The New Volkswagen Atlas


The New VW Atlas

Ryan Tomas, Staff Writer

Before I start the Review, I want to explain why this car is being made.

The Volkswagen-Audi Group (VAG) has been in a little trouble in the North American market. Their powerful diesel engines were recently found to be cheating the California emissions requirements. One of the main uses of the high-torque TDI diesel engines is in the group’s large SUVs, including the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and the VW Touareg. The VAG has stopped production of TDI engines and stopped making the Touareg completely. The Touareg has been replaced by a North American market-only SUV, the Atlas.

The Atlas is not a typical VAG product. Its styling is big and bulky and it doesn’t look very sporty, more like a Chevy Suburban than a Touareg, but that’s where the American-ization stops. Under the large body is an (optional) 3.6 liter VR6, a descendant of the engine in the GTIs of old, and the (optional) 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is from the off-road Golf Alltrack. With this kind of DNA, the Atlas should drive differently compared to other SUVs, right? The Atlas doesn’t have as much power as other SUVs, getting on the freeway on an uphill onramp is a full-throttle pull, but that’s not the point.

The performance heritage reveals itself when the car is on tight, twisty roads with sharp turns and short straights. I drove the Atlas on a tight flat mountain pass, and it was effortlessly competent. It was able to keep up with smaller and lighter cars. It never felt unstable or The 4,500lb SUV forgets how much it weighs and rotates around corners like the Golf it’s based on. Electric-assisted steering systems have been criticized in the past for being too unresponsive and overboosted, but this one gives a satisfactory feel of the road, and has a fairly quick steering ratio. The suspension keeps the giant body flat through hairpin turns, but isn’t harsh over bumps or on the freeway. There isn’t a sound from the tires under any condition. This feels like a small sporty hatchback in the turns, but under hard acceleration, it’s a bit slow.

Performance aside, this car is great. There’s tons of room in all rows, I was able to stretch out in the middle seats like I was in the front seat of a luxury sedan. It’s quiet, from on-highway cruising tobackroad ripping.T here’s tons of technology, the adaptive cruise control makes light freeway traffic a breeze. The leather seats are super comfortable, as good as any Audi or BMW, and it still looks good. Also, it costs $33,950 for the VR6 4Motion S trim, which is just right. Overall, the VW Atlas is very well-equipped, well designed, and thought out for the money.