2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review

2021 Volkswagen Atlas - The 2021 midsize Atlas Cross Sport SUV is sportier than the standard Atlas


2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium R-Line

Price: $50,025

Pros-Stylish. Roomy. Fairly fast. Good handling. Decent ride. All-wheel drive.

Cons-So-so fuel economy. No third row seat. Outside mirrors hinder visibility in turns.  

Bottom Line-Pleasant, competitive, stylish SUV.

Volkswagen, which long has built practical and often sporty vehicles, hits the mark again with its 2021 Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium R-Line SUV.

There are a variety of Atlas Cross Sport two-row passenger models with front or all-wheel drive. Their list prices range from $30,855 to $50,025, which is the list price for  the top-line Cross Sport V6 Premium R-Line I tested with all-wheel drive.. The R-Line is the sportiest Cross Sport, with such items as all-wheel drive, air intakes in its exclusive front bumper, side skirts and a unique rear bumper with a black diffuser, along with special exterior markings.

The Atlas was VW's top-selling truck for the first three months this year. All Cross Sport versions are eight inches shorter and two inches lower than the three-row Atlas.

The Cross Sport looks sportier than the larger, boxy Atlas because it has coupe-like styling with a sloping roof, which doesn't affect rear headroom. By eliminating the third-row seat, second-row passengers get more legroom than in the regular Atlas, which is heavier and less agile than the Atlas Cross Sport.
A rather firm but tolerable center rear seat makes the Cross Sport most suitable for four occupants, although VW calls it a five-seater. Eliminating the tight third-row seat of the regular Atlas enables the Cross Sport to have a very large cargo area, which becomes exceptionally roomy when the rear seat backs are flipped forward. With those seats folded, it almost seems as if this SUV has the cargo room of a small pickup truck.

The hands-free remote power lift gate comes in handy when, say, arms are loaded with groceries.  

Both the regular Atlas and Cross Sport models have either a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 235 horsepower or a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 horsepower and more torque. Both also share a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.

The V6 naturally has more punch, although I noticed a slight hesitation every time I called for faster acceleration. However, the V6 is smooth and propels the approximately 4,400-pound Cross Sport from 0-60 m.p.h. in 7.5 seconds. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with the V-6.

The V6's estimated fuel economy of the Cross Sport I drove is only 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on highways, although those figures might be slightly understated, judging by the economy I got during mostly in-town driving. Passing and merging in Chicago's fast-moving freeway traffic was swift.

The all-wheel drive helped keep my test Cross Sport steady with only slightly body sway during cornering on sweeping curves. Stability was helped by 21-inch alloy wheels and electronic stability control. A driver can manually adjust driving modes via a console dial to either Normal, Custom, Eco or Sport modes. Sport mode tightens the steering and causes the transmission to be more responsive and the ride to be a bit firmer. But no setting causes an uncomfortable ride. I chose the Normal setting to be the best all-around one.

An all-independent suspension provides a good ride and soaks up bumps.

The steering feels best for normal driving in Normal mode, although it's rather light and should be more heavily weighted. It's too stiff in Sport mode. The brake pedal, however, has a nice linear feel in any drive mode.

Outside power heated rear mirrors, which fold when the Cross Sport is shut off, provide good rear visibility. But those mirrors and their thick holders partly block driver vision when the Cross Sport is, say, turning around a corner.    

It calls for sightly more effort to enter the Cross sport through its square, wide-opening doors, but occupants sit high with a good view of surroundings. A power tilt and slide panoramic sunroof opens up the sky. Supportive power leather front seats are heated and ventilated, and the rear seat also is heated, as is the steering wheel which has convenient sound system controls for the premium sound system.

There's a pushbutton start, and digital instruments can be read at a glance, even in bright sunlight. The attractive interior has nice stitching, and there's a mixture of large and small dashboard controls that are within easy reach. Thankfully, the infotainment system with its 8-inch touchscreen is easy to use.

The good number of storage areas include door pockets and a deep center console bin with a flip-up cover that doubles as an armrest. Dual cupholders are strategically located on the console, although the shift lever partly blocks one of them out in Drive mode.

And there are USB data ports, besides USB charging ports in the console and second row. A 115V AC outlet is found in the second row.

There's also dual-zone automatic climate control and USB charging ports in the front console and in the second row. And there's Bluetooth connectivity for compatible devices and wireless charging for such devices.

Safety and driver assistance features include dynamic road sign display, park assist, a rearview camera system, overhead view camera, advanced airbag protection and a lane-keeping system. There's also forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, active side assist with a blind spot monitor and rear traffic alert.

Technology and convenience items include a remote engine start, AM/FM/HD radio with voice control and an anti-theft alarm system with an engine immobilizer.   

If SUV buyers don't need the usually tight and sometimes hard-to-reach third-row seat, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport should be worth a look.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.