Best of 2018: Volkswagen Atlas
For years, Volkswagen’s strategy was to build cars that the German automaker thought Americans should want, not the cars Americans actually did want. The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SUV may be the first vehicle in VW’s long history to nail the needs of modern American buyers.
It’s big — very big — and able to seat seven people in complete comfort, regardless of which seat they’re in. That’s an astonishing accomplishment for a three-row SUV and one of the reasons it blew away the competitors in our 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge. With a sliding second-row bench or captain’s chairs that also tilt forward to allow you to keep a child-safety seat installed in place, entry and exit from the third row is a breeze, and adjusting legroom among passengers once settled is easy.
It may be big, but it also drives well. The standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is only available with front-wheel drive, but if you live where all-wheel drive is not important, this is a perfectly acceptable powertrain. Even loaded with a full complement of passengers, the torquey little four-cylinder pulls strongly in traffic, and the chassis easily handles the heft of the Atlas with or without a load on board. The V-6 provides more oomph if it’s wanted, with smooth power delivery through the eight-speed automatic transmission. It may not be the most athletic-handling SUV out there, but that’s not its mission — it’s a comfortable, capable people hauler. The ride quality is outstanding, the brakes are strong and consistent, and its cabin noise levels are impressively hushed.
The Atlas is also available with all of the latest electronic gadgets, from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to forward collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera for easy parking. You can load one up to luxury levels with leather and wood trim, or keep it simple with more basic interior upholstery. And to top it all off, the Atlas offers the best standard warranty in the industry: bumper-to-bumper for six years or 72,000 miles. However you equip one, the new Volkswagen Atlas may be the most spot-on interpretation of an American family SUV that we’ve seen in ages.