Not everyone needs a big crossover, but most families wish they had a vehicle that could accommodate tall people in all three rows rather than trying to cram just the kids in the back row, all this without having to settle for a minivan or pony up for a really big SUV that's too big for the garage and gets poor gas mileage. That's where the Volkswagen Atlas comes in. It's our favorite three-row, 8-passenger crossover we've driven this year, and it should be a the top of the list for your family. Here are five reasons why it's just so damned good.

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1. It's Cavernous Inside

vw atlas third row
The third row is suitable for most adults, and it's easy to access, as well. 

Until you sit in the Atlas, you won't realize how spacious it is inside. The third row, unlike many mid-size crossovers, isn't an afterthought. We drove six adults for an hour, and everyone was comfortable. No one felt crammed in, and no one was in a hurry to get out. 

⥤  The legroom in the Atlas is almost as big as the huge Chevy Suburban that's in the large SUV category. 

⥤  Atlas 2nd Row: 37.6 inches / Suburban 2nd Row: 39.7 inches

⥤  Atlas 3rd Row: 33.7 inches / Suburban 3rd Row: 34.5 inches

2. It Drives Way Smaller Than It Is

vw atlas ocean road

Though the sizable Atlas has more than enough room for the whole family and their cargo, it drives remarkably well, providing excellent shock absorption while delivering a high level of steering precision and handling. Most vehicles this size feel ponderous when driven, but the Atlas has four-wheel independent suspension and a multi-link rear setup for ideal ride quality without sacrificing handling prowess. 

⥤  Atlas suspension: Independent Strut (front) / Independent Multi-link (rear) 

3. It Won't Be Mistaken For Anything Else

vw atlas at beach
You wouldn't be wrong to call the Atlas handsomely masculine.

So many crossovers look like these days. What the Atlas does is manage to look purposeful and distinct. The wide grille is simple but has real presence when mated with the blocky headlights. The fenders are also prominent and provide the Atlas with a rugged look that's missing from crossovers that endeavor to look sleek and fast. The tall hoodline and the rear uptick in the rear side glass also give it a unique identity. 

4. The Interior is Seriously Easy to Use

vw atlas interior
The interior doesn't try to be dramatic. Instead, it's brilliantly easy to use while driving. 

The cabin in the Atlas won't win any awards for beauty. It's not a Land Rover inside, but that's a good thing because there are so many vehicles with confounding infotainment systems and controls that make driving more distracting, not less. The updated system is one of the easiest to use, quick to decipher, as well as actuate. All of the controls are front and center in the stack, and the physical knobs and buttons are all within reach. Plus, the brilliant Car-Net app makes security and safety a priority.

⥤  The 12.3" digital cockpit displays all relevant driving information and key data right in front of you. It's configurable, too.

⥤  The optional 8-inch touchscreen is crisp and clear, and it also responds quickly to inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes it even simpler to access important functions.

⥤  The Car-Net Security & Service can tell you if you left the doors unlocked, where you parked your car, and can even call for assistance.

5. It's Provides Safety For You and Yours

vw atlas iihs
Take comfort in the fact that the Atlas protects the whole family. (image: IIHS)

Not all crossovers are created equal. In fact, most crossovers don't get good scores in crash tests, but the Atlas shines, attaining the Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and five stars from the NHTSA. It even gets a "Superior" score thanks to excellent optional avoidance safety technology. 

⥤  The Atlas received a score of "Good" in the potentially catastrophic small front overlap crash test. It did very well for both driver and front passenger.

⥤  It earned a "Superior" rating for its autonomous emergency braking system, which is optional on the SE trim and standard on the SEL and SEL Premium.

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