2021 Volkswagen Atlas review: Sense and sensibility

    The Atlas loses a little bit of visible bulk with its new face, but it surely seems to be way more modern now.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    Vanity could come into play, however by and huge, most individuals searching for three-row crossovers need one thing versatile, smart and reasonably priced. A automobile on this phase wants to have the ability to do all of it, from hauling hockey gear to taking the entire household on an extended street journey. These Swiss Army knives are immensely widespread, even when they are not probably the most thrilling issues on the block. The VW Atlas has all the time caught to the no-nonsense aspect of issues, and its 2021-model-year refresh helps it stand aside in an ever-growing crowd.

    LikeSharp new lookAmple third-row spaceSolid commonplace tech

    Don’t LikeBrittle experience on huge wheelsNo third-row USBMiddling gas economic system

    Familiar face, simply more energizing The prerefresh VW Atlas had a little bit of an Isuzu Axiom look going with its blocky options and squarish headlights. But now that there is a new two-row Atlas Cross Sport on the town, the O.G. obtained a nip-tuck to deliver it updated. It’s most blatant up entrance, the place the Cross Sport’s face has been grafted onto the common Atlas with nice impact. The rear bumper is slightly totally different, too, but it surely’s tougher to note. My SEL-trim tester sports activities the $1,700 R-Line package deal, which ramps issues up additional with sportier bumpers, aspect skirts and honkin’ 21-inch wheels. It’s an excellent look, even when 21s appear type of massive for a mass-market crossover. The prerefresh Atlas’ key design staples carry over, and I’m glad they do — I do not know why, however I’m obsessive about how aggressive its fenders are. If you’ve got been inside every other Volkswagen within the final 5 years, the refreshed Atlas’ cabin might be instantly acquainted. From the HVAC switchgear to, uh, all the opposite switchgear, VW depends closely on its elements bin inside, which has advantages from a familiarity standpoint however can really feel slightly stale on the similar time. There’s a brand new steering wheel (with VW’s new emblem), and I recognize the truth that the switches really feel premium. Plus, the heated steering wheel lastly receives its personal button, breaking free from the shackles of the heated-seat controls. The leatherette seats are supportive, and the Atlas’ upright silhouette means there’s loads of visibility on all sides.

    An upright design means there’s a great deal of area contained in the 2021 Atlas. The second row’s tilt-and-slide perform lets smaller passengers supply up a bit extra legroom to the third row, however even in its default place, my 6-foot body is decently comfy means again there, with each headroom and legroom that might make longer journeys tolerable. There’s appropriate cargo area behind the third row, due to the truth that the Atlas is about 3 inches longer than earlier than, however decreasing the seats once they aren’t wanted presents up positively cavernous quantities of storage for suitcases, sports activities gear, you identify it. Junk storage is ample, too, due to a deep middle console and a number of cubbies scattered in regards to the cabin.
    Composed sufficient The 2021 Atlas’ give attention to sense and sensibility additionally shines by means of in the best way it drives. And, like many different automobiles on this phase and past, a lot of it should rely on the wheels and tires that include your trim. Take my SEL R-Line tester, for instance: Its 21-inch wheels are the biggest on supply, and whereas they fill the wells properly, additionally they contribute to a experience that is a smidge extra brittle than I’d like over harsh bits like enlargement joints. The 265/45R21 Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires have appropriate sidewall, so the experience might be worse, but it surely feels only a bit too aggressive for a household car on this spec. I bounce round greater than I’d like, however fatter tires and smaller wheels on decrease trims will most likely treatment that.

    VW’s Atlas additionally reveals the identical weirdness that I keep in mind from the Subaru Ascent. Specifically, its throttle is totally too sensitive. I do not know if automakers boost the fuel pedal’s response for a particular motive, but it surely’s getting annoying. Smooth driving is a good factor to have in a household automobile, and it is exhausting to keep away from head bobs when 15% throttle appears like 75%. The brake pedal does not have this; it is a lot simpler to cease easily than it’s to begin easily.

