2020 Volkswagen Atlas
2020 Volkswagen Atlas
The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas is a three-row crossover SUV whose main virtue is its size. It can comfortably carry seven passengers and their cargo. For 2020 it gets upgraded infotainment software, and a new Cross Sport body style with five-passenger seating.
The Atlas has two available engines, a standard turbo-4 making 235 horsepower, or a V-6 making 276 hp. The V-6 is more popular because all-wheel drive is available, while the turbo-4 comes only with front-wheel drive.
The Atlas’ driving asset is its composed ride, which soaks up bumps better than most full-size SUVs, even with the largest 21-inch alloy wheels.
The V-6 Atlas with all-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined on regular fuel. The front-wheel-drive V-6 Atlas is about the same. The turbo-4 comes only with front-wheel drive, and gets 20/26/22 mpg.
The 2020 Atlas hasn’t been crash tested yet, but in 2019 it earned five stars from the NHTSA, with four stars in the calculated rollover test. The Atlas also got top marks from the IIHS, with “Good” in every test. However the headlights were only considered “Moderate” or “Poor.”
Every Atlas comes with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Active lane control and adaptive cruise control are optional.
The Atlas is available in S, SE, and SEL.
The Atlas S with the turbo-4 engine and front-wheel drive costs about $32,000, while the V-6 with all-wheel drive is about $35,000. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, one USB port, 18-inch alloy wheels, and active safety.
The SE V-6 with all-wheel drive costs about $38,000, and adds synthetic leather upholstery, automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and three more USB ports.
The Atlas SEL with the optional Premium package runs about $50,000, and includes a digital instrument cluster, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, Fender speakers, and a panoramic sunroof.
Volkswagen’s 4-year/50,000-mile warranty includes maintenance for the first two years.
Volkswagen designers have made no attempt to make the chunky Atlas look delicate, dainty, or demure. The Atlas’ wide grille, rectangular headlights, and massive fender flares contribute to that plus-size look. This year, 20-inch wheels are standard on more versions of the Atlas, while the SEL Premium bears 21-inch wheels that make it look more athletic.
The new Cross Sport has more slope to its roofline, but otherwise is similar to the standard Atlas.
The cabin of the Atlas gets the job done without frills or even much color. It has a car-like low dash, with tall and wide front glass, so outward visibility is good. The plastic controls are centered around either a 6.5-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen. The tough cloth seats on the Atlas S are okay while the synthetic leather on the SE seats is better, and the real leather on the SEL premium feels the same as the synthetic.
The Atlas is big enough to accommodate adults in all three rows, something few three-row crossovers can do; Cross Sports have two rows of seats for five people.
The front seats are firm and offer a decent range of adjustment. The rear has wide door openings and a spacious bench seat or optional captain’s chairs that slide forward for easy access to the third row. Even the bench seat has a latch that kids can operate; and you can tilt the seat without having to remove a booster seat.
In the wayback, there’s good head room, big windows, cupholders, and toe room under the second seat, so two adults can be comfortable not only climbing but also riding back there.
No surprise, cargo space is also large. There’s nearly 21 cubic feet behind the third row in the standard Atlas, much of that below the window line. That grows to 55.5 cubic feet with the third row folded, and when the second row is also folded, there’s nearly 97 cubic feet.
The Atlas feel very athletic for its size, although more power would be nice. The base engine with standard front-wheel drive is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 235 horsepower, and that’s not enough for a vehicle weighing about 4,500 pounds.
The upgrade engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 making 276 horsepower. The V-6 is quiet and works well with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, but with passengers aboard the Atlas struggles up hills.
Properly equipped, the Atlas can tow 5,000 pounds.
The long 117.3-inch wheelbase helps the Atlas shrug off small bumps and stay composed at highway speeds. The steering stays arrow-straight even in heavy crosswinds, and helps the Atlas feel more nimble on winding roads than it should for its heft.
The available all-wheel drive is good for winter, but it’s not for serious off-roading. A handful of drive modes lets drivers select traction settings for snow and mud.
The 2020 VW Atlas is great for carrying seven adults at an easy pace. As a carpool vehicle, it’s unbeatable thanks to great outward vision, excellent safety gear, and plenty of space.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection