By on October 11, 2019

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Readers might not nod their heads in agreement after seeing this headline, knowing full well it denotes the appearance of another crossover on the avenues and byways of America, but Volkswagen would respectfully disagree. For the automaker’s American arm, it most definitely is a good thing.

Eager to make new friends following the brand’s disastrous diesel affair, Volkswagen changed course, pledging to give Americans more of what they claim they want. And it seems the effort paid off. Arriving at dealers in May of 2017, the mid-size, made-in-America Atlas crossover has proven a sales coup. Through September, more than one-fifth (21.5 percent) of Volkswagens sold in the U.S. in 2019 bore the Atlas name. Volume is up 39 percent, year to date.

If having one Atlas is a good thing, surely having two is better? From a sales and revenue perspective, Volkswagen certainly hopes so.

(Full disclosure: Volkswagen flew me to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the unveiling of the new Atlas Cross Sport, set me up in a nice hotel, and provided buffet-style meals for attendees. No swag was offered or accepted, minus a cheap pen I used to take notes. Only tap water, and a quite fine tap water at that, was consumed in the hotel room.)

The Atlas Cross Sport revealed today at VW’s Chattanooga assembly plant takes the existing crossover and wraps it up in a just-different-enough package. Wheelbase remains the same, as do powertrains, but the body and interior see key alterations.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

This vehicle seats no more than five. While the Atlas continues on as VW’s three-row family hauler extraordinaire, the Atlas Cross Sport is aimed at capturing buyers whose kids have yet to arrive ⁠— or perhaps they’ve just left. Removing the rear chairs allowed VW to adopt a rakish angle to the rear glass while lowering the model’s height by 2.3 inches. There’ll be no headroom complaints from the rearmost passengers in this ride. Behind them sits a competitive 40.3 cubic feet of rear cargo volume.

All of that height reduction stems from a roofline haircut, not a suspension drop. The automaker didn’t tinker with underbody bits in creating its newest model; ground clearance remains the same as the Atlas. Length is nearly the same, too, with the Cross Sport stretching just 2.8 inches shy of its (slightly) larger sibling. As best as any VW of America exec can guess, the model shaves about 150 pounds from the three-row’s curb weight.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Why build the Atlas Cross Sport? The answers are numerous: Blazer, Edge, Passport, Grand Cherokee, and the list goes on. As an ebullient Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, stated at Friday’s reveal, some 45 percent of the mid-size utility vehicle segment is made up of two-row vehicles, and VW wants a slice of the action.

“As a businessman, there’s no way I want to miss 45 percent of the market,” Keogh said.

The addition of the Atlas to VW’s stable increased the average transaction price of a new Veedub by nearly four grand, he said. Spawning a new, slightly higher-priced Atlas variant would only serve to fill company coffers at an accelerated rate.

What’ll it cost? The company won’t say, though Keogh promised “competitive” pricing in an area VW belongs. To him, that means the $30k range. From what TTAC could gather from company brass, the markup shouldn’t be more than $2,000. The 2019 Atlas starts at $31,890 after destination; V6 models start at $35,090.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Arriving at dealers in the first quarter of 2020, the Atlas Cross Sport dons a revised grille and lower fascia, front and rear, to further differentiate itself from its three-row brother. Seen here in top-spec SEL V6 R-Line trim, the Cross Sport offers revamped headlamps featuring a new LED running lamp pattern, a deeper grille with three chrome crossbars (not the Atlas’ two), and larger, chrome-ringed side scoops down below. The lower air opening also lacks an intruding body-color strip. Out back, the taillamps are slimmer, creating a gap between them and the chrome trim strip that spans the liftgate. Coupled with the reduced roof height and sloped rear glass, the cosmetic changes make the Cross Sport appear wider and more athletic than a stock Atlas.

