The 2018 Atlas is an all-new midsize SUV from Volkswagen, who dropped its Touareg midsize SUV from the U.S. market last year. Atlas lacks the Touareg’s verve but outdoes it in roominess and practicality.
Atlas is VW’s first three-row SUV, with seating for up to seven people. The third row has roomy seating for two, and they can be actual adults, not just little children.
A bench seat is standard for the second row, with captain’s chairs available as an option.
The bench is split 60/40 and the seats recline and slide separately, even with child seats attached.
With the third row seat in upright position, the rear cargo area is still a spacious 20.6 cubic feet. When second and third rows are folded flat, cargo capacity expands to 55.5 cubic feet.
There are five trim levels for the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas: S, SE, SE with Technology, SEL and SEL Premium. A revise of the Atlas for model year 2019 adds two more trims: the SE with Technology R-Line, and the SEL R-Line.
There’s a choice between two engines: a 230-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder or a 276-horsepower V6. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and have front-wheel drive. V6-powered versions are also available with all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
Pricing starts at $31,675, including a $925 destination charge, for the S trim with a four-cylinder engine. Standard features for this setup include a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six-speaker audio, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, and VW’s Car-Net App-Connect with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration capability.
My tester was the Atlas V6 SEL model with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. In addition to all the standard features included with each successive uptick in trim levels, the SEL comes with an eight-way power adjustable front passenger seat, memory function for the 10-way driver’s seat, and front and rear park assist.
Twenty-inch black wheels and second row captain’s chairs were the only optional items on the tester.
With its 70-inch ride height and expansive interior, the Atlas seems like a fullsize SUV. There’s a commanding view in all directions from the driver’s seat. Great handling on curvy roads highlights the fact that Atlas is midsized, but in tight situations such as parking lots, the fullsize impression prevails.
The 20-inch black wheels contributed significantly to the tester’s sporty attractiveness, a beautiful contrast against its Reflex Silver Metallic paint. The big wheels reduced the car’s ride quality and cabin serenity somewhat, but not enough to bother me.
Atlas’ interior styling will appeal to VW enthusiasts and minimalists in general. Simple, straightforward and well made. Those who prefer some splash and flash inside their cars might see it as drab.
I’ll agree with anyone who winces at the fuel economy ratings of the Atlas V6 with AWD: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined.
Returning to the plus column for the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. All are comfortable. I loved the tester’s V-Tex Black Leatherette seat material, which looked and felt like leather but didn’t have leather’s downsides.
The all-new 2018 Atlas comes with Volkswagen’s impressive 6-year/72,000-mile warranty that is fully transferable to subsequent owners.
2018 VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS V6 SEL AWD
Base price, including destination charge: $43,615
Price as driven: $45,235
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only.