2021 Volkswagen Atlas review: Sense and sensibility

Victoria D. Doty

The Atlas loses a little bit of visible bulk with its new encounter, but it seems to be considerably far more up to date now.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Vainness may appear into perform, but by and substantial, most individuals searching for 3-row crossovers want anything flexible, wise and reasonably priced. A motor vehicle in this phase requires to be in a position to do it all, from hauling hockey machines to using the entire loved ones on a extended street vacation. These Swiss Military knives are immensely well-liked, even if they are not the most fascinating points on the block. The VW Atlas has generally trapped to the no-nonsense facet of points, and its 2021-model-calendar year refresh helps it stand apart in an at any time-developing crowd.


  • Sharp new glimpse
  • Sufficient third-row place
  • Good conventional tech

You should not Like

  • Brittle experience on large wheels
  • No third-row USB
  • Middling fuel financial state

Familiar encounter, just fresher

The prerefresh VW Atlas experienced a little bit of an Isuzu Axiom glimpse likely with its blocky options and squarish headlights. But now that you will find a new two-row Atlas Cross Activity in city, the O.G. got a nip-tuck to provide it up to date. It really is most noticeable up entrance, wherever the Cross Sport’s encounter has been grafted on to the common Atlas with good influence. The rear bumper is a minor various, far too, but it truly is more difficult to see. My SEL-trim tester sports the $one,seven hundred R-Line offer, which ramps points up more with sportier bumpers, facet skirts and honkin’ 21-inch wheels. It really is a fantastic glimpse, even if 21s look form of substantial for a mass-market place crossover. The prerefresh Atlas’ critical structure staples carry above, and I am glad they do — I don’t know why, but I am obsessed with how aggressive its fenders are.

If you’ve been inside any other Volkswagen in the past 5 yrs, the refreshed Atlas’ cabin will be immediately familiar. From the HVAC switchgear to, uh, all the other switchgear, VW relies seriously on its elements bin inside, which has gains from a familiarity standpoint but can come to feel a minor stale at the same time. You will find a new steering wheel (with VW’s new logo), and I enjoy the actuality that the switches come to feel high quality. Moreover, the heated steering wheel ultimately receives its personal button, breaking no cost from the shackles of the heated-seat controls. The leatherette seats are supportive, and the Atlas’ upright silhouette signifies you will find a great deal of visibility on all sides.

An upright structure signifies you will find masses of place inside the 2021 Atlas. The next row’s tilt-and-slide perform lets lesser passengers offer up a little bit far more legroom to the third row, but even in its default position, my six-foot body is decently comfy way again there, with both headroom and legroom that would make more time excursions tolerable. You will find appropriate cargo place guiding the third row, thanks to the actuality that the Atlas is about 3 inches more time than in advance of, but decreasing the seats when they are not needed offers up positively cavernous amounts of storage for suitcases, sports machines, you title it. Junk storage is sufficient, far too, thanks to a deep heart console and many cubbies scattered about the cabin.

Composed more than enough

The 2021 Atlas’ focus on sense and sensibility also shines by way of in the way it drives. And, like a lot of other autos in this phase and outside of, considerably of it will rely on the wheels and tires that appear with your trim. Consider my SEL R-Line tester, for illustration: Its 21-inch wheels are the major on offer, and even though they fill the wells nicely, they also contribute to a experience that’s a smidge far more brittle than I might like above severe bits like enlargement joints. The 265/45R21 Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-time tires have appropriate sidewall, so the experience could be even worse, but it feels just a little bit far too aggressive for a loved ones automobile in this spec. I bounce all over far more than I might like, but fatter tires and lesser wheels on lessen trims will probably treatment that.

VW’s Atlas also displays the same weirdness that I recall from the Subaru Ascent. Especially, its throttle is entirely far too sensitive. I don’t know if automakers spice up the fuel pedal’s response for a distinct purpose, but it truly is getting irritating. Smooth driving is a good factor to have in a loved ones motor vehicle, and it truly is difficult to keep away from head bobs when fifteen{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} throttle feels like seventy five{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f}. The brake pedal won’t have this it truly is considerably a lot easier to quit smoothly than it is to get started smoothly.

Some of that most likely comes from my tester’s powertrain. Whilst a 235-horsepower, two.-liter I4 is the foundation motor, this Atlas carries the upgraded 3.six-liter V6 that generates 276 hp. An 8-velocity computerized transmission is conventional across the board, even though potential buyers get the decision of two or four pushed wheels. The 3.six is satisfied to speed up, but only in the corners of the tachometer wherever it really generates motive force. Catch the V6 in a person of its flat spots and it’ll just putt about idly until eventually you supply more than enough throttle for a downshift to kick in. The transmission is smooth, but equipment alterations demonstrate up a minor later than I might like, particularly in conjunction with this distinct motor.

