Relationship Status With VW Atlas Multimedia System: It's Complicated

2018 Volkswagen Atlas multimedia system; Cars.com photos by Christian Lantry

We've owned our Best of 2018-winning 2018 Volkswagen Atlas for about six months now, and after living with it for that long, we have some thoughts about its multimedia system.

Related: Is the 2018 VW Atlas' Fender Stereo Worth the Cost?

The Good

Somewhat tellingly, two of the sources of praise don't work in our Chicago headquarters where the Atlas is kept. Maybe not having to experience the flaws as often lets folks focus more on the positive — or, in the case of L.A. Bureau Chief Brian Wong, maybe living somewhere without winter makes him less negative.

According to Wong, "I think that Volkswagen has done a really good job with the resolution of their screens across the lineup, and the Atlas is no exception. Everything looks sharp and crisp; as the displays on phones and tablets have gotten better, the standard for in-car multimedia has risen with them, and the Atlas meets that."

Washington, D.C., Bureau Chief Fred Meier said, "The display has sharp definition, and the graphics images are both good looking and intuitive."

News Editor Jennifer Geiger also praised the straightforward nature of the system and its ease of use, and pointed out that "Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and integration is seamless."

The Bad

My chief complaint with the system, and it's one that was echoed by nearly every Chicago staffer, is that the screen is surrounded by capacitive touch buttons. This is a particular problem when trying to adjust the volume or use the tuning knob because your fingers or knuckles can brush against a button, and then suddenly you've brought up a different and unwanted screen. Buttons should be, you know, buttons, and require an actual push to make them function.

That wasn't the only issue surrounding the tuning knob, however.

"Although I appreciate the tuning and volume knobs flanking the screen, using the tuning knob requires one too many steps," said Geiger. "Just turning it doesn't change the station; you have to push it after you've made your selection, which seems unnecessary."

Managing Editor Joe Bruzek called out glare issues, noting that when the moonroof shade is open, "There was too much light reflecting off the touchscreen, which made it hard to see not only because of the glare, but because it makes every greasy fingerprint a blob on the screen."

The Would-Be

Not all of our complaints have resulted in actual issues ... yet. Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder is wary, however: "The only thing that stands out to me is, I'm not a fan of swiping — on this or any other system. If there are more icons on another page, I want to push a button or something, because there's always a chance when you swipe that you'll unintentionally activate something. Has this happened to me on the Atlas? Probably not. But I don't even like the possibility. It puts me on edge."

Wiesenfelder's would-be complaint may be hypothetical, but this is nonetheless a valid concern. The easier it is to navigate a multimedia system, the less time a driver has to be looking away from the road.

We have another six months of owning the Atlas to go, but I think you can tell that our honeymoon period has already been over for a while.

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