Fewer Seats, More MPGs: Volkswagen Debuts Atlas Cross Sport in New York

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
fewer seats more mpgs volkswagen debuts atlas cross sport in new york

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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2 of 19 comments
  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Mar 28, 2018

    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.

  • Tylanner Tylanner on Mar 28, 2018

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

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"