Sadly, the Atlas’ fake exhaust ports have grown both in size and prominence. Real ports would’ve been a welcome deviation here. Oh well. If you’re wondering, those 21-inch wheels are of a design exclusive to the Cross Sport; you’ll need to tick the R-Line appearance package box to bring them on board, and VW plans to make it very easy to do so. Only the base S eschews the R-Line option.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Inside you’ll find no dramatic departures aside from the missing rear seats, though eagle-eyed observers will notice a completely new steering wheel. Model-exclusive interior trim options will be on offer, along with loads of tech goodies for higher-end buyers ⁠— among them, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrument display and an updated Volkswagen Car-Net connectivity suite that allows four users to tap into the internet at the same time. Traffic Jam Assist and Dynamic Road Sign Display are also new to the VW herd, appearing here to help drivers navigate their congested lives.

While all Atlases make do with an eight-speed automatic, there’s more four-cylinder choice to be had with the Cross Sport. VW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter, good for 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, can be combined with 4Motion all-wheel drive. It’s also offered on all but the top-flight SEL Premium trim. The Atlas only offers a four-banger in its low-end, front-drive offering.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

“With 4Motion, it will increase the attractiveness of that vehicle,” said Hein Schafter, VW of America’s senior vice president of product marketing and strategy. Estimating the take rate of the Atlas 2.0L at five to 10 percent of sales, Schafer predicts a greater draw for the four-cylinder Cross Sport. “We’re working on getting it into the top trim,” he added.

The company’s 3.6-liter V6, generating 276 hp and 235 lb-ft, will be on hand for those wanting extra grunt and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

When asked if VW considered building something a little wilder than what the company revealed on Friday, Schafer and newly minted VW of America Chief Operating Officer Johan de Nysschen claimed the Cross Sport made the most sense in its present form. Given the financial necessity of maintaining a strong commonality between the two Atlas models, VW was left with “a narrow envelope to create differentiation,” de Nysschen said.

“I think the car has a distinct persona,” he added. “It will appeal to a different demographic.”

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

As for projected sales, Schafer feels that the Cross Sport might see volumes of roughly 50 percent of Atlas sales. This jibes with what VW Chattanooga CEO Tom du Plessis told TTAC. His guesstimate placed combined Atlas volume at 140,000 vehicles per year. With the still-growing Atlas on track to sell roughly 80,000 units in 2019, and with a refresh inbound for Q2 2020, volume could easily reach higher in the coming year. A two-to-one Atlas/Cross Sport volume ratio would put total sales around that number.

It would also make the Atlas nameplate account for nearly a third of all VW sales in the United States. Higher volumes of a higher-margin vehicle is just what the automaker needs to help it with its next challenge: Building and selling electric vehicles to a hesitant U.S. public. A production version of the upcoming I.D. Crozz electric crossover, slated for production in Chattanooga, is expected to appear within a year.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


39 Comments on “2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: More of a Good Thing...”

  • avatar

    Blech. Europe gets the sophistocated new Touareg and North America gets this dull lump.

  • avatar

    That’s a weak V6. N/A V6s have been getting 300+ HP for about 10 years now.
    The low torque number is especially surprising.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably de-tuned for fuel economy – this thing’s heavy.

      Maybe VW should flip the script on the ’70s, when it sold engines to Chrysler, and buy Pentastar V-6s for the Atlas.

    • 0 avatar

      According to VW’s website, the 6-cylinder is rated at 276hp and 266lb-ft. Probably a typo on TTAC’s part.

      This engine itself came out in 2005 and even uses an iron block (both things I expect you would like). Unfortunately, it is a VW FSI carbonfest instead of port-only.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it is a weak V6. In the full sized Atlas I think it might be the least competitive offering (at least on paper) in terms of fuel efficiency and power in it’s class. The narrow angle VR6 engine has been around forever and was built to a cost at the time. It is a relic but gets the job done I suppose. The 4cyl turbo that is also offered on the full sized Atlas is the same engine from from the GTI but only offered in FWD and select trims. It can only tow 2000 lbs but can beat the V6 AWD to 60 by .7 seconds. It is considerably easier at the pump too as it makes the Atlas about 500 lbs lighter.

      • 0 avatar

        That must be the worlds heaviest V6 if it’s 500 pounds more than the 4 cylinder.

