through a standards 10.1-inch centralized touchscreen with proximity sensors and gesture control. The 12.3-inch digital cockpit changes depending on drive mode and can be customize to a driver’s tastes. For a concept, it’s a pretty realistic example. It’s not outlandish and even has cup holders.

Beyond the model’s visual acumen, there isn’t much else to say. The Atlas Cross Sport looks highly similar to its internal combustion counterparts, just with a gently rounded posterior, added aluminum trim, and more accent LEDs than it probably needs. We imagine the production version looking even more like the existing SUV and ditching most of the neon piping.

The two-row, hybridized Atlas goes into production in Chattanooga in 2019.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

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19 Comments on “Fewer Seats, More MPGs: Volkswagen Debuts Atlas Cross Sport in New York...”

  • avatar

    Those wheels are bloody huge!!!

  • avatar

    If this comes to market as a PHEV, I bet my wife will do pretty much anything to get her hands on it, up to and including driving my hippopotamid LX570 for a few months if it’s not ready by the April 2019 end of lease on our C-Max.

  • avatar

    VW Grand Cherokee? Looks nice but I’d rather have the real thing.

  • avatar

    Not everyone prefers FiatChryslerJeep products, obviously – since it ranks #3 among the 3 domestic automakers, and had to be bailed out a few years ago. VW is now serious about the American and world markets.

  • avatar

    “like it might be meant for everyone”

    Did I miss where AWD triple-motor V6 plug-in hybrid CUVs became mass-market affordable? This sure sounds like it will not be in the $30K range like the three-row Atlas.

    More like a $55K+ Touareg Class replacement.

  • avatar

    Screw this. They need to GTI everything.

  • avatar

    I’m into it. Makes sense as a flagship for the brand, which will enable them to charge (ha ha) what it’s worth. And with the Passat having become a boat devoid of character, style or resale value, this seems way more interesting, at least as a family vehicle. This + GTI PP is a strong family fleet.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’d buy it.

  • avatar

    My vote goes towards the plug-in hybrid. Until you’ve owned one, it’s hard to appreciate the perfection of this compromise. It can whisk you around town on local errands as an EV, then causally switch to hybrid operation so you can drive all day on one gas stop. An EV range of 26 miles doesn’t sound like much, but it’s usually your first 26, so you get that benefit every day. Some days you drive more than that, some days, you don’t. With my C-Max Energi, the battery seems to do a surprising amount of work even after the initiaL EV range is spent. One trip report from a 15-mile segment driven late in the day, probably 70 miles since my last recharging, read like this: 51 mpg, with about half the miles on EV, half of that from regeneration on downhills.

    EPA rates the hybrid version of my car at 40 mpg. My PHEV version got 66 over the first 10K miles, and the difference is that big plug-in battery. But not too big -the other advantage of this limited range EV is that the small battery can be recharged more quickly, 5 hours on humble current. Some days I get a double helping of EV range.

  • avatar
    Turbo Is Black Magic

    If this drives like a 4000lb taller GTI i’m Sold… but after driving the new craptastic Tiguan and the highly disappointing Atlas I’m highly skeptical it will deliver anything reminiscent of driving excitement.

  • avatar

    I find it cheesy, yet cartoonish.

  • avatar

    I find the whole idea of an SUV coupé an insult to human intelligence – they’re all uniquely positioned to combine the worst traits car design has to offer:

    – a perfect blend of a gargantuan footprint and a smaller, less useful interior (and, as an added bonus, atrocious visibility)

    – more weight than a coupé, fewer MPG than a coupé, less nimble than a coupé, less comfortable than a coupé, slower than a coupé, more difficult to park than a coupé… shall I go on?

    – they’re usually thousands more than the SUV they’re based on (while not costing the companies one cent more) – because evidently SUV coupé buyers are just THAT stupid.

    – Most of the ones I see are murdered out or painted matte, and driven by nouveau-riche Russians or the kind of guy that runs a few prostitutes on the side

    – every single one of them is hideous: can you actually look at a BMW X4 without feeling an urge to vomit?

    As for this one, VW have an annoying habit of showing rather snazzy studies at car shows and then turning the production versions into the same blah Belgium-on-wheels VW box they’ve made for ages. This’ll manage to look hideous AND boring in production guise.

    • 0 avatar

      If this had been presented first, and then the three-row added as an “Atlas Plus” or whatever, no-one ever would have thought of this one as a coupé.

  • avatar

    Good looking, but I can’t see buying one. Just had “the talk” with my wife this morning about what to get when the CRV lease is up…

    If you’re going to get an SUV/CUV, get a boxy one so at least you get a roomy interior. The last kid is away at college, so we only really need a bigger vehicle 3 to 4x a year to drive us and the kids to CVG to go on vacation.

    I’m thinking about cheaping-out and getting a VW Golf SE (or Wolfsburg if they happen to have any on the ground when the time comes) and just pay to park 2 vehicles at the airport if we have to.

  • avatar

    When can I buy one…I always wanted to drive my Hot Wheels

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