No subject the powertrain, the Atlas won’t just have stellar fuel financial state. The four-cylinder models reach twenty-21 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg freeway, even though the V6 variants see 16-seventeen mpg in the city and 22-23 mpg on the freeway. It really is pleasant that the parasitic loss from the AWD system is not pretty substantial, but all those quantities are not magna cum laude territory. Luckily, my V6-toting tester is an overachiever on the freeway, exhibiting closer to 24-26 mpg at the circulation of visitors (seventy five-80 mph). True-environment city financial state continues to be as mediocre as the feds’ ideal endeavours.

Not only is there a respectable total of place in the Atlas’ third row, it truly is damned straightforward to get into thanks to a intelligent tilt-and-slide cope with on the next-row bench.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Familiar, pleasant tech

Whilst the foundation S trim may well only acquire a six-inch touchscreen, each other 2021 Atlas variant ramps it up to an eight-inch unit. Whilst the graphics and responsiveness have been freshened up above the yrs, it truly is however largely the same telematics getup that I have in my individual 2016 VW Golf SportWagen. It really is a little bit austere in structure, but it truly is suitably quickly and it seems to be slick with the quick-navigation buttons on both facet of the display screen. Satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile are on board, and the system can be optioned more on SEL trims with manufacturing unit navigation and, on the SEL Top quality, a Fender audio system. It really is a pleasant minor display screen that in no way distracts in a main way.

Charging solutions abound for most passengers. All over again, the S trim gets the shaft with just two USB-A ports, but each other trim ramps that up to 5. USB-A ports double up in the heart console cubby, with yet another underneath the armrest and two far more for next-row occupants. A third-row USB is nowhere to be located, which is not just maintaining up with the Joneses. It also won’t have USB-C, so hopefully your aged cables are however kickin’ all over. You can wirelessly demand your machine with the Qi charger that seems on SE trims and up.

There are some other intelligent tricks in right here, based on how considerably you want to spend. The SE/Tech trim adds creature comforts like 3-zone weather regulate, keyless entry, distant get started and the Vehicle-Internet two. connected-motor vehicle system that lets you use your phone to do points like lock and unlock the doorways or get started the motor from afar. The SEL trim adds Electronic Cockpit, replacing the gauge cluster with a display screen that offers a extensive variety of data, from fundamental fuel financial state info to a comprehensive map.

Whilst a great deal of protection programs appear conventional, the loadout only gets improved as you toss down far more dough. The Atlas S starts off with computerized emergency braking, rear cross-visitors notify and blind-place checking, even though the SE/Tech trim picks up comprehensive-velocity adaptive cruise regulate and parking sensors. The SEL trim adds lane-preserve guide and visitors jam assistant and it will also display screen street indicators in the cabin. At the tippy-top, the SEL Top quality tacks on a encompass-check out digicam and computerized parking guide. The visitors jam assistant is effective smoothly, as does the adaptive cruise regulate at freeway speeds, creating for quite the smooth journey with almost everything enabled.

If familiarity breeds convenience, then VW proprietors will previously be in appreciate with the Atlas’ inside. It really is low on flash, but higher on perform.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

How I might spec it

The 2021 VW Atlas starts off out at an reasonably priced $32,565 in advance of vacation spot (for FWD AWD adds $one,900 to the base line), but points get far more extreme in a hurry, with the optimum I4 trim costing $forty eight,215 and V6 models ranging from $39,315 to $fifty one,715. I might keep away from the R-Line things for the sake of cabin convenience, and I imagine the SEL is the true sweet place right here, with the appropriate form of options offered at a value that is not far too wonky. Stick with an AWD two. model and it’ll set you again $forty three,415 (AWD is mandatory right here), or you can form of recreation the system and get the SEL V6 with FWD for $a hundred fewer than that.

Down to brass tacks

If you want a 3-row crossover from a mass-market place model, you have almost far too considerably decision. The Toyota Highlander is more recent and rides nicer, and it truly is offered as a hybrid, but its infotainment is not that good. The Mazda CX-nine prioritizes the driver a little bit far more, but the third row is tight and all over again, I don’t like the infotainment. The Honda Pilot is an all-all over trustworthy loved ones-hauler, and if you want to take care of by yourself, the kissin’ cousins of Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade actually ramp up the fanciness. Quilted leather? Sure, why the hell not.

Most likely you and your loved ones like a 3-row crossover that has just a minor little bit of visible punch, with conventional tech that won’t suck and an inside that prioritizes place and sensibility above flashy resources and angles. If that’s far more your velocity than just about anything, the 2021 VW Atlas will make a pretty pleasant addition on your driveway. 

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