Volkswagen Readies Refresh for U.S. Success Story

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Lusted after by no writer upon its debut, the intentionally inoffensive, strength-projecting Volkswagen Atlas did exactly what the automaker intended. It gave the brand a viable challenger in the midsize utility vehicle space, luring Americans into its Teutonic cabin and generating the margins necessary to help fund VW’s electric vehicle push.

The Atlas is a hit, and the coming year sees it undergo its first refresh. Details follow.

We weren’t at the small, sort-of reveal event in Michigan yesterday, but others were. According to Car and Driver, the 2021 Atlas arriving next May grows 3 inches in length and adopts a face similar to that of the upcoming Atlas Cross Sport two-row. It’s a less blocky, more integrated visage, and it’s no surprise it’s showing up on the Cross Sport’s bigger brother.

All told, the upcoming Atlas is 5.7 inches longer than the Cross Sport. Both models share the same wheelbase.

Also like the Cross Sport, the Atlas has decided to put its thriftiest powertrain and 4Motion all-wheel drive together — something not offered in the previous iteration. Good luck finding any 2.0-liter-equipped Atlas on a dealer lot. It seems both engines (2.0-liter four, 3.6-liter V6) will carry over unchanged, as will the eight-speed automatic.

Elsewhere, VW plans to update the model’s suite of driver-assist features with Dynamic Road Sign Detection and Traffic Jam Assist, the latter feature allowing adaptive cruise control to operate at annoyingly low speeds.

First appearing on VW’s sales charts in May 2017, the Atlas has steadily grown its customer pool. Sales are up 40 percent through the end of November. With a refresh inbound and a new Cross Sport variant on the way, Atlas volume will almost certainly top this year’s sales tally in 2020, likely by a significant margin.

Planning pays off.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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6 of 13 comments
  • Steve203 Steve203 on Dec 11, 2019

    Atlas is way too big for my taste, so, of course, they make it even bigger. I really like the Tiguan, but it too is a bit too big. Why, oh why, don't they put the 2.0 from the base Atlas in the Tig? My guess is the Atlas 2.0 wants premium gas and they know people in the US want to cheap out on everything. VW says they have a smaller CUV in the works, but guesses vary whether it is just the short wheelbase Tig that is offered in Europe, or something smaller. My Jetta wagon is only 6 years old, so VW has plenty of time to come up with something the size I like. If they miss the boat, I was admiring a BMW X1 in the grocery store parking lot the other day. That's more like it, sizewise, but I would have to learn to stop using the turn signals.

    • See 3 previous
    • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Dec 12, 2019

      @Steve203 APR offers tunes for VWAG cars that are honored at dealerships. I'm not sure who's end the warranty is covered by but there is a partnership with most VW dealers. They even have tunes that still run on 87 octane.

  • Jfk-usaf Jfk-usaf on Dec 11, 2019

    Dear VW, Sorry not sorry about the diesel thing and your (us) missing out on having a TDI as an option in this thing. We need more HP/TQ in a vehicle of this size please. Thanks,

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.