Car review: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

By Larry Lark, contributor

Volkswagen’s full-size Atlas SUV received a bold refresh for 2021, improving on the success of the outgoing model to set it apart from competitors.

Assembled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Atlas combines hallmark Volkswagen driving dynamics and attention to detail to keep all seven passengers happy.

Atlas is available in eight trim levels for the 2021 model year —S, SE, SE withTechnology, SE withTechnology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line (sold order only), SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line (sold order only). My tester was the V6 SEL Premium 4MOTION version.

The 2021 Atlas hosts the latest driver assistance technologies offered by Volkswagen. The next-generation Car-Net telematics system is standard on all models, and in-car Wi-Fi capability is offered across the lineup when you subscribe to a data plan. Additionally, Traffic Jam Assist and Dynamic Road Sign Display are now available.

Powered by a direct-injection, 3.6-liter VR6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic Tipronic transmission, the duo delivers 276 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 rpm. The engine utilizes a crossflow aluminum-alloy cylinder head design, twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing.

The engine is powerful enough to tow big boy toys (up to 2,000 pounds) and delivers 22 miles per gallon fuel economy down the highway with a range over 400 miles on a full tank.

All Atlas models with 4Motion all-wheel drive feature Active Control, which allows the driver to select specific vehicle profiles based on driving conditions. It has four settings: On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road.

Engineered from Volkswagen’s award-winning Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture, the refreshed 2021 Atlas is larger than any other vehicle in the Volkswagen portfolio, sitting 200.7 inches long, 78.4 inches wide, and 70.1 inches high.

Atlas benefits from 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic moonroof with silver roof rails, and a “Pyrite Silver Metallic” coat of enamel.

The interior design of the Atlas is classic Volkswagen—clean and functional, with a premium feel. Driver controls are positioned for optimal ergonomics and usability, and simple, driver-centric displays enhance involvement behind the wheel.

Across all three rows, an array of available inputs (12V, USB, auxiliary), cup holders, bottle holders, storage nets, and cargo containers provide convenience for all passengers. Atlas has a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cu-ft behind the front-row seats when all rear seats are folded down. With just the third-row folded, cargo capacity is 55.5 cu-ft, and with all seats up, cargo capacity is 20.6 cu-ft.

A host of technology and convenience features take Atlas to the moon and beyond. Highlights include adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, navigation system, Fender premium audio, rearview camera with overhead view, high beam control, remote start, engine on/off, and wireless phone charging.

To meet the demands of American drivers, the 2021 Atlas offers a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance technology. Available features include: Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping System. Traffic Jam Assist, Park Distance Control, Parking Steering Assistant, and Dynamic Road Sign Display.

Every 2021 Atlas comes with a bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and Carefree Maintenance Program. The warranty provides coverage for four years or 50,000-miles (whichever occurs first), and can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration.

Base Price: $50,015

Price As Driven: $50,015

Destination charge is included in base price. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.