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2018 Volkswagen Atlas

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$30,750 — $48,740 MSRP
9
Photos
SUV
6-7 Seats
19-24 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 8 trims

Overview

Is this the car for you?

The Good

  • Second-row comfort and flexibility
  • Cargo space
  • Crash-test ratings
  • Three child seats fit in second row
  • Multimedia screen is sharp and bright
  • Camera and parking-sensor integration

The Bad

  • V-6 power is underwhelming
  • Not enough hidden storage space
  • Steering is too light
  • Conservative styling
  • Advanced safety features not available on lower trim levels
  • All-wheel drive with V-6 only
Cars.com trophy.
2018 Cars.com Awards: Best Car of the Year
From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team
2018 Volkswagen Atlas exterior side view

What to Know

about the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
  • Brand-new model for 2018
  • Three-row, mid-size SUV seats six or seven
  • Two engine options
  • Built in the United States
  • Optional all-wheel drive
  • Six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty

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Our Take

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

We named the Volkswagen Atlas our Best of 2018 award-winning vehicle. As we’ve done in the past, we buy our Best Of winner and test it for an entire year. Now that our time is coming to a close with the Atlas, would we buy it again?

By Brian Wong
The verdict:

With an emphasis on utility, the Atlas is a comfortable SUV with lots of interior room and well-executed high-tech features.

Versus the competition:

For those who often carry people or cargo, the Atlas offers greater interior flexibility and space than the competition.

The newest vehicle from Volkswagen is also its biggest: the aptly named 2018 Atlas. Why does the name fit so well? Because its cavernous interior can carry passengers and cargo better than anything in its class.

The all-new Atlas competes in a crowded segment of three-row SUVs that are a step below full-size, truck-based behemoths like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition. Its rivals include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. Compare the Atlas with those vehicles here.

I tested two versions of the Atlas, both with the optional V-6 engine and all-wheel drive: an SEL (priced at $43,615 including destination charges) and an SEL Premium ($49,415), the Atlas' top trim level.

How It Drives

There are two engines available for the Volkswagen Atlas: The base engine is a 235-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 258 pounds-feet of torque. Both models I drove were equipped with the optional 276-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 266 pounds-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available on V-6 models.

I found the V-6 to be underwhelming. It doesn't feel like it has quite enough oomph to propel the Atlas' considerable girth with ease. It strains a bit during merges and passing maneuvers, but I found the transmission to be a willing kickdown partner in those instances.

In her video review, fellow editor Jennifer Geiger faulted the Atlas&...

The newest vehicle from Volkswagen is also its biggest: the aptly named 2018 Atlas. Why does the name fit so well? Because its cavernous interior can carry passengers and cargo better than anything in its class.

The all-new Atlas competes in a crowded segment of three-row SUVs that are a step below full-size, truck-based behemoths like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition. Its rivals include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. Compare the Atlas with those vehicles here.

I tested two versions of the Atlas, both with the optional V-6 engine and all-wheel drive: an SEL (priced at $43,615 including destination charges) and an SEL Premium ($49,415), the Atlas' top trim level.

How It Drives

There are two engines available for the Volkswagen Atlas: The base engine is a 235-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 258 pounds-feet of torque. Both models I drove were equipped with the optional 276-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 266 pounds-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available on V-6 models.

I found the V-6 to be underwhelming. It doesn't feel like it has quite enough oomph to propel the Atlas' considerable girth with ease. It strains a bit during merges and passing maneuvers, but I found the transmission to be a willing kickdown partner in those instances.

In her video review, fellow editor Jennifer Geiger faulted the Atlas' steering, saying it was too light on center — especially at speed, where keeping the SUV centered in its lane was difficult. I agree with her assessment; the steering wheel feels like it belongs on a smaller vehicle. However, thanks to the Atlas' individual drive settings, I found a happy medium: I set the steering to Sport, which adds some heft, while keeping the powertrain at its Normal setting (the accelerator is too twitchy in Sport).

Fuel-economy ratings vary widely by engine. Four-cylinder models are EPA-rated 22/26/24 mpg city/highway/combined, beating FWD V-6 models (18/25/20 mpg) by a fair margin. AWD V-6 models come in slightly behind that, at 17/23/19 mpg. Both engines use regular gasoline. These figures lag most of the competition: The Toyota Highlander with a V-6 engine and all-wheel drive gets an estimated 20/26/22 mpg.

Interior Room Galore

The Volkswagen Atlas' styling is very vertical. The sides seem to go up forever, and a sense of boxiness is the most prominent visual aesthetic of the whole package. Beyond looks, however, this approach clearly benefits cabin room for both cargo and occupants.

