2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review

2021 Volkswagen Atlas - The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE 4Motion is what you expect a VW to be.


Price: $40,195

Pros: Roomy. Supple ride. Fairly fast. Composed handling. All-wheel drive. Safety features.

Cons: High step up. Tight third row. Rather bland interior. So-so fuel economy.

Bottom Line: Good scores in most areas

Once mainly famous for its fashionable frugality, Volkswagen worked its way though the decades to arrive at cars such as the 2021 Atlas VE SE 4Motion.

This four-door $40,195 mid-size all-wheel-drive (4Motion) Pilot hatchback sedan fits near the top of VW's Atlas lineup, which begins with the front-drive four-cylinder $31,545 model that gets available all-wheel drive for the first time for 2021.

New for all Atlas models is a 3-bar grille and sculpted bumpers, which add 3 inches to its 204-inch length. There's also better connectivity and driver-assistance features.

Occupants need to step up to enter,but then sit high for good visibility. Driver visibility is especially good, thanks to such items as large heated, foldable, power side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The roomy Pilot seats 7 occupants, or 6 with second-row captain's chairs. The power, heated front driver's seat is supportive, and the front manual passenger's seat also gets heat. The firm third-row seat is easy to reach but is just for children or shorter pre-teens. The split-folding 60/40 sliding and reclining second row seat area is roomy, but that seat's center area is stiff.

The 50/50 split third-row seat backs fold forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area from a moderately roomy 20.6 cubic feet to a spacious 96.8 cubic feet. That's SUV territory.

The wide power hatch, which has a convenient inside release, swings open quickly for fast cargo loading.

Power comes from VW's sophisticated narrow-angle a 3.6-liter V6. It provides 276 horsepower that translates to strong performance off the line and during 65-75 m.p.h. passing maneuvers common on Chicago expressways. Power shoots through an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capability.

The Atlas feels like a relaxed German autobahn cruiser. However, estimated fuel economy for this rather heavy car is only 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on highways.

The electro-mechanical power steering has variable assistance, the ride is supple and  handling is good-thanks to such features as the 4Motion all-wheel drive, all-independent suspension, electronic stability control and 20-inch alloy wheels. The brake pedal has a linear feel and causes the anti-lock brakes (with electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist) to bite early.

The interior looks rather bland despite strategic stitching, a thick, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic wheel, leatherette seating surfaces, bright red gauge needles, unusual digital clock with a red sweep hand, intuitive touch screen and a rather tacked-on-looking dashboard wood section. There's lots of hard plastic, although it doesn't look cheap.  

This is generally a typical Germanic no-nonsense interior with easily used manual dashboard controls. There's a 6-speaker sound system, three-zone automatic climate control with second-row rear zone controls, and a center console with dual USS data and charging ports, cupholders, armrest  and covered storage bin.

Numerous safety features include front/rear park distance control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert and rear view camera system. There also are hill-hold and hill-descent controls and an advanced air bag protection system with 6 air bags.

Options for my test Atlas V6 SE AWD included a $1,200 panoramic sunroof with power tilting and sliding front section and fixed rear sections and a $550 towing package (5,000 pound towing capacity).

Those who want fabled German engineering might want to give the Pilot a good 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.

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