CARS.COM — Time flies. Nearly three months has passed since we bought our Best of 2018 car, a Volkswagen Atlas. But here we are, 79 days and more than 2,600 miles since we took delivery of an all-wheel-drive Atlas SEL. In that span, we've logged 10 fill-ups and road-tripped from Cars.com's Chicago offices to southeast Michigan and central Missouri. Naturally, we've also lost dozens of hours to gridlock in America's ninth-worst city for commuters. Our dreams are all brakelights these days.
The Atlas, it turns out, is one thirsty companion.
Granted, the Atlas earned our top accolade despite its gas mileage — one of the family SUV's few weaknesses. Our all-wheel-drive Atlas SEL gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg combined, a figure many popular competitors beat. We trailed the EPA estimate further still, averaging just 18.3 mpg over 2,634 miles with the SUV (excluding the odometer's 73 miles when we drove off the lot).
Those miles came with numerous fill-ups. The Atlas' tank holds a healthy 18.6 gallons, but the trip computer seems conservative on its warnings. On one fuel stop, the computer warned of just 20 miles' range as we pulled up to the pump, but the Atlas took just 14.7 gallons of gas. That means the warning came with some 4 gallons left.
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL AWD
- EPA rating city/highway/combined: 17/23/19 mpg
- Recommended fuel: Regular
- Highest single-tank average: 22.0 mpg
- Lowest single-tank average: 13.6 mpg
- Average mileage: 18.3 mpg
- Current mileage: 2,707
- Total cost of fuel: $386.02
- Longest range observed: 302 miles
Conservative or not, that fuel gauge has turned us into gas-station regulars with the Atlas. Our longest distance on a single tank was just 302 miles. That's well short of the 347-mile record we observed a year ago in the first few months with our long-term Chrysler Pacifica, a vehicle with only another 0.4 gallon in tank capacity. At one point we had to fill the VW after a paltry 205 miles. Talk about thirsty.
"I feel like I'm burning through gas in the Atlas," Managing Editor Joe Bruzek said. "After just 50 miles, the needle blasted through the first quarter of the gauge."
Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz agreed. Schmitz logged hours aplenty on a road trip from Cars.com's Chicago offices down to central Missouri. He praised the Atlas' highway composure but noted that the fuel needle "seemed eager to find its way down to E" despite normal highway speeds.
Schmitz had two other quibbles. The Atlas' multimedia system crowds volume and tuning knobs between touch-sensitive shortcut buttons — a frequent area for knuckles to inadvertently brush, diverting the display from radio stations. Elsewhere, the door pockets garnered annoyance.
"As a chronic stereo-control fiddler, I found it frustrating to have to navigate my way back to the radio display every time I changed the volume," he said. "My wife, meanwhile, was annoyed at the Atlas' door compartments, which were too narrow to stow bottles of water."
Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.