VW upgrades Atlas making several safety features standard equipment

By Paul Borden

(June 7, 2019) Introduced just a couple of years ago, the Atlas SUV is the largest vehicle in Volkswagen’s lineup and has become the German automaker’s third-best seller behind only the smaller Tiguan crossover and Jetta compact sedan.

VW sold nearly 60,000 Atlas SUVs in 2018, the first full year of production, and is well on pace to top that this year with just over 22,000 sold the first four months, an increase of 7.3 percent over the same period last year.

It’s no surprise. The Atlas offers lots of space for cargo and passengers with three rows of seating and a maximum of just over 96 cubic feet of storage space in an attractive package that drives more like a compact than a mid-size SUV. Even my passenger for the week commented that it seemed smaller than it actually is.

There’s even good rear cargo space with the third-row seats in place, which is not always the case in seven-passenger SUVs. The third row in many SUVs often is suitable only for children and not very big ones at that, but such is not the case with the Atlas.

Not sure how they would fare on a day-long trip, but the third-row riders have nearly 34 inches of legroom, and with the way the second-row seats tilt and slide forward, they don’t have to be contortionists to get back there.

VW said at the time of its launching that the Atlas was going at the sweet spot of the core of the market. It was “designed for the American family” and is built at the company’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Seems right to me.

Though it is too soon for major changes in only its second year, the 2019 Atlas now gets as standard across the line such safety features as Front Assist (which alerts the driver to a potential collision), Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert.

Even the base S trim gets automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and heated side mirrors as standard. Other trims are the SE, the SE w/Technology, SE w/Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium with additional niceties as standard.

The SE w/Technology that served as my ride for the week included 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, three-zone climate control, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support (4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat), leatherette seating surfaces, roll-up manual second-row sunshades, and a front console with USB data and charging port and 12V and USB charging ports in the first and second rows.

Technology in the SE w/Technology includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, push-button start, remote power liftgate, Bluetooth connectivity, and an 8-inch touchscreen for audio.

SEL and SEL Premium models also get upgraded features like VW’s Digital Cockpit with a fully-digital instrument cluster offering a customizable presentation of important vehicle information on a 10-inch display.

The Atlas comes with the choice of two engines, both mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. A 2.0 turbocharged 4-cylinder is rated at 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque kicking in a 1600 rpm. It is available with front-wheel drive only.

A 3.6-liter V6 is rated at a maximum 276 hp and 266 lb.-ft. of torque and is available with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive configuration as well as front-wheel drive.

Both engines feature stop/start technology, but that annoying feature can be turned off with the push of a button at the bottom of the center stack. Fuel consumption for the 4-banger is at the rate of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway and 22 combined and for the V6 17/24/19 with FWD and 17/23/19 with AWD.

That’s not the most fuel-efficient in its class, but is not the thirstiest either. You won’t be winning many drag races with the Atlas (of course, you don’t do things like that), but you won’t be left idling at the light either.

With an optional trailer package ($550), towing capacity is generous 5,000 pounds.

MSRP for the Atlas starts at $32,890 for the S FWD with the 4-cylinder engine and runs up to $49,390 for the top-of-the-line, AWD V6 SEL Premium trim

The SE w/Technology carries a price of $38,840 with FWD and the trailer package.

What I liked about the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology: The ride is comfortable and quiet, and the cabin is especially spacious, though it drives like a much smaller vehicle. Too many three-row SUVs don’t have the space at the back to handle the staff that often comes along with seven passengers, but the Atlas gives you a nice area (20.6 cubic feet) behind the last row. You get 55.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 96.8 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. Technology is plentiful and user-friendly.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology: Though there’s something to be said for simplicity, the interior styling could use a bit of upgrading and a bit less plastic.

Would I buy the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology? As I have mentioned before (several times, actually) I personally have no need for a three-row SUV, but this one could make me change my mind. It’s particularly good if you’re looking for German engineering but don’t want to pay luxury prices to get it.