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2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion Review By John Heilig

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion Review

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium with 4Motion

ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 276 hp @ 6,200 rpm/266 lb.-ft. @ 2,750 rpm

WHEELBASE: 117.3 in.

LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 198.3 x 78.3 x 70.0 in.

TIRES: P255/50R20

CARGO CAPACITY: 20.6/55.5/96.8 cu. ft. (all seats up/3rd row seats down/2nd row seats down)

ECONOMY: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway/18.2 mpg test

FUEL TANK: 18.6 gal.

CURB WEIGHT: 4,502 lbs. #/HP: 16.3

TOWING CAPACITY: 2,000-5,000 lbs.

COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Edge, GMC Terrain, Toyota Highlander

STICKER: $50,275 (includes $925 delivery, $860 options)

BOTTOM LINE: The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is smooth-riding and relatively quiet for a good-sized sport utility.

Recently introduced, the Volkswagen Atlas is the big boy of VW’s SUV family, joining the Tiguan. Of course, there are several Audi SUVs as well, making for a lot of utility coming out of Germany, or Chattanooga in the case of the Atlas.

Once I got over the initial shock of the color, the Atlas proved itself to be capable, quiet and good-handling. But the color. It was a love-hate choice among all the people we spoke with. VW calls it Kurkuma Yellow metallic. Before you start rushing to your dictionary, Kurkuma is a yellow-barked tree and VW decided to emulate it. At least it was easy to find in a parking lot.

Atlas is powered by Volkswagen's narrow-angle V6 engine, driving all the wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine is peacefully quiet and gives more than adequate performance. Economy is modest, however, but one usually doesn’t buy an SUV expecting great economy. 

There are three transmission modes - snow, normal, hills and hills with snow. That last is a subset of “hills.”

Atlas is a nice package overall. There’s tons of room for passengers and cargo. The third row lowers easily for additional cargo space, but when it’s up it offers decent legroom. There’s very good legroom in the second row as well, and access to the third row is easy. 

We had issues with the HVAC system. It’s fine when it’s really hot outside and you need maximum air. However, the fan is noisy, even at low speed, and getting the system to settle in at a comfortable temperature is a challenge. We would find a comfort level, then have to turn it off and repeat. In fact, the fan is noisier than the engine.

I’m a bug about utility in SUVs, and the Atlas passes the test. For example, there’s a huge arm rest/console, and a large cubby at the base the center stack. There’s large storage in the doors. And there’s a good-sized tray at the top of the dash. Unfortunately, this tray has a slippery surface that reduces its utility. 

In the tastefully designed dash there is a clear instrument panel with a lot of information. Among the information I especially liked is the overhead view when backing up and parking. It gives a great idea of where your vehicle is relative to other vehicles, concrete curbs and other “invisible” obstacles. 

Another issue we had was with the panels on the doors that hold the window and mirror controls. This panel tends to get wet in the rain (when you open doors, etc.) and ends up wth water spots on it after drying. It’s not a serious problem, just an aesthetic issue.

Front seats are comfortable and in our tester were heated and cooled. Second row seats offer, as I said, excellent legroom plus outside visibility. There are fold-down arm rests toward the center of the car in the second row seats, with cupholders in the doors. There is a pair of USB outlets plus a 115-volt outlet at the rear of the center console. Second row seats have pull-up window shades that my granddaughters loved.

Atlas is a new SUV for Volkswagen and it is a good size with good features. Our tester had a couple of quirks, but overall it was  a good ride.

CR Rating: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Overall Score 65 Road Test Score 84
Predicted Reliability (worse) Satisfaction (better) - 20 MPG

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