        • 0 avatar

          That weight difference is between the FWD 2.0t which is only available in lower trims compared to AWD V6. Not sure how much trim level would add to weight but either way, my point was that the weight difference is substantial. I have not personally weighed them, just regurgitating what I have read elsewhere. Drive them back to back and it feels like alot more than 500 lbs.

    • 0 avatar

      The HP is no problem. The Honda Pilot is just as big and heavy, has an engine that only makes 4 more HP, but is nearly 6 seconds faster to 60 and through the quarter mile. The Tiguan has a smaller but still significant gap to the 6HP more powerful CVT equipped CR-V. VW is losing something in translation from the engines to the ground in its crossovers.

      Only lopping 3″ off the length to ditch the 3rd row also doesn’t seem right. The Tiguan manages to fit 3 rows in on the same platform with nearly a foot less length.

      Oddly, despite finally heeding to the American market’s clamoring for crossovers, I just don’t know that VWAG has any compelling affordable options. All the VW branded stuff is too slow and all the Audi/Porsche branded stuff is way too small. There are plenty of ~$50K crossovers that can fit a rear facing child seat behind an adult male and get from 0-60 in less than 7 seconds- 2 reasonable requests for a family hauler an enthusiast might want. VWAG has nothing for ya

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I like it, but only in V6 form. This would be a good alternative to the Telluride.

    • 0 avatar

      A tuned awd 2.0t may not be too bad. 350 ftlbs of awd torque could be fun.

    • 0 avatar

      The regular Atlas is the Telluride competitor -three row boxes that seat 7.

      This oddball is a 5 seater. Its quite wide and bulky, but has a truncated roofline and 5 seats. Honda Passport is probably closest analog (chopped version of Pilot), although Passport is being pitched as off roader, while this is a supposed to be a stylish on roader in theory.

  • avatar

    Not bad looking, I suppose, but I’d rather have a CX-5.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s bigger than the CX-5. Also bigger than the old CX-7 and CX-9.

      It’s just about the same size as the WK2 2011-2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee but not as tall nor as spunky as the Pentastar V6 in the JGC.

      I saw them parked side by side in Surprise, AZ, at my grand daughter’s, whose friend has an Atlas.

    • 0 avatar

      This is better than cx5. But I wouldn’t buy German

      • 0 avatar

        The Atlas was developed for the US domestic market. As such, very little would be German.

        To me it looks like VW reverse-engineered the WK2 Jeep Grand Cherokee of 2011, put a lethargic V6 under the hood and called it a VW. Kinda like the old VW minivans which were really Chrysler/Dodge T&C/Grand Caravans.

      • 0 avatar
        Bob Pocsik

        German? Not at all! Vehicle is made in Tennesse by American workers.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly a year ago, we cross-shopped the CX-5 with the Tiguan and a few others (Escape, Tucson, Rogue) as we were looking for a new ride for my wife. I wanted to love the CX-5 but at 6’3” there is no way that I can get comfortable in the driving position. It seems to be designed for the vertically challenged with it’s super short seats and even though it handles really well and looks sharp, it was not at all an option for us. Especially when comparing features, the Tiguan was *a lot* cheaper than the CX-5.

      Wer have a medium sized dog and the Tiguan is considerably larger then the CX-5. The Vee-Dub Cross Sport should be quite a bit bigger than the Tiguan. Therefore, I think the CX-5 is really in a different (much smaller) category. Most people won’t be cross shopping the two vehicles.

      Also hearing a lot of people complaining about VW reliability / build quality. Speaking from our own experience – Our 2019 Tiguan has been flawless over the first year and about 20k km.

      • 0 avatar

        CX5 is a great car, but not a great SUV. It has pretty limited cargo behind second row. In fact, so limited that I bought a Highlander. I never wanted to buy 3-row car and never have 3rd row up but I saw Highlander as best 2-row car. I liked JGC but in the end, I didn’t trust quality of it because fit of panels was some of the worst I ever seen.
        Interestingly, JGC and HL have similar exterior dimentions but HL is bigger inside due to platform.

