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2019 Volkswagen Atlas: New Car Review

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas midsize 3-row crossover moves into its second year of existence. It adds some more equipment to the entry level S trim, including some safety features. That kind of move is always a welcome one. This makes the Atlas even more competitive in its class and it was already doing a pretty good job at that.

The Atlas is the product of a German company, but it was designed and developed especially for the U.S. So that means it’s a roomy crossover with seating for up to seven occupants where no one is far away from a cup holder, and it’s wide enough for three adults in the second row. It’s even built in Tennessee.

Volkswagen is eager to please its American market in other ways too. If anyone is a little unsure about getting a VW instead of something Japanese or Korean, they may feel reassured by the company’s transferable drivetrain warranty that lasts 6 years/72,000 miles (whichever arrives the soonest).

What’s New for 2019?

Forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking/pedestrian detection and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are now standard in the lowest trim level, along with automatic headlights, heated side mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Two new trims — SE w/Technology R-Line and SEL R-Line — join the range. The SE trim gains tri-zone automatic climate control, while the SE w/Technology trims now offer the options of a panoramic sunroof, garage door opener and 20-in alloy wheels. And SEL trims receive the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, upgraded infotainment system with navigation, heated steering wheel and LED taillights as standard.

What We Like

Lots of space for people and things; great safety scores; sliding second-row seats that also tilt even when there’s a child’s seat attached.

What We Don’t

Neither engine is particularly punchy.

How Much?

$31,890 — $49,390

Fuel Economy

At the entry level is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This connects to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the only setup available with this engine.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving.

The more powerful alternative is a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 developing 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Same transmission, but with the availability of all-wheel drive, which VW calls 4Motion. The EPA’s consumption figures are 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined for FWD models and 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined for models with AWD.

Standard Features and Options

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is available in S, SE, SE w/Technology, SE w/Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line and SEL Premium trim levels.

S ($31,890) starts with the 4-cylinder engine, 18-in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and headlights, roof rails, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a 6.5-in infotainment touchscreen, voice control, Bluetooth, a USB port, a SD card slot, a 6-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and an AM/FM radio.

SE ($36,490) adds the V6 engine, keyless entry/ignition, simulated leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, second-row center armrest, heated windshield washer nozzles, rear sunshades, an 8-in touchscreen, four USB ports, an 8-speaker audio setup, HD/satellite radio, CD player and an auxiliary audio input.

SE w/Technology ($38,290) brings adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, remote start and a powered liftgate.

SE w/Technology R-Line ($40,240) adds 20-in alloy wheels, stainless steel pedal caps and some extra cosmetic additions.

SEL ($42,390) has a panoramic sunroof, LED taillights, driver’s-seat memory settings, an 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, a 12.3-in configurable digital driver information display (VW Digital Cockpit), navigation, a hands-free tailgate opening, a 115-volt power outlet and front and rear parking sensors. The V6 version also gets a trailer hitch.

SEL R-Line ($44,340) again adds 20-in black-finished alloy wheels, stainless steel pedal caps and some more cosmetic touches.

SEL Premium ($49,390) comes with a V6 engine and AWD as standard, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, ambient LED cabin lighting, leather seating surfaces, ventilated front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, navigation, semi-automated parking feature for parallel and perpendicular spaces, automatic high beams, an overhead-view camera setup and a 12-speaker/480-watt Fender-branded upgraded audio system.

Options include second-row captain’s chairs (SE level and up, turning the Atlas into a 6-seater), 21-in alloy wheels and a towing package. Where it isn’t standard, AWD is an extra $1,800.

Cargo space behind the third row is a generous 20.6 cu ft. Behind the second row is 55.5 cu ft. When both rows are folded flat, maximum cargo area is 96.8 cu ft.

Towing capacity with the 2.0-liter engine is 2,000 pounds. The V6 can pull 5,000 pounds. And in case anyone was curious about possible off-roading abilities, ground clearance is a fairly useful eight inches, while the 4Motion system has various settings including Off-road and Snow.

Safety

As well as all of the mandatory safety equipment (including full-length side airbags and disc brakes at each corner), the Atlas comes with a post-collision braking system that reduces the chance (or severity) of a secondary accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Atlas a full five stars overall, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has made the Atlas a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Comfort and serenity are the hallmarks of the driving experience. The Atlas feels stable and composed, and the high driving position will please many. The main downside is that neither engine has much muscle. A full complement of family and vacation gear is going to require patience. This is one of the roomiest vehicles in its class, but also one of the slowest.

Those in the front will see cabin materials that are almost premium quality, the kids behind get the less classy stuff that’s harder and can take more punishment. Third-row seating in many crossovers is a cramped and awkwardly accessed affair. Not in the Atlas. There are 33.7 inches of legroom, which is remarkable. It isn’t just for kids back there, even a couple of lanky teenagers will find it bearable (whether you’ll find the lanky teenagers bearable is another matter).

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Honda Pilot — Can seat up to eight. Honda build quality is consistently superb. Revamped for 2019.

2019 Mazda CX-9 — Somewhat tight in the third row, but stylish and a genuine pleasure to drive, which is unusual in this category.

2019 Toyota Highlander — Exemplary Toyota build quality, reliability and resale values go a long way, even if third-row passengers may not want to go a long way.

Used Audi Q7 — Big (though not as roomy as the Atlas in the third row), luxurious, stylish and offering a supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Check out Audi’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Autotrader’s Advice

The SE w/Technology trim hits that balance of worthwhile equipment at a reasonable price. It also means the V6 is under the hood and brings the option of AWD.

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