The three-row midsize SUV segment continues to grow to meet demand. Two-row midsize SUVs are numerous but in a number of cases, the price gap for the extra seating and cargo capacity is too small to pass up on. While pricing for the ’21 Volkswagen Atlas will only be disclosed in May, however, we suspect that its based price will be less than $1,500 more than ’20 Atlas Cross Sport which starts at $38,995.
In this segment, and depending on selected trims and options, some luxury offerings can blend in with the more mainstream products. Vehicles such as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Ascent, Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse (and all its clones) are all roughly priced between $35,000 and $55,000. Luxury alternatives like the Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX L, Cadillac XT6 (the high-end clone), and Acura MDX are priced from $50,000.
As such, a $45,000 – $50,000 budget can go a long way. The Volkswagen Atlas was first introduced for the 2018 model year and skips the 2020 model year, welcoming a facelift, updated powertrain choices and other updates for the 2021 model year.
Among the notable updates is the fact that the standard turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder is now offered with included AWD, like the Atlas Cross Sport. As well, the Cross Sport lends its update VW SUV front fascia to the Atlas as well as new LED lighting. There are few new colours including Racing Green and Aurora red.
The cabin gains a new heated steering wheel along with the possibility of heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and a heated windshield. Mauro Brown leather seats become available with the top-line Execline trim. Many active safety systems also join the 2021 Atlas from the 2nd trim or Comfortline.
The Volkswagen Atlas, in barely over two years, has already proven to be a very popular choice in the segment. With nearly 1,600 litres of cargo space behind the 2nd row and close to 600 litres behind the 3rd row, the big Volkswagen can effortlessly handle the average Canadian household’s family life.
What the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Does Well
- The Atlas is among the better driving large SUVs available. Although it is big, it feels nimbler than its size suggests.
- The fact that AWD is now offered as standard with turbocharged 4-cylinder brings more efficiency with generous gobs of low-end torque.
- With the 276-horsepower 3.6-litre V6, the Atlas can tow up to 5,000lbs.
- Its exterior shape and dimensions give the Atlas an extremely user-friendly cabin, replete with accessible storage and loads of room for all passengers.
- The Altas (and Atlas Sport Cross) are extremely unique design-wise. They look like no other SUV.
- Higher trims such as Execline are as well equipped as luxury SUVs for less money.
What the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Doesn’t Do So Well
- Both engines prove to be adequate performance-wise for the application. Neither is a standout in the segment.
- Some plastics throughout the cabin are cheap to the touch and look it too.
- Features such as a heated steering wheel, a power tailgate and keyless access with push-start button should be standard for nearly $40,000.
What We Tell Our Friends
We’re big fans of the Volkswagen Atlas. Our biggest issue with the SUV is that it can’t match the Toyota Highlander’s available hybrid version. In fact, no other SUV in the segment matches its fuel efficiency, not even the Ford Explorer hybrid.
With only an exception or two, the Volkswagen Atlas will, should its base price stick to $40,000, be a value leader in the segment. And despite what some of VW’s history might suggest, the Altas is a very decent product.