What is it?
This is Volkswagen’s entry into the midsize sport utility market, and the long-awaited, seven-passenger 2018 Atlas is set to go on sale next year. Volkswagen has not yet announced pricing for the Atlas but it’s reportedly expected to be in the $30,000 range.
Why it matters
The Atlas is a key part of Volkswagen’s bid to rebound from the emissions-cheating scandal that badly tarnished VW’s reputation, sent its U.S. sales tumbling and forced Volkswagen to reach a $14.7-billion settlement last month to compensate customers and satisfy regulators.
SUVs, especially crossover midsize models, are one of the fastest-growing markets in the U.S. car industry, and the German automaker hopes the Atlas will help the company regain market share lost due to the scandal.
The vehicle is Volkswagen’s bid to “enter into the heart of the American market,” said Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of VW’s North America region.
The Atlas was unveiled late last month at a ceremony on the Santa Monica Pier, and it will be built alongside the Passat sedan at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
At 16.5 feet long and 6.7 feet wide, Atlas will be the largest Volkswagen sold in the U.S. market, with space for seven adults across three rows of seats.
There will be two engine options: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with 238 horsepower or a 3.6-liter six-cylinder version with 280 horsepower, both with eight-speed automatic transmissions. Front-wheel drive is standard, and there’s an optional all-wheel drive version.
Available safety features include forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, autonomous braking and a rear-traffic alert.
Other optional features include a “digital cockpit” that enables drivers to configure instrument display settings, along with a Fender premium audio system with 12 speakers.
The Atlas will compete with a range of crossover SUVs, including the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder.
Because Volkswagen is late to the midsize SUV party, the Atlas will need to stand out in the now-crowded field. One positive note: Car and Driver said sitting inside the Atlas was “more like sliding into a car than climbing into an SUV. The rather long rear doors, plus a clever folding rear seat, facilitate access to the two-person third row even with a child seat installed in the second [row].”