Test Drive: Volkswagen Atlas Improves Its Three-Row Game

This story ran in a previous edition.

Minivans with sliding doors have largely gone the way of massive three-row SUVs and Volkswagen aims to capture more of those customers with the newly refreshed Atlas.

The second row can accommodate three child seats of varying sizes. And the third row can comfortably hold two or three more kids.

Adults, never fear: if you are relegated to the third row, you won’t be miserable. There’s more than adequate headroom and legroom and the ventilation system works great (gone are the days of third rows being about as comfortable as an un-air-conditioned attic in August).

If you don’t have kids or grandkids to tote around, there’s plenty of room for dog crates, bikes, camping equipment or other outdoor gear. That also holds true for the roomy VW Atlas Cross Sport, which does not have the third row. Towing capacity is improved to 5,000 pounds on both vehicles.

Both vehicles are fun to drive and felt plenty nimble. They hug the corners during curves, making them feel more like sports cars than large SUVs, and definitely not like the minivans of old.

Marketing for both vehicles breaks in early August, says Andrew Savvas, chief sales and marketing officer, Volkswagen North America.  It will include efforts for both the general market as well as spots aimed at Hispanic consumers.

“Like all of the marketing we’ve been doing as of late, it will have humor, a sort of twinkle in its eye,” Savvas tells Marketing Daily.

It’s an important launch for the brand, he says.

“The Atlas is our SUV flagship,” he told media during a recent event. “This is the car that we built for America, and this set us off to become a true SUV in the U.S. Historically, Volkswagen brand was not a SUV brand. We were a passenger brand.”

About 91% of its U.S. sales in 2013 were passenger cars, mainly the Passat and Jetta.

"It was extremely important for us to really invest in making us an SUV brand, but getting the right SUV for this market,” Savvas says, adding that now 83% of Volkswagen’s U.S. sales are SUVs.

The Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are the brand’s biggest sellers in the United States and North America and offer the highest profit margins, he adds.

“Our profitability is extremely important because it allows us to invest more in the U.S.,” Savvas says.

Volkswagen previously sold the Touareg SUV through the 2017 model year,  but it was a bit too expensive for the U.S. market, he says. The company continues to sell the Tiguan SUV, but some consumers find it too small. That’s where the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport come into play.

The refreshed model is significantly improved, Savvas says. It has “a lot more style, a lot more ‘Volkswagen,’ as I like to say. It really delivers the interior and the performance of the Volkswagen brand.”

A new 2.0-liter turbo powertrain replaces previous four-cylinder and VR6 options, bringing better torque than the outgoing engines and improved fuel economy.

The fuel economy, while better, is still compromised by the size of the vehicle. The three-row Atlas gets 19 mpg/city, 25 mpg/highway for 21 mpg combined while the two-row Atlas Cross Sport is 19 mpg/city, 26 mpg/highway for a combined 22 mpg.

The starting MSRP for the 2024 Atlas is $37,725; the Atlas Cross Sport, $36,715. 

Next story loading loading..