2021 Volkswagen Atlas: 5 Things We Like and 2 Things We Don’t

2021 Volkswagen Atlas

The Volkswagen Atlas SUV got a sleek new facelift and some additional features for model-year 2021, but what we liked about the inside hasn’t changed.

Related: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review: New Face, Same Space

Historically, we’re Atlas fans. The three-row SUV was our 2020 Family Car of the Year. It stacks up well against competitors such as the Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. After this mild refresh, it remains a formidable competitor in its class. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, but overall, the Atlas is a capable family hauler with a comfortable ride and space for you and your stuff.

For the nitty-gritty of the new Atlas, click through the related link above to check out Kelsey Mays’ full review. If you just want the basics, below is what we like (and don’t) about the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas:

Pros

1. New Exterior Look

Styling is subjective, of course, but we think the updates to the exterior have made for a better looking Atlas. The refresh gave us sculpted headlights, a more minimalist grille and some much needed rounding and smoothing up front.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas

2. Space Galore

In either the captain’s chairs or three-seat bench configurations, the three-row Atlas has plenty of space for passengers. Both the second and third row are roomy enough for adult passengers, and the Atlas is also on our honor roll of which vehicles can best accommodate child-safety seats. Even fully loaded with passengers, there’s still plenty of space for cargo.

3. Comfortable Ride and Capable Handling

The Atlas manages to find a rare middle ground between comfort and handling prowess. You get great isolation at highway speeds and adequate shock absorption over bumps in the road. Steering is light but produces quick turn-in. And while you might experience some body roll, the suspension takes you easily through curves.

4. All-Wheel-Drive Option

A complaint we had about the previous iteration of the Atlas was that the base engine (a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder) came with front-wheel drive only. Thankfully, for 2021, you can opt for AWD with the base engine.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas

5. Extra Driver Assistance

For 2021, the Atlas gets Traffic Jam Assist and Lane Assist, aka lane-centering steering at low and higher speeds, respectively. The systems work well even when there aren’t lane markings for reference. Traffic Jam Assist works down to a stop, as does adaptive cruise control.

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Cons

1. Cheap Interior Materials

The dash and doors are covered in cheap, grainy looking plastic. And some of the plastic controls — such as the climate dials, gear selector and drive-mode knob — feel especially flimsy.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas

2. AWD Adds Mass

You can get AWD and the base engine (which makes 235 hp on premium fuel), but you might not want to. The system adds a good amount of weight, which changes passing power considerably. To keep that lively feel, you’ll have to drive in Sport mode on premium fuel. Otherwise, the base engine can feel overburdened.

3. Underwhelming V-6

If the base engine feels overmatched with AWD, the optional engine (a non-turbo 3.6-liter V-6) is not a lot better. Though it makes 276 hp and 266 pounds-feet of torque on regular gas, it’s just … fine. There’s adequate power, but it’s never quite sporty. When passing, the eight-speed automatic likes to stay in higher gears if you’re putting anything short of your full foot on the gas. And all that comes with a serious hit to fuel economy, which is just an EPA-rated 18-19 mpg combined.

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