2019 Volkswagen Atlas

By September 11, 2019

Introduced as a 2018 model, the mid-size Volkswagen Atlas crossover SUV is the larger cousin of Volkswagen’s compact Tiguan. Manufactured in Tennessee, aimed squarely at the larger-family market, the Atlas comes with three rows of seats, for seven-passenger capacity.

For the 2019 model year, all Atlas crossovers include previously-optional automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Forward-collision warnings with pedestrian detection also are standard. The SEL trim level gains navigation, a heated steering wheel, LED taillights, and a configurable instrument cluster. The base S model adds automatic headlights, heated mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers, while the SE gains tri-zone automatic climate control.

S, SE, and SEL trim levels are offered, with four variants among them: seven choices in all, starting near $32,000 (including destination charge).

Two engines are available: a turbo-4 and a V-6. Offered only with front-wheel drive, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 develops 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque (achieved with premium gasoline). 

Stronger but thirstier for fuel, the 3.6-liter V-6 generates 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet – not a huge increase over the turbo-4. The V-6 may mate with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Both engines work with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

With its Atlas, Volkswagen doesn’t skimp on standard safety technology. Automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alert are installed on every Atlas. Adaptive cruise control and active lane control are optional on the Atlas SE and standard for SEL trim.

Crash-test results have been impressive. The NHTSA gave the Atlas a five-star rating overall and for frontal and side impacts. The only four-star score was for rollover prevention (a calculated figure, not based on actual testing).

In addition to rating the Atlas “Good” in each of its crash tests, the IIHS gave the crossover its Top Safety Pick award. Only its headlights, rated either “Marginal” or “Poor,” kept it from earning Top Safety Pick+ recognition. The insurance industry-funded organization rated frontal collision-avoidance technology “Superior.”

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $995 destination charge.

The Atlas S 2.0T ($30,895) comes only with front-wheel drive and the turbo-4 engine. It has cloth-upholstered seats, a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a roof rack. Safety technology includes forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, and rear traffic alerts.

S V-6 with 4Motion AWD ($34,095) substitutes a 3.6-liter V-6 engine for the turbo-four.

SE V-6 ($35,495 with front-drive, $37,295 with 4Motion all-wheel drive) includes synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, tri-zone climate control, additional USB charging ports, pushbutton start, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

SE V-6 w/Technology ($37,295 with FWD, $39,095 with 4Motion AWD) adds a power liftgate, heated steering wheel, lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control.

SE V-6 R-Line w/Technology ($39,245 with FWD, $41,045 with 4Motion AWD) adds R-Line appearance equipment.

SEL V-6 ($41,395 with FWD, $43,195 with 4Motion AWD) comes with leather upholstery, power front seats, parking sensors, LED taillights, a panoramic moonroof, navigation, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

SEL V-6 R-Line ($43,345 with FWD, $45,145 with 4Motion AWD) comes with R-Line appearance equipment.

SEL V-6 Premium with 4Motion AWD ($48,395) includes all-wheel drive, cooled leather front seats, 12-speaker Fender audio, power-folding mirrors, and heated rear seats.

Exterior

Even among large crossover SUVs, the Atlas looks big and chunky, and impressive. Its curvy, massive front end wears a wide grille bracketed by boxy headlights that sweep slightly rearward into fenders. Pronounced, squared-off wheel arches suggest muscularity.

At the rear roof pillar, the window line curves upward, above a tail end that looks quite conventional. A chrome strip stretches between its taillights.

Interior

Rather than luxurious, the impressively spacious cabin is conservative, based upon simple lines with a convenient control layout. Unlike many large crossovers, an Atlas can truly seat seven adults in reasonable comfort.

Front occupants can expect comfort and space, as well as decent outward vision. In S trim, cloth-upholstered seats are firm and mildly bolstered.

In the center row, even the middle position is suitable for grown-ups. The standard second-row bench slides forward to permit access to the back row. In most versions, separate captain’s chairs can replace the three-place bench.

Only two passengers can use the spacious third row, but it’s easier to access than in most competitive crossover SUVs. Even adults shouldn’t have trouble. Foot space accommodates adult-size shoes.

With third-row seatbacks upright, cargo capacity totals 20.6 cubic feet. Folding those seats flat raises volume to 55.5 cubic feet, while folding second- and third-row seatbacks expands space near 97 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

What the 2019 VW Atlas offers drivers is simple. It’s a serene long-distance cruiser that rides and handles well.

The Atlas’ comfortable ride quality can almost be described as luxurious. The suspension is taut, but definitely not stiff. 

Handling is more responsive and well-balanced than expected. The three-spoke steering wheel imparts a sporty feel, which the Atlas supplies in greater quantity than most competitors.

Steering is direct and precise, with enough of a “dead spot” at the center for comfortable highway cruising with little need for corrections. Body lean in corners feels appropriate.

Despite its strong ratings on paper, the well-muffled V-6 engine has its work cut out for it with the Atlas’ 4,502-pound curb weight (with all-wheel drive). The 8-speed automatic responds promptly. Turbo-4 acceleration is acceptable in urban driving, but there’s no spare power at highway speeds.

With all-wheel drive, a console knob selects snow and off-road modes. The Atlas has about 8 inches of ground clearance.

With V-6 and all-wheel drive, the 2019 Atlas is EPA-rated at 17/23 mpg City/Highway, 19 Combined. Front-wheel drive is better at 17/24/19 mpg.

The standard turbo-4 is EPA-rated at 20/26 mpg City/Highway, 22 Combined. Each engine runs on regular gasoline.

Final Word

Abundant standard features make the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas a good value in the big-SUV class. It’s very spacious and very well-equipped even at the S and SE trim levels. 

 

Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.