ANCIENT PUNITIVE BURDEN: Way back in time, the Olympian deities, led by Zeus, slapped down the rebellious Titan deities, by forcing their leader, Atlas, to eternally bear the weight of the heavens on his shoulders.
MODERN PUNITIVE BURDEN: More recently, U.S. government agencies slapped down Titanic global automaker and emissions regulations violator, Volkswagen Group, with some record fines and consumer compensation. VW had to effectively abandon its popular diesel power vehicles in the U.S.. Also, the German carmaker caved into what American conservationists thirst and hunger for most: a high value, full-size family gasoline powered crossover SUV built in the good ole U.S. of A.
TITAN-IC TASK: Will American consumers be forgiving now that VW Group has assigned the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas family crossover SUV to shoulder the burden?
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WHAT: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4-Motion 3- Row off-road capable, full-sized crossover sport utility vehicle.
Std. Power: transverse 2.0L DOHC 16V SI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 184 hp/ 221 lb-ft + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle
Opt. Power: transverse 3.6L DOHC 24V gas VR-6 w/ idle Start/ Stop = 276 HP/ 266 lb-ft + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + (opt.) Haldex PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Built on the versatile MQB modular platform, block-ier than the size-down Tiguan LWB, paying homage to the Audi Q7 Mk. 2 (now on the Audi-developed MLB matrix).
– Paper-airplane creased hood has three valleys; Bi-bar chrome lattice grille borders unify with light housing upper beam lower LED DRL split light assemblies to form single span; Tandem headlight cells are W-underlined by amber blinkers; Front bumper cover tugs back slightly at corners; Dark clad lower fascia, with center lattices, includes chromed corner fog-lamp housings, and simulated skid plate.
-Midline fender and rear quarter panel creases joined by cheat line crease; Lower door scoops blend into dark body cladding; High beltline rises to notable greenhouse kink at D-pillar; Subtle roof spoiler, outwardly canted liftgate for added space; Split wrap-around inverse L-shaped tail-light housings; Chrome band connecting taillamps embossed with “ATLAS” model designation; Lower rear dark clad fascia with faux skid plate insert houses dual tetrahedral corner chrome banded exhaust outlets and center tow bar.
WHY: Out of the Maxi-Van and into the family crossover goes the American family.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2017
WHERE: Volkswagen new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: available Haldex all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 90/ 10% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, rear e-clutch differential limits the slip; Selectable and Driver customizable Off-Road modes aided by ABS descent control; 8″ clearance = Inclement weather beater & light off-roader;
HOW ROADWORTHY: single head narrow angle transverse VR-6 was a packaging marvel 10 years ago; Not so much anymore; The same engine which sings its heart out in the dual-clutch gearbox equipped Passat, is less prod-worthy at low throttle given the smooth but in-no-great-hurry 8-spd automatic transaxle torque converter;
Taut-when-needed chassis drives smaller than anticipated; Hustling too fast into a cloverleaf nudges ample tail-lift; Steering has static winding, yet demands fewer corrections; Brake pedal reaction initially timid; Minimal cross wind buffeting; Road/ wind/ powertain noise goes unnoticed in cabin.
HOW FAR: 17 combined miles per gallon = not among class leaders aka Honda Pilot;
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 7 Occupant seating = full-size 5 + 2 SUV style: Row 3 = vestigial, tyke banishment or adult punishment required knee splaying; √ Optional 2nd Row captain chairs pare occupancy by one; √ Rows 1 & 2 chairs and benches are generous of width; √ Panoramic moonroof with power sunshade = hurts that 3rd Row headroom; √ Cavernous cargo hold is envied by nearly all of the competition;
Cargo Volume = 13-15% > Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9; 17% > Toyota Highlander; 21% > Nissan Pathfinder; 31% > Kia Sorento.
HOW USEFUL: √ Variable height load floor for choice of taller portage or concealed storage; √ Split sliding 2nd Row seat cushions; √ Near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks w/ twin cargo bay release latches; +1 View out from tall greenhouse and low sloping hood; -1 Compromised front door pocket & center armrest space; -1 Limited & unconcealed lower center stack wireless device space; -1 Distant reach to glove box; Tow Rating: 5000 lbs.
HOW SAFE: √ 6 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick +; √ Rear camera; √ Mid tier SE Tech models = Blind spot, Rear Cross-traffic, Forward collision avoidance braking & partial autonomous Lane Maintenance & Full adaptive cruise control.
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Leather seating – heated Rows 1 + 2, cooled Row 1; √ Generous wide seat cushions √ 8-way driver power seat; √ Leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; -1 Fixed front center armrest; -1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; -1 Unyielding seat cushions; -1 Tall liftgate lift-height; -1 Unavailable heated steering.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Tablet-style glass panel high-contrast touch-gesture LCD infotainment screen; √ Panoramic glass roof; √ Foot well & door panel ambient lighting
Details Done Right: √ Felt lined door pockets minimizes change or keys jingle jangling; √ Fine grained soft-material dash top; √ Matte aluminized trim.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Unconvincing shiny faux wood & carbon fiber appliques; -1 Coarse grain below waist-height plastic cabin trim; -1 glossy tablet style infotainment screens are “fingerprint magnets.”
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ tablet style 8″ flat-panel capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen w/ gesture icon control; √ Voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD Navigation √ Android Auto, Apple Car Play, MirrorLink smart phone apps; √ Subscription based VW Car-Net telematics; √ 480 W, 12- speaker Fender Panasonic audio with deep reserves; √ VW Media Control media playback on connected in-cabin mobile devices; √ USB x 3, 12V x 3, 115V AC x 1.
HOW MUCH: $49,665 = SEL Premium V6 4Motion as tested
WHAT’S MISSING: Improved off the line grunt & Brake pedal reaction; AWD un-available with turbo gas I-4 engine; Digital Cockpit, Heated Row 2 seats and 115V AC outlet only available on top SEL trim.
ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Traverse: +1 Fuel economy 9-speed automatic transaxle; Dodge Durango: +1 Towing; available Hi-Po SRT-V8; Ford Explorer: +1 Towing, Engine options, Chassis damping, Sync3 infotainment; Honda Pilot: +1 9-speed automatic, fuel economy; Kia Sorento: +1 Fit & finish, value; Mazda CX-9: +1 Steering & handling, interior materials; Nissan Pathfinder: +1 CVT fuel economy, available hybrid; Toyota Highlander: +1 Standard driver assist tech, cabin storage, available hybrid.