2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SE with Technology R-Line Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Delightful in so many ways...just not when it comes to Oomph!
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Remember when VWs were small, fuel efficient and cheap? For decades those traits constituted the brand's trademark attributes. With that memory in mind, let me present the newest addition to the VW line for 2020. The Atlas Cross Sport, a five passenger, all wheel drive SUV, which weighs in at 4,411 lbs., gets 19 MPG in combined city/freeway travel, and costs $43,260. The Cross Sport derivation of the Atlas is new for this year. VW lopped 2.8 inches off the length of the full size Atlas by eliminating the third row of seats. This in turn enabled stylists to trim the roofline profile for a more streamlined look. The downside of the plastic surgery is a significant loss of storage room compared to the 3-row Atlas. The Cross Sport revision reduces storage space behind the second row from 55.5 cubic feet in the full size Atlas to 40.3 cubic feet in the 2-row model.
Cross Sport prices start at just $30,545 for the 2-wheel drive base model equipped with a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 that makes 235hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque. As you ascend the food chain, you pass from S to SE to SE with Technology, all of which are available with the 4 cylinder engine and 2-wheel drive. Should you seek all-wheel-drive, which VW labels 4MOTION, that choice will set you back $38,865 for the SE turbo 4. Move up to the V-6 realm (276hp, 266lb.-ft. of torque) and the price for an SE 4MOTION starts at $40,645 for the test model we drove. Add a few extras like Aurora Red Metallic Paint ($395) and a sunroof ($1,200) and the tab rises to $43,260.
Having spent a week earlier this year with the rather anemic 4 cylinder Cross Sport, I was curious to see whether the V-6 would make a significant difference in overall performance. The short answer is no, the extra 41hp and 8 extra pound-feet of torque are imperceptible to the overall performance of the Cross Sport. So you can feel rightfully economic about selecting the less expensive turbo 4, which will save you close to $2,000 at the dealer. Both iterations of the Cross Sport are underpowered given this SUV's ponderous curb weight. The V-6 Cross Sport never feels like it's got enough juice to ace a freeway merge with comfort. Though VW claims this Atlas will pull a 5,000 lb. trailer, I wouldn't try mounting the Sierra Range with that extra weight in tow.
Aside from the powerplant shortcoming, the Cross Sport SE proved to be a delightful travel companion. In particular, we enjoyed the specific attributes of the Technology Package which enhances drive time with remote engine start, 20 inch alloy wheels, traffic adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, and the inclusion of a 115V household power outlet located in the second row of seats. We also appreciated R-Line additions which made the Cross Fit better looking: black accented bumpers, black finished alloy rims, discrete R-Line badging, and snazzy stainless steel pedal covers. The matte black rims mount Pirelli Scorpion P Zero all season rubber (255/50R20) that endow the Atlas with a massive stance thanks to brazen sidewall sculpting by Pirelli. With its squared off fender flares, truncated tail, and shapely roof, the Atlas Cross Sport SE makes a convincing case of visual differentiation from any other SUV on the road. According to JD Power, 82% of Atlas owners bought their VW because "it stands out from other SUVs on the road."
The driving position behind the hefty 3-spoke, flat bottom steering wheel is undeniably impressive, like piloting a flying bridge cruiser. But the generous proportions of this SUV dictate that you take care in all parking maneuvers, especially parallel parking, where it becomes much too easy to ruin one of those lovely black alloys by curbing a wheel. Sightlines to the front and sides are not overly obvious from the elevated driver's seat. In all such tight maneuvers the parking sensors included in the SE trim level are worth the extra cost, exclusive of any other package features.
The advent of the Atlas SUV underlines how far VW has come from the humble charm that once infused such tribal artifacts as the Microbus, the Transporter and the Bug. Back then, the Doyle/Dane/Bernbach Advertising Agency (now DDB Worldwide) pitched the VW Bug as an example of "what the snowplow driver uses to get to the snowplow." Just substitute the Atlas Cross Sport for the Bug, and you have a prime example of what today's snowplow driver still uses to get to the snowplow. In a very real sense, then, nothing has changed at VW, because this legendary company still produces world class vehicles designed to get you where you're going when the going gets tough. Only now, they're made in America, because Chattanooga, Tennessee hosts the home plant for the new Atlas SUV.
2020 VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS CROSS SPORT V6 SE w/TECHNOLOGY R-LINE
ENGINE: 3.6 liter V6, 24 valves, DOHC, narrow angle vee w/FSI Direct Injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 16MPG City/22MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,260
HYPES: Huge, Spacious Interior, Foxy Looks
GRIPES: Disappointing V6
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10