2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T SEL Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Sporting all the attributes that have made VW a consumer favorite
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Attenuated rooflines on SUVs are all the rage in Germany these days. BMW started the craze with their preposterous looking X6, which combined the body of a brute with the head of a pea to create an SUV "coupe" that looks like Bluto. Thankfully, VW's designers have done a much better job in converting their 7 seat, 3-row Atlas into the 5 seat, 2-row Atlas Cross Sport. The debut of the new Cross Sport was preceded by VW showcasing their foxy looking Atlas Basecamp Concept at world-wide auto shows. While the Concept version sported such notable attributes as matte black alloy rims with spike-treaded all terrain T/A rubber, armored body cladding, matte black hood and matching tubular running boards, the production version of the Crossover is rather more sedate than the Basecamp Concept.
Still, there is no arguing that our test model, painted $395 optional Pure Grey, looked much more purposeful than the standard boxy Atlas. With a pleasing fluidity to its sloping roofline, the Cross Sport sits 2.2 inches lower and 5.2 inches shorter than the 3-row Atlas. The Cross Sport is available with either a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 (235hp) or a 3.6 liter V6 (276hp). We tested the top line SEL version of the 4 cylinder turbo. This model, which includes VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive, as well as a digital cockpit and panoramic sunroof, retails for a base price of $41,445. If you opt for the V6 Cross Sport, the base price is $44,190.
Since it's hooked up to an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the turbo 4 provides decent acceleration for passing and freeway merging. But unless you happen to select the correct gear ratio for tight overtaking maneuvers, this drivetrain struggles to earn a passing grade. That's because the Atlas weighs in at 4,670lbs, which makes its power-to-weight ratio 19.87lb/hp. If you upgrade to the 276hp V6, you improve that ratio substantially, to 16.92lb/hp. So I would definitely opt for the slightly more expensive V6. Although VW rates the tow capacity of either Atlas variant at 5,000lbs, if you're hauling a trailer over the Sierras, you'll definitely want that V6.
The Cross Sport SEL boasts standard 20 x 8 inch alloy rims equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Zero all season rubber (255/50R20). Suspension is independent at all four corners, with struts and coil springs up front, and multilinks and coil springs in the rear. Both ends are stabilized with anti-roll bars. We challenged 40 miles of California's finest coast road with the Cross Sport and found that this big SUV is somewhat less nimble that it looks. Even with the "Sport" driving mode engaged, the Cross Sport is rather hard to place with certainty, since frontal corner vision is limited by lack of sightline on the right and an oversized rearview mirror housing on the left. Even though the Cross Sport is substantially lower than the regular Atlas, it still felt somewhat disconnected from the road. Steering feel and feedback is overly light, even in Sport mode. But after a vigorous shakedown run, my co-passenger wife observed that the overall ride quality of this VW was "very comfortable."
For cargo carrying purposes, you simply can't beat the Atlas Cross Sport for size, convenience or ease of stowage. Dropping the second row bench seat back required two simple lever flips, and voila, you have converted the interior from its already generous 40.3 cubic feet of storage (behind row 2) to a truck-like 77.8 cubic feet with the row 2 seats flat. VW equipped our Atlas with a $235 set of "Monster Mats." This option consisted of 4 utilitarian looking logo floor mats plus a heavy duty two piece trunk liner. This latter item, called "MuddyBuddy by WeatherTech," was studded with non-slip "VW CarGo Blocks." Of all the SUVs I have test loaded with a bicycle, this VW was by far the easiest to accomplish. The rear gate opens and closes automatically, the liftover threshold is almost minivan low, and the amount of flat, unobstructed floor space is simply enormous. The Monster Mat trunk liner grips and stabilizes the load without need to tie anything down.
All in all, we really enjoyed our brief stay in the Cross Sport. We especially liked the virtual dashboard that allowed us to superimpose the navigation map between the tachometer and speedometer faces. The 8 inch touchscreen on the dash face is easy to manipulate, and we had little trouble programming our favorite stations into the SiriusXM Satellite Radio lineup. There's a logical ease to this VW's control layout that facilitates easy operation. There's a reason why so many VW devotees remain faithful to this marque. Operational simplicity is one of the cornerstones of the VW experience.
2020 VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS SPORT CROSS 2.0T SEL
ENGINE: 2.0 liter TSI, 16 valve DOHC turbocharged inline 4, direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 18MPG City/23 MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,095
HYPES: Storage Space Galore, Nifty Silhouette
GRIPES: Clumsy Handling, Underpowered
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10