North Americans have all but abandoned cars in the rush to crossovers and SUVs. Bogged down by the dieselgate fiasco, Volkswagen was late getting to the crossover party so popular in America. But it caught on quickly with the compact Tiguan, then the three-row Atlas, giving it coverage at both ends of the segment. Then came the Atlas Cross Sport and most recently the Taos.
The subject of this review – the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport - is a study in platform engineering. It started with the ubiquitous MQB global platform, which serves as the basis for three Audis, a SEAT, two Skodas and eight Volkswagens.
No third-row for Volkswagen Cross Sport
VW chose the three-row version, developed in and for the North American market, for the Atlas. The wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheels) remained untouched, but provision for a third row of seats was removed for the Atlas Cross Sport, resulting in an amazing amount of second-row leg-room and gigantic cargo area. They also cut 133-mm from the overall length allowing a sloping roofline and a much more pleasing profile than its squared-off larger sibling.
Second-row occupants of the Cross Sport enjoy 72-mm more legroom than those in the regular Atlas. Seventy-two millimetres may not seem like a very large number – until it appears in front of your knees! We’re talking limo-like space here. The Cross Sport also has virtually twice as much cargo space behind the second row as available behind the last row of the Atlas.
Function is a priority for the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
The inside is devoid of flash with function a priority. The layout leads to instant familiarity, with both major and minor controls placed where you intuitively look or reach for them. The high-res, 31-cm wide, digital instrument display can be customized to your personal preference. The standard infotainment touchscreen allows both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
Most German car company designers favour dark interiors. The tester was a pleasant departure, clothed in a pleasant combination of cinnamon and black leather - attractive without being garish. Fit, finish and material quality, as expected of the VW Group, are first rate.
The front seats are both comfortable and supportive, even over long periods of uninterrupted travel. As mentioned above, second-row occupants have enough room to sit back and cross their legs! The cargo space is equally impressive, able to gobble up many large items. The sloping roofline restricts the height of items carried there, but anything of that height would block vision to the rear window anyway.
Impressive level of standard equipment
The standard equipment level is impressive, especially so on the Execline trim model tested. There is the usual array of power assists, blind spot monitoring, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control and big (20-inch) alloy wheels. In addition, you get a park distance control aided by a multi-function set of cameras, heated steering wheel and washer nozzles, and power folding heated mirrors with memory and reverse tilt down. The Fender Audio system is a treat for those who appreciate a wide and even sound spectrum.
Also standard is adaptive cruise control with stop and go function. Unfortunately, it allows speed to drop by as much as 10 km/hr on steep hills.
Atlas Cross Sport offers a choice of four or six cylinders
Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder or normally aspirated V6 engine. The Execline gets the six and it is a silent and silky-smooth partner for the eight-speed automatic transmission. Power is more than adequate, if not overly impressive. Throttle tip in from rest is super aggressive, and fuel efficiency is not one of the strong points of this engine and two-tonne vehicle combination, especially in the city. I did average 9.7 L/100 km on the highway.
The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system sends power to the front wheels until slippage is detected. At this point it can divert up to 50% of available torque to the rear wheels. The sophisticated system can be controlled through what VW calls the Drive Mode selector. The console-mounted dial has an outer ring with dry (everyday), snow, off-road and custom off-road positions. In dry mode, you can use a button in the center to select Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.
The steering is light, but progressive and provides reasonable feedback. The suspension soaks up major road blemishes with ease but the low-profile tires keep you well aware of sharp surface changes.
In summary, the new VW Atlas Cross Sport offers more with less: more styling, more second row room and cargo space, and less bulk. It’s a winning combination if a third-row seat is not essential.
JUST THE FACTS
2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport Execline 3.6 4MPRICE
$54,495 as tested - plus freight
Hill descent control, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, dynamic headlights with cornering lights, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, LED headlights,
Smartphone integration, 20-cm touchscreen, 115-volt outlet, satellite radio, satellite navigation, 12-speaker Fender premium audio system,
3.6-litre V6, 276-horsepower, 266 lb-ft of torque, regular fuel. Eight-speed automatic transmission, 4Motion all-wheel drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 14.3 / 10.7
Length, 4,966 mm; width, 1,990 mm; wheelbase, 2,979 mm; weight, 2,038 kg
Honda Passport, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander