Volkswagen just unveiled its 2018 Atlas SUV in Santa Monica, California.
Why showcase this brand-new, three-row, car-based family hauler on the West Coast? Well, for starters, this is where historic Route 66 ends. That world-famous highway was once a major east-west artery connecting Chicago to California like a cross-country asphalt handshake. As roads go, it’s as quintessentially American as they get.
Tying into this rich heritage, the Atlas is gunning to connect with American motorists in a new way, ultimately to increase the brand’s sales. Yeah, that’s a pretty a tenuous tie-in for a reveal in Santa Monica, but it’s good enough for us. Here’s what you need to know about this brand new vehicle.
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For starters, the Atlas shares the same bones with numerous other vehicles in the Volkswagen Group’s sprawling product range, from the Audi A3 to Škoda’s Octavia. Its award-winning MQB platform (Modularer Querbaukasten in German, if you’re curious) supports this three-row SUV, which will be the largest model VW builds in the U.S.
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Dimensionally, this architecture allows the Atlas to compete in the very heart of America’s highly competitive large crossover segment. Rival models should include vehicles like the Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia and Nissan Pathfinder, to name a few.
Nestled beneath its largely flat hood resides one of two engines. A ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline unit serves base duty. It should be good for 238 horsepower. Ostensibly, it’s tuned for more low-end twist in this application than, say, when installed in a GTI, but the company is not listing any torque figures right now. Stepping up from here, buyers will also be able to get a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 280 ponies.
That uplevel engine can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, the company’s 4Motion system is not offered with the entry-level motor. On the bright side, an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board for enhanced performance and higher efficiency.
Clean, sensible design is a hallmark of recent Volkswagen styling, and this carries through on the Atlas. Some might call it boring, but this vehicle is unexpectedly handsome in person. Up front, standard LED technology powers both the headlights and daytime running lights. Curiously, LED tail lights are optional.
For tremendous variety, five different trim levels will be available. This should keep the Atlas’ pricing very competitive, with a model available for every purse and purpose.
Focusing inward, this vehicle can seat up to seven people. Volkswagen claims the third row, which is good for two passengers, is roomy enough to accommodate adult passengers in comfort. Easing access to the third row are special folding second-row seats.
As for the driver, Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit Instrumentation will be offered. This provides a fully customizable gauge cluster.
Other available electronics include VW Car-Net, a full suite of connected-vehicle services. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are all supported for simple and safe smartphone integration. A Fender audio system with 12 speakers and 480 watts of power is also available.
Keeping everyone safe, even people who aren’t riding in this VW crossover, are many of the latest and greatest driver-assistance systems. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and more will all be offered. The Atlas also promises to be the only vehicle in its class with automatic post-collision braking, which aims to reduce the severity of secondary damage after a crash.
Naturally, pricing and fuel economy figures are not available at this time, but they will be closer to when this vehicle is slated to go on sale. You can look for the Atlas at Volkswagen dealers next spring. Underscoring the company’s push to increase sales in America, this vehicle will be built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, right alongside the Passat midsize sedan.
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