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2021 Volkswagen Atlas - Review by Larry Nutson

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Refreshed and still a good value

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly been a major concern and a disruptor of all things normal in everyone’s lives. This includes the new car industry and auto shows that so many new car shoppers rely on to help them make a decision on what to buy.

The only major U.S. auto show to take place this year was the 2020 Chicago Auto Show in February before stay-at-home orders became the norm. At that show VW introduced the 2021 Atlas seven-seat SUV with its upgraded interior and an exterior with bolder front and rear styling.

Upgrades usually mean a price increase but VW held the starting price at $31,545.

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For 2021 VW has expanded the availability of the 235-hp turbo 2.0-L four-cylinder to the top trims. Now a buyer can get VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive without needing to step up to 276-hp 3.6-L V6. That makes AWD available for $1,300 less than in 2020.

The 2021 Atlas has upgraded driver assistance technologies. VW’s next-gen Car-Net telematics system is standard on all models, and in-car Wi-Fi capability is offered across the lineup with a data plan. Additionally, Traffic Jam Assist and Dynamic Road Sign Display are now available

New front and rear fascias result in a 2.4 inch increase in length. There’s a new three-bar grille and new LED headlights. A new steering wheel and new seat stitch design are on the inside. R-Line models have unique front and rear fascias, side skirts, R-Line badges, and 20- or 21-inch wheels.

For 2021 VW offers a variety of Atlas trims. There’s something for everyone. S and SE trims are available only with the 2.0-L engine. SE w/ Technology, SE w/ Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line are available with either engine. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic.

The VR6 engine is available on the Atlas SE w/ Technology trim and above, starting at $38,295. The step-up price for AWD is $1,900 on all trims. And, the destination charge is an additional $1,020.

The Atlas seats seven with its 2nd row bench seat. Second row captain’s chairs are available, making seating for six. Maximum cargo volume is 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.

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I recently spent time driving a 2010 Atlas SEL Premium trim VR6 powered with all-wheel drive and a $50,015 base price including destination charge.

The Atlas has refined driving dynamics as is typical of German-brand cars. I’ve now driven both engines and they both deliver decent performance. The choice of which engine should depend on your needs. The VR6 might be best if you often carry a full load or live in hill/mountain country.

VR6 powered models can tow up to 5,000lbs and can be had with a factory installed hitch. The 2.0L powered models can tow up to 2,000 lbs.

Eco, Normal, Sport, and Custom drive modes can be selected for varied response and performance. EPA test-cycle ratings range from 16 to 21 city mpg and 22 to 24 mpg depending on engine and front- or all-wheel drive. 4Motion all-wheel drive offers terrain settings selected with center console mounted knob---Snow Mode, On Road, Off Road and Off Road Custom. 

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The instrument panel is nicely laid out with controls in easy reach. The interior is plenty roomy with lots of space for people and cargo.

Standard features include:18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, full LED lighting, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and next-generation Car-Net with WiFi capability. Available features include: Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, 20- and 21-inch wheels, heated rear seats, leather seating surfaces, Fender Premium Audio System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist, Park Assist, Traffic Jam Assist, Dynamic Road Sign Display, remote start, and Easy Open rear hatch.

More information and details on the 2021 Atlas can be found at Atlas was developed in Germany and is built in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Recently VW announced a 2021.5 (point five) Atlas with a $100 price bump. Now starting at $31,555 new features that have been added include the next-gen MIB 3 infotainment system with wireless App-Connect and compatible multi-phone pairing. It’s now standard on SE models and above. And, Volkswagen’s newest driver-assistance features—Travel Assist and Emergency Assist is offered on SEL models and above.

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If the Atlas is more vehicle than you need VW also offers the Atlas Cross Sport. It seats five and is 5.2 inches shorter in overall length. I drove it earlier this year and you can read about it here.

VW’s Atlas is a great value and delivers on what you buy an SUV for….plenty of room for people and cargo.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, Chicago Car Guy