Volkswagen Atlas Gets More Personal With Smaller, Sportier Concept

Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport concept

Looks like: A sawed-off Atlas (in a good way) for folks who value style over seats

Defining characteristics: Atlas in front, party in back, with a nicely raked roof and really short tail

Ridiculous features: The Atlas Cross Sport stretches the concept of a concept: Nothing is show-car silly beyond maybe the 22-inch wheels that would do nothing for ride quality. And look for VW to offer some less exotic power options than the concept’s advanced plug-in hybrid system.

Chance of being mass-produced: Done deal. They’ll be rolling off the line in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2019 alongside the three-row Atlas and Passat sedan

Volkswagen is poised to take the Atlas from a single SUV to a line of vehicles that will include a sportier, more personal model that is being previewed by the Atlas Cross Sport concept unveiled ahead of the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

Related: More 2018 New York Auto Show News

A production version of the concept already has been confirmed for 2019, and it’s part of what Volkswagen calls its “global SUV strategy” to transform its lineup. The company says that 54 percent of its U.S. sales already are being generated by the new-for-2018 Tiguan compact SUV and the current three-row Atlas mid-size family SUV. In addition to an Atlas Cross Sport production model, VW also has announced an electric SUV for the U.S. in 2020, the I.D. Crozz.

VW also just showed a new two-row Touareg SUV in China, but it is not headed for the U.S. The new Touareg has been moved upscale. A more mainstream Atlas Cross Sport is seen as a better fit as a sportier two-row SUV for the U.S. than the departed Touareg. The Atlas Cross Sport aims to appeal to those buyers who want a trimmer, more personal mid-size SUV and don’t want or need the cargo and seating capacity of the three-row Atlas. The production model will compete with such mainstream five-seat SUVs such as the Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Nissan Murano.

Built on Good Bones

The Atlas Cross Sport also can cost-effectively extend VW’s Atlas investment, and it builds on a solid foundation: The three-row Atlas won our most recent three-row SUV Challenge and was named Cars.com’s Best of 2018.

The Cross Sport sits on the same Volkswagen MQB platform and has the same wheelbase as the three-row Atlas, but it’s 7.5 inches shorter at 190.8 inches long. The result is still an imposing Atlas in the front paired with a short and sporty overhang in the rear. But the same space between the wheels means it can have Atlas-like spaciousness for the remaining five seats. Headroom for the second row may be a little tighter — a trade-off for the slanted C-pillars and rakish roofline with panoramic moonroof that stretches into a rear roof spoiler with black fins.

The concept has a bolder two-bar grille design instead of the three bars on the current Atlas, but it picks up the LED headlights and LED daytime running lights. On this show car at least, the grille bars also light up and can function as daytime running lights. The horizontal side character line is extended across the rear end with aluminum trim that sweeps under the LED taillights.

A horizontal theme also dominates the interior design, as it does in the three-row Atlas, and is punctuated with aluminum trim running across the width of the interior. The concept features tech upgrades that include a bigger 10.1-inch touchscreen with proximity sensors and gesture control that manages infotainment and vehicle systems. The navigation system includes a new three-dimensional view in which the user can set up multiple layers with different information in each view. A second, lower touchscreen handles climate controls, and the concept also has Volkswagen’s 12.3-inch configurable instrument and information display. The all-wheel-drive-mode control behind the shifter even has its own display and LED lighting.

Concept Plugs Into High-Tech Power

The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport concept features a high-voltage plug-in hybrid system using the Atlas’ 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 plus front and rear electric motors and an 18-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery in the center tunnel. Shifting for the concept’s six-speed automatic is via an electronic toggle shifter.

The concept’s system puts out a combined 355 hp, and VW says that it also offers 26 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. It has electronic all-wheel-drive capability as well as multiple modes that manage power and energy use for different needs and conditions. VW says the system would be able, in its most powerful combined mode, to move the big SUV from zero-to-60 mph in 5.4 seconds.

But the company notes the MQB platform can accommodate a wide variety of powertrains, and that a mild-hybrid powertrain for the Atlas Cross Sport with the same V-6 and electric motors, but a smaller battery, would put out 310 hp and have a 6.5-second sprint to 60 mph.

While one or both of these might make it to the production model, it also seems likely to offer some variation of the current conventional Atlas powertrain lineup, which includes a turbocharged 2.0-liter four as well as the 3.6-liter V-6.

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