        Don’t judge your cars by 1st year. I want to see your Tig in 5 -7 years. How it will hold. If history means anything, my friend’s VWs used to get loose with time.

  • avatar

    Looks better than the new Toyota Highlander…..good god…

  • avatar

    Not a bad looking “sport” empty nester SUV. Plus VW’s warranty is very good.

  • avatar

    The German TrailBlazer. Its a big car for the money with a decent amount of toys and a palatable V6. Its obviously doing fine for the market.

    Yes, Touareg is more sophisticated. It also boggled the mind why someone would spend $60k at a VW dealership when you could literally buy an Audi for the same money and tell people you have an Audi. After experiencing many late-model Touaregs and what they are capable of, I personally wouldn’t even choose an Atlas. But I don’t buy new cars; the general public does. And the general public loves the slightly dumbed-down but more value-oriented VWoA lineup than they ever did.

    • 0 avatar

      The Toureg was VW’s attempt to really go upmarket. It shared its chassis with the Cayenne, had great off road capability, terrific handling and beautiful interior. Unfortunately it had poor reliability and dealers hated servicing it as it was such an outlier and so little in common with any other VW. They do have a cult following now, especially with diesels…Used Toureg’s sell at a premium

  • avatar

    That dark dolphin grey would look good on many different vehicles.

    So it’s an Atlas that’s less convenient, more stylish, and had a roof chop.

    It’s the Atlas 360C, by Bertone.

  • avatar

    Reading press releases is one thing, owning the bloody car is something else. Despite the reputation we were attracted by our VW experience in Europe, inoffensive design and long warranty. Bad mistake.
    – Base trims are «decontented» or intentionally made inferior. Worst I’ve seen
    – Overall quality: «cheap, made-in-china junk» feel. Before I applied a hack to disable the auto-stop, it had run out of juice in winter Vermont. Or the car would incessantly beep and flash «transmission in emergency mode!», whatever that meant. The VW folks had a gall to explain that it was not built for “extreme temperature”, which in their parlance was 25F or below.
    – The worst is trying to make the VW USA honor their warranty. Without a lawyer it’s a struggle.

    • 0 avatar

      “– The worst is trying to make the VW USA honor their warranty. Without a lawyer it’s a struggle.”

      Genuinely surprised to here that and I surmise that must be a dealer-related issue. I’ve never, ever had an issue with my two local stores honoring warranty claims, even under somewhat questionable circumstances and things that were gray areas. I just had an ’11 TDI SportWagen receive nearly an entirely new fuel system (two pumps, rail, injectors, etc) filed under AEM warranty because the proceeding owner must’ve experimented with homemade Biodiesel or some such crap prior to turning it in. Cost me ~$580 out of pocket for cleaning the tank; the rest was comp’d.

    • 0 avatar

      VW used to have class leading interiors – I guess they got too close to Audi because that does look like junk class

  • avatar

    Boring. And it is not a German name. Or may be it is.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Good looking vehicle. Looks like the rear bumper was designed with a place to mount a Class III reciever hitch. If there is a 7 pin factory wiring connector next to it, I’m impressed.

  • avatar

    Good looking vehicle, and in V6 form solid buy. I take it over a Ford Edge, or Chevy Blazer or Nissan Murrano. A Jeep Grand Cherokee is more capable, and Honda Passport more reliable.

    Still, a good addition for VW and this class of vehicle.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the Atlas have the worst driving rang in its class? Small gas tank plus poor mileage equals terrible range. I assume this is more of the same.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the Atlas have the worst driving range in its class? Small gas tank plus poor mileage equals terrible range. I assume this is more of the same.

  • avatar

    It’s definitely more of a thing. More vehicle and yet another edition to the big CUV pool.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • micko4472: The Raptor and its Fiat and GM competitors are not “real” off road vehicles. They are too big....
  • Firestorm 500: ***crickets***
  • Corey Lewis: As I’ve said before, Chrysler has continually dropped the large SUV ball. There should have been a...
  • Vulpine: @mcs: Thumbs up. You see the sense in adding additional communications capabilities to handle those kinds of...
  • Garrett: Meanwhile over at GM:

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber