The new Atlas Cross Sport is a midsize 2-row 5-seater SUV.
It competes in a growing segment with numerous new players.
It is available now.
The Tiguan, Atlas, and Atlas Cross Sport may not be the best-selling models in their respective segments but for Volkswagen, they are nothing less than three winners. While many other mainstream car manufacturers are saturating their lineups with countless SUVs to fill every possible niche, Volkswagen, like Subaru for example, is content with offering a competent vehicle in the main categories. The new 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport completes this desire.
VW Atlas 2/3 Edition
The formula behind the new 5-seater Atlas Cross Sport could not be simpler: Trim a little excess bodywork from the 3-row Atlas, upgrade and update and off it goes. In fact, the Atlas Cross Sport shares the Atlas’ platform and wheelbase, but not overall length, if by a few inches due to bumper designs.
This SUV is uniquely Volkswagen – its front grille, headlight treatment, and character line form both Atlas’ distinct design. The R-Line trim throws in unique bumpers unique 20- or 21-inch wheels, which help to enhance the Atlas Cross Sport’s already sporty presence. The latter is a direct result of the sweeping hatch’s profile.
Large Access To Large Interior
Between the wheels, and what truly benefits this SUV, is the size of the rear doors. Conceived to facilitate access to a third row, they are positively huge, making this family vehicle one of the easiest to load kids, their seats, endless toys, apparel, and backpacks in with them. The other advantage to the SUV’s size is its huge trunk capable of accommodating up to 1,141 litres (40.3 cu.ft.) of gear.
The cabin itself is mildly updated from the bigger Volkswagen Atlas with a lovely new steering wheel that prominently shows the new VW logo. Behind it, my test vehicle included VW’s Digital Cockpit which can display as much or as little information as you’d like. Overall presentation and ergonomics are tops. The downside is that there’s still a fair amount of hard plastics but the fit and finish remain very good.
The standard 6.5-inch display is replaced by a larger quick-responding 8-inch touchscreen display that is easy to navigate thanks to fixed menu buttons on each side of the display. App-Connect (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto) is included as are a number of other modern must-haves as USB data ports and more.
In Canada, pricing starts at $38,995 for a Trendline model which includes 4MOTION AWD (standard on all trims). In the US, the FWD S trim begins at $30,545. AWD is optional on all trims (S, SE and SEL). The tested unit was a loaded Execline V6 model which retails for $54,495. This is the US equivalent of the V6 SEL Premium 4MOTION which is priced at $48,095.
Decent Power, Bad Fuel Economy
Like the larger Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport can be powered by one of two engines. The turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder delivers 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque and, for the first time, can be mated to VW’s 4MOTION AWD. Included with the Execline (SEL), VW’s venerable 3.6-litre V6 engine returns with 276 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque on tap. In all cases, an 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to the drive wheels.
The upsides to the V6 are numerous and include the ability to tow up to 5,000 lbs (compared to 2,000 lb with 2.0T). As well, it’s an incredibly smooth-operating engine. It seems to glide up and down the powerband and when pushed, makes a diverse and pleasing, if unusual, engine sound. The amount of power is more than acceptable. Passing manoeuvres can be accelerated by switching drive modes or setting the transmission in Sport mode by pulling back on the shift lever.
I would have liked to try out an Atlas with the 2.0T if only to confirm that off the line, the 4-cylinder’s low-torque makes up for smaller numbers. Unfortunately, the big numbers are only in relation to this SUV’s fuel consumption. The 2.0T with 4MOTION is rated at a combined 11.5L/100km or about 20 mpg. The V6 4MOTION does no better at about 12.5L/100km or 18.8 mpg. These specs actually position the Atlas Cross Sport as one of the thirstiest SUVs in the segment.
Thankfully, on the road, ride quality and control are good. The 20-inch wheels sit at the limit of compromising all-out comfort and, other than looks, do nothing to improve handling. Steering is responsive however numb and without feedback, which is what most drivers seek out. The 4-wheel disc brakes are plenty powerful for the task at hand.
It is a worthy choice
Honestly, I knew I’d like the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport if mostly because I’d covered a few thousand kilometers (and miles) in various 3-row Atlas test units over the last few years and think highly of the SUV’s build quality, driving experience, and cargo space.
My suggestion would be to stick to the mid-trim (Comfortline in Canada, SE in the US) as they are well equipped with plenty of technology and provide all the storage you could possibly ever need. And I would probably stick to the V6 as the 2.0T offers no dramatic savings in purchase and fuel costs.
In the segment, buyers can select between the upcoming Toyota Venza, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, and one or two others. Top “safe” pick would be the Honda Passport.