Introduced for 2018 and built in Tennessee, the Atlas takes the place of a VW with an unpronounceable name—Touareg—as the automaker’s top-o’-the-line SUV. The Atlas has three-row seating, and wow, is it roomy! The third row in other SUVs is often a penalty box fit only for little kids or limber teens. But the Atlas’ last row is roomy enough for adults—and easy to access, too.
A 4-cylinder engine is available (with FWD only), but the optional V6 is the way to go. It’s not all that punchy or fuel efficient, though it’s rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds and is generally smooth and quiet. The Atlas isn’t particularly agile when hustled around corners, as VW’s usually are. But the driver has a choice of driving modes, and selecting Sport makes for a mildly entertaining driving experience, with improved steering and transmission response.
Inside and out, the Atlas’ styling is simple and uncluttered. The instrument panel and dash resemble other VWs, with analog gauges and intuitive controls. Interior trim is attractive, with piano black and dark wood trim. Visibility is quite good, even to the rear. The suspension nicely isolates the cabin from rough tarmac. For 2019, forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning are standard equipment; other advanced safety features are available on higher trim levels. And very important to a long-term owner: Volkswagen’s unusually lengthy 6-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
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Model years: 2018–2019
Vehicle layout tested: Midsize crossover SUV, 3.6-liter V6 (275 hp), 8-speed automatic, AWD
MSRP: $31,890 (base), $51,000 (well equipped)
MPG, city/hwy/combined: 17/23/19
Crash-test ratings: NHTSA: 5 stars overall. IIHS: good (all ratings)
Basic warranty: 6 years/72,000 miles
Spare tire: Compact spare
Final assembly: United States