By Cars.com EditorsJuly 5, 2017
About the video
2018 Volkswagen Atlas Review
(engine starting) Volkswagen's lineup has a big hole in it when it comes to a vehicle for big families. It no longer sells its Routan minivan, which wasn't great. And its biggest SUV, the Touareg, only seats five and is expensive.
The new for 2018 Atlas, changes everything. The three row SUV is roomy, and loaded with safety and convenience goodies. But are it's driving dynamics as impressive? Behind the wheel, the Atlas underwhelms. Power from a 3.6 liter V6 is just okay, and it goes downhill from there. The eight-speed automatic transmission is not very smooth. Downshifts can feel oddly timed and clunky. It's a long, heavy vehicle and its poor ride composure never lets you forget it. Bumps ripple through the body, unsettling the whole cabin long after you hit them. My biggest complaint, however, is with the steering. It's very light, especially on the highway and it has kind of a jittery unsettling feel. Though, it disappoints in terms of road manners, there's a lot to like inside. The multimedia system's touchscreen is large and easy to figure out. Even better, it has tuning and volume knobs next to the screen, which makes it easier to use than some more frustrating screen-only based systems. Also, it is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. My favorite part of the Atlas is in back. The second row is incredibly roomy. It slides reclines and features three sets of latch anchors and three child seats will fit across the backseat. A feat not many vehicles can accomplish. What's better, those three sets of latch anchors are very accessible and very easy to use, taking some of the sting and the sweat out of car seat installation. Also impressive is how the seats move out of the way for third row access. With the pull of a lever, they raise up and move forward for a large walkway to the third row. Even when a forward facing car seat is installed. For parents like myself, who routinely use the third row with a car seat in the second row. This is a game changer. The spacious third row is another high point, there's enough room for even adults to be comfy. The Atlas also excels when it comes to cargo room. Behind the third row, there's 20.6 cubic feet of space. That's more than some three-row SUV competitors like the Honda Pilot who has only 16. What's more, it also has handy under floor storage to make the most of the space or just hide your family's junk. The Atlas starts around $31,000 and that's for the base model with a turbocharged four cylinder engine and front wheel drive, which we have not yet tested. This model is an all wheel drive V6 and it will be around $43,000. Volkswagen is still dealing with the fallout from its diesel scandal, but the Atlas should bring it some good news. Despite some of its on-road shortcomings, it does a lot of things well, and finally gives VW a competitive vehicle for big families.