The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has two power plant choices. The base engine is the turbocharged 2.0 liter inline-4 cylinder that makes 235 horsepower and 258 lb. ft. of torque. It can be upgraded to a 3.6 liter V6 unit that makes 276 horsepower and 266 lb. ft. of torque. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic and delivers the power to the front wheels. An all-wheel drive option is available for all trims. Having tested the SEL Premium trim with the V6 and all-wheel drive, the Atlas accelerates well initially but the engine is slightly underpowered for its size. Going from 0 to 60 mph took 8 seconds, noticeably slower than its competition in the midsize SUV class. Fortunately the transmission did not skip a beat and performed as expected. On the road, it handles like a smaller vehicle and body roll is kept to a minimum. It is stable through corners but it is not the sportiest. The steering was light and responsive, which contributed to the nimble feel. This definitely inspired confidence in the grip of the Atlas through various road conditions. The brakes were commendable, as it felt robust but in a controlled manner. The pedal action delivered a smooth sequence and it only took 115 feet to stop the Atlas from 60 mph. That impressive stopping distance is similar to the braking performance of smaller and lighter SUVs.
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It should be noted that VW has posted 10 trims of the Atlas in their website. However, we have only limited the data here for its primary trims, namely the S, SE and SEL. That's because the rest only feature a combination of the primary trims with the different tech packages and drivetrains offered by the automaker. The S trim is equipped with manual climate control, rearview camera, LED headlights, 6.5 touchscreen display, Bluetooth, USB port, six-speaker sound system, and Volkswagen’s Car-Net App-Connect with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. There are no package options for the base model in the S trim. The SE trim includes the standard S trim features and adds heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, push-to-start button, 8-inch touchscreen display, eight-speaker sound system, four USB ports, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. The Technology package includes a power liftgate, remote start, automatic climate control, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The SEL trim includes the SE trim with the Technology package and adds power adjustable front row seats and park distance control. The Premium package includes a digital instrument cluster, LED taillights, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, automatic high beams, park assist, 360-degree camera, navigation and a 12-speaker Fender sound system.
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas was tested by IIHS and gives a “Good” rating in Crashworthiness and Crash Avoidance & Mitigation. It consistently scored “Good” in the crash tests and front crash prevention is rated “Superior”, thus earning a Top Safety Pick from IIHS. The NHSTA rates it 5 stars for both the front and side crash test and 4 stars for the rollover test. Overall, it achieves a 5-star safety rating. Standard equipment include automatic post-collision braking and a rearview camera. With the SEL trim tested, it came with advanced safety features such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, park assist, and a 360-degree camera.
The 2018 model measures 198.3 inches in length, 78.3 inches in width, 69.7 inches in height, and has a wheelbase of 117.3 inches. Volkswagen markets the Atlas as a family-oriented vehicle and this is their biggest offering to their targeted audience. At first glance, its angular design is reminiscent of sporty Jeep models. But the styling cues of the rectangular headlights and taillights and the accentuated front and rear quarters are distinctly Volkswagen. For the SEL trim, there are optional 20 inch wheels aside from the base 18 inch wheels.
The Atlas can accommodate 7 people inside and entering the vehicle was effortless. There is ample headroom even for taller passengers. Legroom is generous for all 7 people on board, even for the third row because it did not feel tight at all. The leather seats on the SEL trim were comfortable, but the front seats felt deep seating into them. This may be a concern to shorter drivers and passengers. The passenger seats can decline and the second row can slide to maximize space. Ride quality was stable and the suspension absorbed the bumps on the road. Through a longer trip, the comfortable ride remained steady and cool air circulated well throughout the cabin.
There is 20.6 cu. ft. of cargo volume behind the third row of seats, and the space expands to 96.8 cu. ft. when both rows of passenger seats are folded down.