VW's New Atlas Cross Sport SUV Trades a Row of Seats for Sportier Looks

Keith Barry

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Volkswagen’s latest SUV is an upscale take on an existing model. The new, five-passenger Atlas Cross Sport shares its underpinnings and engine choices with the utilitarian three-row Atlas, but it gains additional technology, style-focused interior upgrades, and a sharp new exterior.

The automaker gave the world its first glimpse of the new model at an event Friday in Tennessee.

Because of Volkswagen’s added focus on looks and comfort, we think of the Atlas Cross Sport as a more affordable take on the Audi Q8—or as an SUV version of the VW Arteon sedan. Unlike other midsized two-row SUVs, such as the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, and Nissan Murano, the two-row Cross Sport is about the same size as many three-row models. In fact, it’s longer than the Toyota Highlander.

We plan to buy an Atlas Cross Sport to test as soon as it goes on sale in spring 2020. Volkswagen hasn’t yet released information on pricing or option availability, but we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available. 

Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

What it competes with: Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Passport, Nissan Murano.
What it looks like: A sporty, styled VW Atlas with the interior of a VW Arteon.
Powertrains: 235-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine or 276-hp V6 engine; eight-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Expected price: $40,000 to $50,000.
On-sale date: Spring 2020.

Outside

Although it rides on the same wheelbase as the three-row Atlas, Volkswagen says the Atlas Cross Sport is only 2.8 inches shorter and 2.3 inches lower. According to the automaker, the Cross Sport has a “racier” look than the three-row Atlas, and we’re inclined to agree. A more imposing grille and a more steeply raked rear roofline closely echo the Atlas Cross Sport concept we saw at the New York Auto Show last year.

The R-Line trim gets even more presence, with thicker bumpers, additional chrome, shiny black trim, and optional 21-inch wheels. 

Inside

Unlike some so-called SUV coupes, such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Atlas Cross Sport’s sportier profile doesn’t cut too much into its cargo space. With the rear seats folded, it has 77.8 cubic feet of room for carrying stuff, compared with 96.8 cubic feet in the the three-row Atlas. Second-row passengers get an additional 2.8 inches of legroom over the three-row Atlas.

It shares much of its interior with the new VW Arteon, which we praised for its sleekness and ease of use. Ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and an advanced Virtual Cockpit display screen in the gauge cluster are all optional.

One new option for Volkswagen is Traffic Jam Assist, which uses optional adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance to maintain a set distance behind the vehicle ahead. It also helps keep the car within lane lines at speeds up to 37 mph.

Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning are standard on every trim level of the Atlas Cross Sport. 

What Drives It

Although the concept featured hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains, the production version will get only conventional gas engines.

Buyers can choose a 235-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or a 276-hp V6 engine. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. These are the same powertrain choices offered for the three-row Atlas.

We tested an Atlas with the optional V6 engine and found that it felt sprightly but trailed behind the competition in the 0-to-60-mph dash. Its overall fuel economy of 20 mpg overall wasn’t a standout, either—although the slightly smaller Cross Sport could get a slightly higher number in our tests. 

CR's Take

Given the recent decline in the popularity of sedans as a group, the Atlas Cross Sport appears to be just what many buyers are looking for. It benefits from a straightforward infotainment system, crisp looks, and generous cargo space. It’s also an obvious bridge between the compact Tiguan and the functional Atlas.

Owners of the existing three-row Atlas have reported poor reliability in our Annual Survey. Both vehicles share many mechanical components, so this doesn’t necessarily bode well for the new vehicle—but we hope Volkswagen has learned lessons from the Atlas and applied them to the new Cross Sport. 



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