    Some of that probably comes from my tester’s powertrain. While a 235-horsepower, 2.0-liter I4 is the bottom engine, this Atlas carries the upgraded 3.6-liter V6 that produces 276 hp. An eight-speed automated transmission is commonplace throughout the board, whereas consumers get the selection of two or 4 pushed wheels. The 3.6 is comfortable to speed up, however solely within the corners of the tachometer the place it truly generates driving force. Catch the V6 in one among its flat spots and it will simply putt about idly till you present sufficient throttle for a downshift to kick in. The transmission is clean, however gear modifications present up slightly later than I’d like, particularly at the side of this particular engine. No matter the powertrain, the Atlas does not precisely have stellar gas economic system. The four-cylinder fashions obtain 20-21 miles per gallon within the metropolis and 24 mpg freeway, whereas the V6 variants see 16-17 mpg within the metropolis and 22-23 mpg on the freeway. It’s good that the parasitic loss from the AWD system is not very massive, however these numbers will not be magna cum laude territory. Thankfully, my V6-toting tester is an overachiever on the freeway, exhibiting nearer to 24-26 mpg on the stream of site visitors (75-80 mph). Real-world metropolis economic system stays as mediocre because the feds’ greatest efforts. Not solely is there a good quantity of area within the Atlas’ third row, it is damned straightforward to get into due to a intelligent tilt-and-slide deal with on the second-row bench.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    Familiar, pleasant tech While the bottom S trim would possibly solely obtain a 6-inch touchscreen, each different 2021 Atlas variant ramps it as much as an 8-inch unit. While the graphics and responsiveness have been freshened up over time, it is nonetheless largely the identical telematics getup that I’ve in my private 2016 VW Golf SportWagen. It’s a bit austere in design, but it surely’s suitably quick and it seems to be slick with the quick-navigation buttons on both aspect of the display. Satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board, and the system might be optioned additional on SEL trims with manufacturing facility navigation and, on the SEL Premium, a Fender audio system. It’s a pleasing little display that by no means distracts in a significant means. Charging choices abound for many passengers. Again, the S trim will get the shaft with simply two USB-A ports, however each different trim ramps that as much as 5. USB-A ports double up within the middle console cubby, with one other below the armrest and two extra for second-row occupants. A 3rd-row USB is nowhere to be discovered, which is not precisely maintaining with the Joneses. It additionally does not have USB-C, so hopefully your outdated cables are nonetheless kickin’ round. You can wirelessly cost your system with the Qi charger that seems on SE trims and up. There are another intelligent tips in right here, relying on how a lot you wish to spend. The SE/Tech trim provides creature comforts like three-zone local weather management, keyless entry, distant begin and the Car-Net 2.0 connected-car system that allows you to use your telephone to do issues like lock and unlock the doorways or begin the engine from afar. The SEL trim provides Digital Cockpit, changing the gauge cluster with a display that provides all kinds of information, from fundamental gas economic system data to a full map. While loads of security methods come commonplace, the loadout solely will get higher as you throw down extra dough. The Atlas S begins with automated emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, whereas the SE/Tech trim picks up full-speed adaptive cruise management and parking sensors. The SEL trim provides lane-keep help and site visitors jam assistant and it’ll additionally show street indicators within the cabin. At the tippy-top, the SEL Premium tacks on a surround-view digital camera and automated parking help. The site visitors jam assistant works easily, as does the adaptive cruise management at freeway speeds, making for fairly the sleek journey with all the pieces enabled. If familiarity breeds consolation, then VW house owners will already be in love with the Atlas’ inside. It’s low on flash, however excessive on perform.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    How I’d spec it The 2021 VW Atlas begins out at an reasonably priced $32,565 earlier than vacation spot (for FWD; AWD provides $1,900 to the underside line), however issues get extra excessive in a rush, with the very best I4 trim costing $48,215 and V6 fashions starting from $39,315 to $51,715. I’d keep away from the R-Line stuff for the sake of cabin consolation, and I believe the SEL is the actual candy spot right here, with the proper of options out there at a value that is not too wonky. Stick with an AWD 2.0 mannequin and it will set you again $43,415 (AWD is obligatory right here), or you may type of recreation the system and get the SEL V6 with FWD for $100 lower than that. Down to brass tacks If you desire a three-row crossover from a mass-market model, you’ve nearly an excessive amount of selection. The Toyota Highlander is newer and rides nicer, and it is out there as a hybrid, however its infotainment will not be that nice. The Mazda CX-9 prioritizes the driving force a bit extra, however the third row is tight and once more, I do not just like the infotainment. The Honda Pilot is an all-around reliable family-hauler, and if you wish to deal with your self, the kissin’ cousins of Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade actually ramp up the fanciness. Quilted leather-based? Sure, why the hell not. Perhaps you and your loved ones favor a three-row crossover that has just a bit little bit of visible punch, with commonplace tech that does not suck and an inside that prioritizes area and sensibility over flashy supplies and angles. If that is extra your velocity than something, the 2021 VW Atlas will make a really good addition in your driveway. 

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