For occupants, the Atlas' interior feels expansive in a way that's uncommon for this class. While the third row especially tends to feel like an afterthought in many of the Atlas' competitors, it's spacious here and can comfortably fit adult passengers. This is thanks in large part to the second-row's flexibility: It has 7.7 inches of fore/aft adjustment, which allows passengers to negotiate for legroom. Both sides offer easy third-row access thanks to tilt-and-slide functionality that works even with a forward-facing child-safety seat installed. As an added bonus, the seat locks once you tilt it forward, providing a point of balance when getting in and out — a feature my rapidly aging knees much appreciated.

The second row is also extremely kid-friendly, with space for three child-safety seats across the second-row bench. It got straight A's in our Car Seat Check, earning it a spot on our Car Seat Honor Roll for 2017.

The Volkswagen Atlas offers 20.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row, 55.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 96.8 cubic feet with both rows folded. If I had one nit to pick with the Atlas in regard to carrying cargo, it would be a lack of a hidden storage bin: There is a small spot under the rear cargo area to store small items, but a large purse or backpack won't fit. I'd like a bit more privacy back there as an alternative to the retractable cargo cover.

Screen Savvy

There are two touchscreens available on the Volkswagen Atlas: a 6.5-inch screen that comes only on the base S trim, and a larger 8.0-inch screen. I experienced only the larger of the two, and it's great. The screen has high resolution, is plenty bright even in sunlight and offers responsive menus. Volkswagen also did a good job with the graphics (the climate-control screen is particularly attractive). And in a great blend of old- and new-school features, there are both volume and tuning knobs flanking the touchscreen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard regardless of screen size.

Volkswagen also offers its Digital Cockpit, which is similar to Audi's similarly named system: a 12.3-inch screen that replaces the traditional instrument panel behind the wheel. It's available only on SEL Premium models. Its graphical dials can shrink to reveal a large screen showing navigation directions or other driver information.

Two USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet are standard up front, and two USB ports on the center console are standard on SE and higher trim levels. SEL trims add a 115-volt power outlet to the back of the center console.

Safety Squeeze

The all-new Volkswagen Atlas offers all the advanced safety features you expect on a new vehicle, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and lane keep assist with lane centering. It even offers some extras, including a very good 360-degree camera system and an automatic parking system that works for both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. The camera system can split the screen between a rear view and a 360-degree view, and either can be enlarged via a tap on the screen.

However, I find it disappointing that many of these features aren't available on lower trim levels. S models can't have any of the features mentioned above; it can't even have blind spot warning. To get those other features means bumping up to at least the SE. To be fair, the Atlas isn't the only vehicle in its class to do this (the Chevrolet Traverse is the biggest perpetrator). And excluding these features does keep the Atlas' base price down ($31,425 for a FWD, four-cylinder S model). But safety should be trim-agnostic: Even if not all buyers want the features standard, a safer car should be available to them through options, not just by bumping up to a more expensive trim.

Conclusion

The 2018 VW Atlas is very good at what it does, with a combination of interior versatility and easy-to-use technology that overcomes its average driving experience. If you're shopping for a three-row SUV and know you'll use the third row consistently (especially if you have a young child who requires a child-safety seat), the Atlas deserves a long, hard look. And Volkswagen has made things easier on the wallet, as well: The Volkswagen Atlas gets a six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

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.

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.7
178 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.7)
Comfort
(4.8)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

Read reviews that mention:

(5.0)

More vehicle than I even expected

by Treeman from Fayetteville Ga on December 14, 2018

I shopped for several weeks until I found a 7 person SUV that I thought would have great value. After driving it for three months I am still thrilled. SE with Tech gives me more tech than I have been ... Read full review

(5.0)

First New Car Ever

by DP1980Chicago from Oak Lawn on December 12, 2018

We are a growing family and needed something bigger and a second car. The Atlas offers all that we want. I would totally test drive it. The 2.0L may seem like a little engine for a suv but the 2.0L ... Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas currently has 7 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2018 Volkswagen Atlas 2.0T S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
marginal

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Headlights

Overall Rating
marginal

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good
marginal
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Volkswagen

New Car Program Benefits

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    72 months / 72,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    72 months / 72,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits

  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    7 years/less than 72,000 or 75,000 miles (model-year specific)

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    Model-year 2017 and older, 2 years/24,000 miles; model-year 2018 and forward, 1 year/12,000 miles; TDI models, 2 years/unlimited miles

  • Powertrain

    5 years/60,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    100-plus point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All CPO Program Details

Latest 2018 Atlas Stories

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All Model Years for the Volkswagen Atlas

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Atlas received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Third-row access

A

Infant seat

A

Booster

(second row)

A

Booster

(third row)

A

Latch or Latch system

A

Forward-facing convertible

(third row)

A

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

A

Rear-facing convertible

A
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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