2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport

PHOENIX — The mid-sized Atlas Cross Sport is an all-new addition to the Volkswagen lineup for 2020, and a more stylish derivative of the boxier Atlas on which it’s based. For comparison, the Cross Sport is to the Atlas what the Honda Passport is to the Honda Pilot. Other competitors for the Cross Sport are the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, and Nissan Murano. Outside, while there’s a lot of Atlas in the Cross Sport’s design language, front and rear fascia are different, as are side and rear windows and other small flourishes to the sheetmetal.

While the Atlas is a three-row crossover, the Cross Sport is five inches shorter and sits two inches lower to the ground and is only available with two rows of seats with room for five.

Still, with its sharply sloping rear roofline, there’s plenty of cargo space — 40.3 cubic feet behind the second row of seats to load sporting gear, the family dog, or materials for your weekend projects from trips to the Home Depot. The rear seat folds flat for a total of 78 cubic feet of space but there’s no ski-passthrough or 40/20/40 folding configuration. A rear cargo cover isn’t standard but is available as an option. It does come with a spare tire under the rear cargo floor.

For this review, Volkswagen supplied me with the mid-level SE with technology and front-wheel drive, with the attractive and optional Pure Gray exterior color and black V-Tex (faux leather) interior upholstery ($395) and an MSRP of $38,560. The technology package is just $1,200 more and includes the V-Tex upholstery, passive entry, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen.

The Cross Sport offers buyers a choice of eight trim levels, starting at $30,545 for the base, front-wheel drive, all the way up to the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line all-wheel drive at just under $51,000, including the destination charge. I’d also recommend opting for the V-6 engine over the standard turbocharged four-cylinder, which adds $1,400. And for those in snowy climates who prefer all-wheel drive, it is an extra $1,900.

I’ve previously driven the three-row Atlas powered by the 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, and now the 235-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. While quiet and smooth operationally, we often wished for more power when passing or entering the highway. There’s an auto stop/start system, but if you find it annoying it’s easily defeated. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is barely noticeable. We suggest you drive the Cross Sport with both engines to determine which suits your needs the best.

Handling felt similar to the Atlas, which is capable, predictable and confident. The suspension delivered a comfortable ride, capable steering and sure braking. The cabin was quiet except for upon initial heavy acceleration when getting the vehicle up to speed.

Inside, the Cross Sport’s interior mimics the Atlas, but has its own unique steering wheel and stitched door panels. Similar to the Atlas, the Cross Sport has ample, comfortable room for even tall adults up front and, surprisingly, three inches more legroom in the second row. However, there’s significantly less headroom given the sloping roofline. It does help that the second-row seatbacks recline and the seats themselves are comfortable, but they do not side fore and aft. Additionally, the second row is only offered as a three-across bench seat, not individual captain’s chairs.

There’s a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and VW’s reconfigurable Digital Cockpit gauge display. You can upgrade to the excellent Fender premium stereo system. The infotainment system is operated via an intuitive touchscreen with large icons, a clear display of onscreen text and large redundant buttons. A nice touch was the rotary audio volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and there is a CD player in the glovebox.

Safety features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning — standard on all versions of the Atlas Cross Sport. Lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance are available by moving up to higher trim levels.

Overall, we were favorably impressed with the Cross Sport and a family of four might find it to be all the vehicle they need, with a third row mostly unnecessary.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $36,920
Price as Tested: $38,560
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-liter 235-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive.
Fuel Economy: 21/24/22 – mpg, – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Not yet rated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Where Built: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Competes With:
Chevrolet Blazer
Ford Edge
Honda Passport
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Nissan Murano

Fab Features
Extra large roomy interior
Gentle ride and handling
Even base models come well equipped

— Jim Prueter