2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL 4Motion Review

One titanic German makes up for a host of VW sins


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Superb interior space for seven, much-improved infotainment system, solid driving dynamics, good low-end grunt from the V6, VW's best warranty.
Negatives: Looks bulky, only the top trim comes with leather seats, can get pricey when optioned out.
Bottom Line: VW has knocked the 7-passenger SUV segment out of the park. Not only is it versatile and roomy, it actually drives far better than something this large ever should. It's the perfect answer for American families after the painful jading from the VW diesel scandal. Well done, VW. We won't miss the Touareg as much, anymore.
 View Our 2018 Volkswagen Atlas Overview
It's no secret that 7-passenger SUVs and crossovers are hot in America. Volkswagen hasn't had one until the new, longer 3-row Tiguan, and the 5-passenger Touareg is now no more. The Atlas is much larger and pricier than the Tiguan and has been created and built in America to appeal to big families needing true 3-row adult capacity and more than just 4-cylinder turbo power. The Atlas goes up against the likes of the Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and the Dodge Durango... stiff competition, for sure. We drove the new Atlas in its 2nd-tier trim for a week to see how it held up against the stalwarts.
 

Driving Experience

7.7

 

For such a large vehicle, the Atlas is remarkably easy to drive. It strikes a good balance that will work for most owners, though it falls short of thrills.

Ride Quality: The Atlas's ride quality rests on the cushy side but not overly so. It absorbs road imperfections remarkably well.

Acceleration: Our V6 sounded great and moved decently off the line. Just don't expect a thrust of power at highway speeds, where it suffers. We would not recommend getting the 4-banger for a car this size.

Braking: Braking is progressive with no mushiness, and it halts the big SUV with authority.

Steering: VW does a very good job with steering, even in the biggest model. There was decent precision despite the need for more feedback. Overall very good.

Handling: The Atlas handles its weight very well, though we didn't load it up with people and gear. You do feel the weight in turns, but it's very manageable.

Technology

8.6

 

We've long said that VW needs to up their infotainment game, and the Atlas comes through nicely. The system more-or-less looks the same, but the features and flow are far better than before.

Infotainment System: Our tester had the 8-inch screen, which looks fantastic. The menus scroll beautifully, and the additional vehicle information features are a nice addition.

Controls: Controls in the Atlas are excellent. Everything is well laid out and easy to find. Our only issue is the audio volume knobs, which are too close to some of the touchscreen buttons that can be activated via fat-fingering.

Styling

8.4

 

Though the Atlas might not be what we'd call handsome, it certainly has presence that the Tiguan didn't have. The Atlas is big and proud of it.

Front: The notched twin-bar grille looks great with bold flanking headlights. Hood creases amp up the look, but it remains conservative.

Rear: The Atlas looks a bit tall from this view, but the numerous horizontal lines help reduce visual height.

Profile: Though the Atlas looks massive from this angle, the rugged haunches balance things out. We like the uptick in the rear window that adds some character.

Cabin: It's a very clean layout with solid materials. The beautiful plastic faux wood trim looks even better than some competitor's genuine wood. The German aesthetic is excellent, and nothing feels overly cheap.

Comfort

9.3

 

This is the Atlas's strong suit. Many compeitors try to be roomy, but the Atlas excels. It's also very comfortable for all occupants, not something every member of this segment can boast.

Front Seats: The V-Tex leatherette feels great, and the seats are wide and well-cushioned. Head and legroom are superb.

Rear Seats: The second row is huge, and it even slides forward to provide great access to the third row. We drove six adults without any complains or issues.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It's well made and solidly built. No rattles, squeaks or noise intrustions, even at high speeds.

Visibility: All the pillars, with the exception of the rear D-pillars are thin and provide good visibility. The 360-degree camera is a huge help, given the size of the Atlas.

Climate: The automatic climate system works very well, as did the heated seats. Ours did not come with the Active Ventilation for the front seats, unfortunately. You have to go to the SEL Premium for those.

Safety

9.7

 

Families can feel confident in the safety of the Atlas since it pretty much nails the top scores for crash safety ratings for both major entities.

IIHS Rating: The Atlas gets the Top Safety Pick rank, one below the top score. It scores "good" in every category but suffers due to "marginal" headlights and LATCH system.

NHTSA Rating: The Atlas earns the 5-Star crash safety rating, top marks for any vehicle, much less a debut model.

Standard Tech: The Atlas in SEL V6 4Motion trim comes with Electronic Brake Distribution, Electronic Differential Lock, Intelligent Crash Response System, tire pressure monitoring system, rear view camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning & autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, and lane departure warning.

Optional Tech: None. The standard equipment set is already very robust.

Storage/Cargo

9.7

 

The Atlas isn't exactly a pickup truck when it comes to in-cabin storage, but it's still pretty great for an SUV. The cargo area, however, is pretty much as good as it gets.

Storage Space: A large dash tray is very helpful for large smartphones, and the center stack cubby and center armrest are also pretty large.

Cargo Room: The large 56 cubic feet behind the 2nd row and cavernous 96 cu. ft. with all seats folded flat are at the top of the class, more capacious than the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, and the Toyota Highlander.

Fuel Economy

7.8

 

No one expects a behemoth like the Atlast to get great gas mileage, and our numbers weren't eye-popping. But, even driven fairly aggressively, the Atlas does a respectable job. It's almost on par with the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot.

Observed: 18.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 141 miles

Driving Factors: We drove both locally and on highways with some aggressive throttling.

Audio

8.7

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the standard 8-speaker system in our tester. It sounded loud and clear with ample bass and fullness, though we're sure the SEL Premium's Fender system is better. Our stereo filled the large cabin with plenty of great music.



Final Thoughts

We had big expectations of the Atlas, and it did not disappoint. In fact, we came away thoroughly impressed by VW's effort at a 7-passenger SUV. It's easily our favorite one this year, thanks to its huge and very practical interior roominess, good driving manners and solid tech and safety suites. The Atlas provides some very stiff competition for the segment leaders, and it should make them very nervous, indeed.

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