The Volkswagen Atlas is a good midsize SUV, and it was a finalist for our 2019 Best 3-Row SUV for the Money award. This VW’s many attributes include a generous amount of passenger and cargo room, a long list of standard tech and safety features, and a user-friendly infotainment system. It also handles like a much smaller vehicle.
However, its base four-cylinder engine feels underpowered, and the upgraded six-cylinder engine doesn’t deliver much more punch. Also, the cabin has a number of hard plastics that hurt its appeal. Overall though, the Atlas is definitely worth consideration.
Volkswagen designed its Atlas specifically for the American market, so that explains this big SUV’s abundance of passenger and cargo space. It’s got three rows of seating and one of the highest cargo capacities you’ll find. But it also possesses all of the typical Volkswagen touches such as high-quality interior surfaces, abundantly available safety tech and excellent on-road performance.
On the highway, the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is comfortable and quiet. In the city, it’s easier to maneuver than you’d expect. Power is lacking a bit when you compare it to top rivals, but that’s the one minor flaw we’ve been able to find in its on-road performance. Otherwise, the Atlas has a long list of virtues.
You also get more standard features on some trim levels this year. We specifically like that every Atlas now comes with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. On the SE, you get three-zone climate control, and on the SEL you get Digital Cockpit instrumentation, LED taillights, a navigation system and a heated steering wheel.
Overall, we’re quite pleased with the 2019 Atlas. Alongside other top rivals such as the Honda Pilot and the Mazda CX-9, it should be one of your top models to consider for a three-row crossover SUV this year.
Notably, we picked the 2019 Atlas as one of Edmunds’ Best Midsize SUVs for this year.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Atlas comes with one of two engines—a 235-hp four-cylinder or a 276-hp V-6; an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard but all-wheel drive is only offered with the V-6. The V-6 feels and sounds refined, transmitting nary a shiver into the cabin. Though the Atlas fairly sauntered from zero to 60 mph in our testing—7.9 seconds for an all-wheel-drive V-6 model and 7.2 seconds for a four-cylinder front-wheel-drive one—out on the road it rarely feels underpowered. While it’s not as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9, the Atlas responds obediently to steering inputs and never feels clumsy. It is composed on the highway and feels nimble in the city. Ride comfort is smooth, and all but the harshest potholes are absorbed and dispensed with.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Atlas’s fuel-economy ratings aren’t groundbreaking for this class of big-box family haulers, but its real-world performance isn’t far off from the segment’s fuel sippers. Both the V-6 and the four-cylinder models bested their EPA ratings in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test; the V-6 Atlas returned 24 mpg and the four-cylinder model delivered 27 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Family-friendly interior space, a straightforward layout of its controls, and an overabundance of cupholders make the Atlas a practical choice, even among other highly practical rivals. Plus, a third row of seats that can comfortably accommodate real live adults is an impressive selling feature. The interior design of the Atlas is uncomplicated and utilitarian—perfect for families but less so for style mavens. The interior of the Atlas should accommodate just about anything a suburban family can throw at it, and there are plenty of thoughtfully placed storage nooks to stash small items. In our carry-on-luggage testing, the Atlas impressed us by tying with the enormous Honda Pilot. We fit four of our carry-on suitcases behind the third row of seats and 38 when we folded the second and third rows.
No matter which trim you choose, the Atlas comes well connected and ready to entertain. The touchscreen interface is intuitive and about as responsive as an average smartphone. Base S models feature a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a USB port. Upgrade to the SE or SEL models and the infotainment display grows to 8.0 inches, three additional USB ports sprout from the center console, and SiriusXM satellite radio and two additional speakers pump up the volume.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Atlas a five-star rating, but it failed to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award due to substandard results in the agency’s headlamps tests. Automated emergency braking and forward-collision warning are optional driver-assistance features not offered on many of the Accent’s rivals. Key safety features include:
-Available forward-collision warning
-Available automated emergency braking