There was time when minivans were the only choice considered by parents seeking the roomiest family transportation. However, while minivans are high on versatility, they are woefully low on style, and many of today’s moms and dads seek fresher alternatives.
That’s where three-row crossover SUVs come in. These beasts offer capacity that is generous enough for the rigors of hardcore family duty. They provide pleasant driving dynamics and comfortable cabins, and from a sheet-metal perspective, they’re a lot easier on the eyes than your typical minivan.
Launched for the 2018 model year, the Volkswagen Atlas is a three-row crossover SUV that holds the distinction of being one of the most appealing choices in a popular segment. The Atlas seats up to seven passengers, which means you’ll have the capacity you need, even if you have more than the standard 1.5 kids in tow.
An 8-speed automatic transmission shifts the gears, and the Atlas is offered with a choice of two engines. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder power plant that gets 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. A more robust 3.6-liter V6 is also available, and it kicks out 276 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque.
Looking to haul a boat to your idyllic cabin on the lake? The Atlas’ base engine tows up to 2,000 pounds, while the V6 can handle up to 5,000 pounds.
All told, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas presents a compelling package, but it’s not without shortcomings.
Below, we’ve listed eight great traits of the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas… along with one flaw you’ll want to know about before committing to a purchase.
The Atlas is an all-new vehicle, and it hasn’t yet built a track record buyers can turn to for evaluating reliability. Volkswagen has stepped in to calm your concerns by providing a warranty that is designed to inspire confidence.
So what kind of coverage are we talking about here? The Atlas comes with a transferable warranty that covers engines, transmissions, and the SUV’s optional all-wheel drive system for six years or 72,000 miles—whichever comes first.
This is better warranty coverage than you’ll get from Honda and Toyota. Kia and Hyundai offer longer warranties on these components, but they’re not transferable. A transferable warranty is a big plus if you plan to sell your vehicle to a private party at some point down the road. As its name suggests, it transfers all warranty benefits from one owner to the next, and it can add value to your vehicle on the resale market.
Meager third-row legroom is a deficiency that has tarnished the appeal of many crossovers. Seven-passenger capacity is a lot less compelling if small kids are the only humans who can comfortably seat themselves in a vehicle’s third row.
The Atlas meets this challenge by a providing a reasonably roomy third row that is spacious enough to please adults, with 33.7 inches of legroom on hand to accommodate long limbs. This means that if a teenager or an in-law has to sit in this rearmost part of the cabin, you aren’t likely to hear too many complaints.
All-wheel drive is your bestie when the rain comes down in sheets and the snow blankets the road like sand on a shore. This feature provides the traction you need to give your vehicle a secure grip on the road.
Volkswagen’s Atlas is available with all-wheel drive that will help steady your travels in rough weather. Models equipped with all-wheel drive come with a Driving Mode Selection feature that allows you to select the performance setting best suited for your environment. Four settings are offered: Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad.
Family vehicles transport our loved ones on a daily basis. As such, we expect them to meet the highest standards when it comes to safety.
You won’t be disappointed by the Atlas’ performance in this area. Volkswagen’s newest offering earned a perfect five stars overall in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Atlas also cruised to the front of the pack in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, landing a Top Safety Pick designation.
The Atlas seats seven in comfort, but passengers aren’t the only things that crossover SUVs like this are expected to tote. We also look to them to ably handle our cargo needs.
There’s a generous amount of cargo capacity on board the Atlas. With all seats in place, you’ll have 20.6 cubic feet on hand to accommodate your belongings. With the third row folded, this figure expands to 55.5 cubic feet. Fold the second and third rows, and you’ll enjoy a whopping 96.8 cubic feet of cargo space.
Crash-test scores tell you how well a vehicle holds up in an accident, but driver-assistive technology can be just as important in maintaining safety on the road. These features are your eyes and ears when you’re behind the wheel, working hard to help you avoid accidents.
The Atlas comes with a modern and complete assortment of driver-assistive technology. All models come with a rearview camera, and the list of available amenities includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Nervous parkers will want to invest in the Atlas’ available surround-view camera and front and rear parking sensors, and there’s a Park Assist system offered that will automatically guide the vehicle into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.
This Volkswagen is also available with a Maneuver Braking system that will automatically hit the brakes if sensors detect an obstacle in your path when you’re reversing at low speeds.
One great thing about minivans is that they come with seating that facilitates easy maneuvers within the cabin. Even if you’re making your way to the furthest region of the third row, minivans simplify your journey by providing seating that slides, flips, and folds to help create an open pathway.
With the Atlas, you’ll enjoy a similar experience. This crossover SUV comes with versatile seating that makes its cabin a very user-friendly place. The standard second-row bench seat slides up to 7.7 inches, making room when you need to get by. This seat comes with a 60/40 split, and each portion slides separately. Also, this bench seat can tilt and slide forward even with a child seat strapped in place.
Minivans try hard to make the most of what they’re got to work with. But when you’re cramming that much space between four wheels, it’s difficult to avoid a result that—from an aesthetic perspective—is about as sexy and commanding as a school bus.
While the Atlas’s sheet metal may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that it has a powerful and assertive look. With its squared-off angles and sculpted panels, this Volkswagen conveys brash confidence.
If you’re seeking a family hauler with a look that’s more assertive than that of your typical minivan, you’ve found it.
With its broad shoulders and square jaw, the Atlas looks like it’s packing a lot of heat under the hood. Alas, this isn’t really the case.
We haven’t had a chance to experience the turbocharged base engine yet, but time spent with the V6 left us underwhelmed. There’s certainly adequate power on tap, but the Atlas falls short when it comes to delivering the sort of crisp acceleration that can elevate the driving experience.
Tests conducted by third-party publications reveal that the V6 Atlas is one of the slowest picks in its class.
Decisions regarding family transportation used to be an either/or choice: Either you get a vehicle that looks relatively stylish, or you pick one with the utility and safety you need to ferry your loved ones.
Those days are gone. With the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, you get a vehicle that delivers both form and family-friendly functionality.
The Atlas looks good whether you’re staring at it in the parking lot or sitting in its third row.