Several automakers have decided to ‘offroadify’ some of their crossovers – Mazda with the CX-50, Honda with their Trailsport trim, and Subaru’s new Wilderness packages to name a few. Volkswagen is taking a different tack, choosing to offer a raft of accessories instead of installing items on the assembly line.
Several years ago now, I called the Volkswagen Atlas three-row “ German comfort food.” It remains that – a boxy, slightly bland crossover that nonetheless does the basics well.
Enter the Cross Sport, which is supposed to liven things up, at least a little, by being lowered and shortened, while losing the weight that comes with the nip/tuck and the removal of the third row of seats (at least in theory. With all-wheel drive, the 2.0T is a skosh heavier than a four-cylinder, three-row Atlas. Generally, however, the two-row is lighter.). The front facelift that matches the larger Atlas is also meant to make things more interesting.
These changes only go so far. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here we have a vehicle that is smaller but no less comfortable, and as you will see, that is just fine.
What happens to an OEM that may have been caught napping while its competitors race to fill every possible niche with crossovers?
It takes its three-row crossover, lops off the third row and some rear space, gives it a name that plays off the existing moniker, and puts it out there.
Hence we have the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, which shares its platform with the Atlas (the wheelbases are even the same) but loses about three inches of length and a bit more than two inches of height while offering seating for just five.
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.
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.
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