2018 VW Atlas review with video

The basics:

Starting price: $36,690 + tax  (2 L, front wheel drive) or $39,790 + tax (3.6 L, AWD)
As tested: 53,165 + tax
Average fuel economy over a week of testing: 10.7 L/100 kms (22 US MPG)
Competition: Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, etc

Well, here we have it, our first review of a 2018 vehicle. And it’s a brand new offering from Volkswagen. 2017 will mark the last year of the Touareg and instead, the company is up-sizing – enter the much larger Atlas. Volkswagen says that the Touareg was quite simply not big enough to compete in the hugely popular mid-size SUV segment in North America. And the company has been very intentionally moving around pieces on the chess board for years now in preparation for this new offering. It’s been in development since 2012 and you might remember that the ill-fated Routan minivan was dropped by VW in 2014. That was no coincidence. The Atlas, with a pretty darn spacious second AND third row is meant to bridge the gap between a cooler to drive SUV and the practicality of a minivan. If you’re already mourning the loss (and size) of the Touareg – the European market will be seeing a new vehicle more in line with that size in the fall and Volkswagen Canada says it could maybe, down the line enter the fold in this market, too. But for now, it’s the much smaller Tiguan – which also has a redesign coming for 2018 – or the much larger Atlas. Two solid options to consider. For a more in depth review, make sure to watch the video above.

– Some people don’t like the styling, calling it uninspired and dull. While it’s not exciting, I don’t mind it and I think it will age better than many other more flashy SUVs like the Pilot or CX-9
– The standard 8 speed automatic is very smooth
– Cabin noise is minimal (61 dB at 100 kms/h)
– Ride comfort is well-balanced – not too floaty but also not too harsh
– Doesn’t feel like a 5 metre long vehicle. Far more composed and manageable than the size might suggest
– But once you go to park it, you realize its size. So it’s great to have a back-up camera as standard. Also really appreciate the 12 ultrasound parking sensors, which come on the Highline trim and up. And the 360 degree camera is one of the best I’ve seen – available on the top of the line Execline trim
– Park assist comes on the Execline trim and can autonomously forward park, back-up park or parrallel park
– The Atlas’ 4Motion AWD system allows you to select specific driving conditions and adjusts everything from stability control, steering feel, shifting patterns and braking
– The V6 models can tow up to 5,000 lbs and include towing package as standard
– The digital cockpit in the Execline trim is much like the virtual cockpit in the Q7. It’s customizable and looks amazing. But it’s on a funny off angle that’s looks odd for an instrument cluster
– The standard 6.5 inch infotainment system and optional 8 inch screen in our tester offer big, clear readouts with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard as part of VW’s App Connect system
– It’s big and roomy despite the fact that it’s, believe it or not, based on the same MQB platform as the Golf or Tiguan
– Ridiculously spacious second row
– Probably the best access to the third row we’ve come across in an SUV. With the ability to flip forward the second row seats – even with a car seat in place
– 25 inches of third row leg room gives you better space than you see in some smaller SUVs in the second row
– The Atlas has vacuous cargo capacity. With 583 L behind the third row or 1571 L behind the second row – which dethrones the Honda Pilot, even the much larger feeling Chevy Tahoe (433 L and 1463 L respectively)

– The 3.6 L V6 puts out 276 hp and on paper, it seems like it should be peppy enough but it’s, quite honestly, just not a performer. It’s smooth but kind of dull – especially in eco mode but even sport mode, the Atlas feels subdued compared to the CX-9 (on the low end) or the XC90 (on the high end)
– And its fuel economy, while not bottom of the pack, is also not as ground breaking as we’d hoped with an average of 10.7 L/100 kms, despite its 8 speed transmission
– There’s also a 2 L turbo coming but only available with front wheel drive. And if the V6 feels like it lacks power, this might just be too much car for a little 2 L 4 cylinder, even with a turbo
– Cushier seats than we often see in European brands. They surprised me and they’re not bad. They’re just a bit soft. It’s just a personal preference thing
– There are some very cut-rate plastics in the cabin which cut down on the overall feel (the CX-9 signature trim blows away this interior at a cheaper price point)
– Despite the size of the infotainment system, there’s no home screen view and the screen seems poorly used – often with lots of dead, unused space
– The climate control functions are clean and straight forward but the temperature read outs are tiny – which might have some of us reaching for our reading glasses just to change the temperature
– Second row captain’s chairs, which are a $625 option, are not great for containing the family dog or groceries in the back. You also lose one passenger position, which means you’d lose a lot of cargo capacity if you needed to carry a fifth passenger

Family Wheels report card:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 4.5/5 (61 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 5/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 5/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 38.5/50= 77%


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