There's a new sheriff in town at Volkswagen, and its name is Atlas. This is the brand's first-ever three-row SUV, and it's proof VW is serious about breaking into the SUV/crossover marketplace in a big way.
Volkswagen hasn't done anything groundbreaking here, but the Atlas is a big leap from the Touareg. Where that five-seater always had upscale aspirations that limited its appeal and affordability, this new model is priced to start from around $35,000 and will tow a maximum of 2,270 kg, making it a legitimate competitor to the Ford Explorer as a crossover that toes the line separating car-based models from true trucks.
And yet, for all the brawn the Atlas projects, it uses VW's modular MQB platform, which will soon underpin virtually every model in the brand's lineup, including the current compact Golf. Perhaps more interesting is that the base model uses a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine closely related to that in the GTI hot hatch. Granted, it comes here in a different state of tune that results in 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, power figures that sound weak until you consider that despite its increased size, the Atlas is lighter than the Touareg, and the similarly-sized Explorer.
For those concerned that won't be enough for their needs, the upgrade is a 3.6L V6 good for 276 hp and 266 lb-ft, which moves the Atlas with ease, at least when unloaded.
Both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission; the four-cylinder comes with FWD that can be optioned to a 4Motion AWD setup that's standard with the V6.
The entry-level Trendline model is positioned as a pretty basic people mover, with manual air conditioning, six-speaker stereo and unheated front seats.
But LED headlights are standard, as is a backup camera, and when you move up to the Comfortline model you get three-zone automatic climate control, upgraded backup camera, eight-speaker sound system, heated front seats, power driver's seat, passive keyless entry, eight-inch infotainment touchscreen (up from 6.5 inches in the base trim) and leatherette seating.
Highline is where the V6 engine becomes standard, along with a power front passenger seat, heated second-row outboard seats, ventilated front seats, garage door opener, fake wood interior trim, Vienna leather upholstery, gloss black console trim, panoramic sunroof and a power tailgate with hands-free operation.
Finally, Execline trim adds automatic high beams, power-folding side mirrors, digital gauge cluster, ambient interior lighting and a 12-speaker Fender sound system.
Wheels and tires are 18-inchers on the first three trims, and 20s on the Execline model.
Active safety features are bundled into a package that's optional in Comfortline, Highline and Execline trims and includes adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, lane keep assist and remote engine start.
At the time of this writing, the only fuel consumption figures published are for the V6/AWD powertrain, which come in at a reasonable-sounding 13.7/10.1 L/100 km for city and highway driving respectively.