2024 Volkswagen Atlas Pros:
– Upgrades made to the 2.0T make the long-gone VR6 almost forgotten.
– Styling updates increase the Atlas’ near-premium standing.
– Interior changes also contribute to the SUV’s status.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cons:
– The 2.0T isn’t as responsive as many of the competing turbocharged 4-cylinder engines.
Catskills, NY. There were some at Volkswagen North America that weren’t convinced that a large, midsize three-SUV was an answer to the automaker’s sales woes nearly a decade ago. Had I sat in on these meetings, I too would have claimed that there was little chance that such a vehicle would be successful if mostly because of the logo on the large front grille. They built, and they came.
And they still are. Since the first units were delivered in the second quarter of 2017, more than 565,000 have been sold in North America. Of those, more than 62,000 found homes in Canada. In fact, the Volkswagen Atlas (henceforth always include Atlas Cross Sport) have regularly outsold all other “import” brands with the exception of the Toyota Highlander. And finally, and for the moment, 70% of Atlas buyers are new to the brand.
Also, both Atlas SUVs make Volkswagen loads of money. We could thank them in part as one reason why we still have the GTI and Golf R. In Canada, a full 50% of buyers opt for the top trim Execline R-Line. If you need wonder why, it’s a less powerful Audi Q7 for about $20,000 less.
The premium comparison stands as the updated Atlas feature a more upright front fascia with new stacked headlights, a larger grille, and some serious LED work. Around the back the taillights are now a single unit merged with a large light bar that is also LED decorated. There are new wheel designs and my favorite, the new Peak Edition. The latter features rugged-like visual add-ons including larger tires and a new colour in Avocado green.
Indoors, the premium updates carry on. The center console now holds VW’s latest toggle-like electronic shifter which has freed up loads of space to create a large storage bin. There are new soft-touch materials throughout including in the rear, and an impressive series of standard features.
Out of the box, at $49,995, buyers get a 10.25-inch digital IP, a 12-inch touchscreen, wireless App-Connect, satellite radio, cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, and much more. The question is why would anyone pay more? For leather? For larger wheels? For a moonroof? Apparently, many of you do. I would spend $53,995 for wheels, tires, paint, and fake skid plates, so I guess I’m no better…
Bottom line is that the new-for-2024 Volkswagen Atlas looks very good and quite convincing as a family SUV. With room for up seven in comfort and a flexible large trunk (1,572L behind the second row), the Atlas is a standout offering. The Atlas Cross Sport is same in its segment.
And all that was left was the 2.0L four-cylinder TSI EA888 “Evo4” engine. The 2.0T isn’t new to the Atlas but it has been comprehensively updated to now deliver 269 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, or an increase of 34 and 15 respectively. It continues to be mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and VW’s 4MOTION AWD system.
In the past, I had to borrow my brother’s 2021 2.0T Atlas in order to review one as VW Canada never made one available for review. In short, I found the engine to be adequate and capable of moving the SUV around. To be fair, the VR6 was never the powerhouse many of believe it to be – though it was in the Corrado and MK3 GTI.
In other words, it’s gone and the new 2.0T replaces with ease and with more mid-range oomph. It’ll deliver better fuel economy than the VR6, can still tow up to 5,000 lbs, but it doesn’t outgun the Highlander’s 2.4T (or available hybrid), the Subaru Ascent’s 2.4T, the new Chevrolet Traverse’s 2.5T, to name a few. Is more power always more better? If a midsize SUV is to be used as intended, it quickly becomes a necessity. However, will this affect Atlas sales?
Highly unlikely. The big VW still drives with confidence, feels just as steady and at home on the highway as on the countless country roads we traversed. Steering is still light, and the ride quality leans more into the dynamic of things than plush comfort. This is where sticking to the Comfortline or Peak trims and their 18-inch wheels will ensure serenity onboard.
It’s a player
The updated 2024 Atlas, its second facelift since its launch, shows that VW did the math. The current first-generation Atlas is still very good and relevant, and that introducing an all-new SUV now would have been too costly with likely no massive gain in sales. When can then expect great electrified things for the next-gen.
In the meantime, the new Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport deliver the required utility, comfort, and styling. If you need more motor, you’ll have to consider the above-mentioned models.