There is nothing whatsoever sporty about the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, pictured here with the world's most haphazardly wrapped shelf paper. We're not sure there's anything "cross" about it, either. But what was VW supposed to call this shortened version of its Atlas three-row SUV? The Atlas Shrunked? The Atlas Minus 5.7 Inches?
Our proposed names would be marketing suicide, of course, but they do accurately describe this upcoming two-row, five-seat mid-size SUV. Despite the Sport moniker, this family hauler is nothing like the SUV coupes proliferating through luxury carmakers' lineups. Instead, the Cross Sport is to the Atlas as the Honda Passport is to the Pilot. It's the roomy mid-size SUV for people who have no need for a third row of seating.
It rides on the same 117.3-inch wheelbase as the regular Atlas. It is powered—actually slightly under-powered—by the same engines: a 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four or a 276-hp 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6. As in the Atlas, an eight-speed automatic is the only available transmission. Even the suspension settings are essentially the same as those of the three-row Atlas. So on the road, the Cross Sport feels largely identical to its slightly larger brother.
That's not a bad thing. We like the Atlas. Sure, its transmission is ever-eager to upshift, putting the V-6 outside of its powerband. And while the Atlas's interior is a study in sober, sensible design, some of the plastics are harder and cheaper-feeling than they should be. This is, predictably, also true of the Cross Sport. And the Cross Sport's second-row head- and legroom measurements are comparable to those of the regular Atlas.
Compared with its brother, the Cross Sport has less cargo space because of the clipped rear overhang and a faster backlight. By how much we can't say exactly since Volkswagen isn't talking. The company is also not talking about pricing for the Cross Sport, which should come in a bit lower than the regular Atlas. The larger SUV starts at $31,890 for 2019 and can exceed $50,000 when fully equipped. The Cross Sport is going to have to be a little cheaper if it is to improve overall Atlas sales by the roughly 30 percent that VW is hoping to achieve. And as you can deduce from the pictures accompanying this story, the company would not like for you to see what the Cross Sport looks like until its official unveiling in October. But if you Google "Volkswagen Teramont X," you will see the already introduced China-market version of the Cross Sport.
One notable difference between the Atlas and its mini-me version is that the Cross Sport's all-wheel-drive system can be paired with the 2.0-liter engine. Oh, wait; for the 2021 model year, the standard Atlas will be updated to also offer that powertrain combination for the first time. That SUV will also get a minor facelift so its nose more closely matches that of the Atlas Shrunked, er, Cross Sport. Come to think of it, maybe Volkswagen should instead rename the Atlas. May we suggest the Atlas Cross Sport Plus 5.7 Inches?
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