With SUVs continuing to dominate sales, it’s no surprise that many automakers are looking to expand their presence and offerings in this category. One automaker that has had a difficult history with its SUVs but is still at it and trying to grow is Volkswagen.
A few years ago, VW unveiled its 3-row Atlas SUV, and now they’re starting to expand the Atlas family with the smaller, two-row, midsize SUV, Atlas Cross Sport – which is now in its sophomore year and competes against a bevy of more popular Vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Blazer, and Ford Edge, as well as literally dozens of other SUV options.
I recently drove a Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2021 – which is largely carried over from the 2020 model, but adds a new infotainment system and a few more safety features – and I’m back with a full report on how it fits into the SUV landscape.
For your information
Vehicle: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
Price as tested: $ 48,115 (starts at $ 33K)
Best feature: High quality and versatile interior design, strong new infotainment system, safety features
Valuation: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Who wants this vehicle ?: Two-row SUV buyers looking for a new alternative that is attractive, easy to use, and tech savvy
The exterior of the Atlas Cross Sport I tested had an attractive finish in Aurora Red Metallic. The chrome-plated radiator grille and the front bumper are real eye-catchers and stand out in the segment.
Depending on the equipment variant, the vehicle has 18, 20 or 21 inch alloy wheels. It also has LED headlights, an adaptive front lighting system, electrically foldable and heated exterior mirrors, rain sensor, variable intermittent windscreen wipers, an electrically adjustable panoramic sliding roof and a silver roof rail. All Atlas Cross Sport models have 8 inches of ground clearance.
With a lower roofline than the three-row Atlas and an angled tailgate, the dimensions of the Atlas Cross Sport are 195.5 inches long, 78.4 inches wide and 68.3 inches high. It is 5.2 inches shorter in length and 2.2 inches shorter in height than the Atlas.
Inside the Atlas Cross Sport you will find plenty of space for both cargo and five passengers. Headroom is 39.4 “and 37.8” in rows 1 and 2; with legroom at 41.6 and 40.4 inches. The rear seat offers a division of 60/40 with the possibility of leaning back.
Atlas Cross Sport can boast of a maximum cargo volume of 77.8 cubic feet behind the front row seats with the rear seats folded down and 40.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded up, and there are plenty of features to make everyone happy (including USB and 12- Voltage inputs, cup and bottle holders and storage space for small parts).
The overall quality of the materials used in the Atlas Cross Sport was also pretty strong, if not quite on par with some of its competitors (makes sense since VW has traditionally been functional and not flashy with its interior design). The leather seats were comfortable and nothing inside the vehicle felt cheap or inferior. And the controls are exactly where they are needed for easy operation by the driver.
The interior includes: two-zone automatic with air outlet in the 2nd row, heated synthetic leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated driver and front passenger seats, heated rear seats, rollable manual sun visors and ambient lighting.
WHAT’S THE RIDE LIKE?
The 2021 Atlas Cross Sport is available with two engines. My test vehicle was equipped with the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbo engine that developed 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. You can also upgrade to a 3.6-liter V6, which increases the numbers to 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet.
The Atlas Cross Sport is equipped as standard with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive (VW’s 4Motion AWD system) and independent suspension on four wheels.
In my experience, the base engine was disappointing in terms of overall performance and a little slow to get going. The time from zero to 60 is about 8 seconds. Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom drive settings are offered, but overall this is a less sporty vehicle than some of its competitors, and the engine noise is also a bit louder.
Aside from its power struggles, the rest of the Atlas Cross Sport driving experience is pretty strong. It is easy to handle for its size, reacts immediately to driver inputs and also offers strong braking performance. The towing capacity is 5,000 pounds and the AWD system effectively prevents loss of traction.
In addition to the traditional on-road driving mode settings, AWD models also offer the option of selecting settings such as snow and off-road, which the systems adapt to the best conditions by simply turning a button.
Volkswagen has built its brand new infotainment system into most of the equipment variants of the Atlas Cross Sport. It is known as the MIB3 system and has an 8-inch display, multi-phone pairing, improved speech recognition and multiple USB ports.
The touch controls of the infotainment system are generally straightforward but take some time to master. Voice commands are very simple and effective (eg “Tune to Yacht Rock Radio”). The navigation can be searched by address or points of interest, and the system understands commands quite well.
The system offers navigation, AM / FM / HD radio and a three month trial of SiriusXM satellite radio. In addition, there is a high-quality sounding Fender Premium Audio System including a subwoofer.
Other technical features of the vehicle are: remote start, keyless access to all doors and tailgate, start at the push of a button, anti-theft alarm system with immobilizer, Bluetooth for streaming music and calls as well as wireless charging for compatible devices.
Volkswagen also provides a number of safety features that are competitive for the segment.
The reversing camera is also part of the standard equipment, as is the automatic post-collision braking system and blind spot monitoring. The Atlas Cross Sport has six airbags as well as an anti-lock braking system and electronic stability control. The Intelligent Crash Response System also switches off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard warning lights if the vehicle is involved in a collision.
Some higher trim levels of the Atlas Cross Sport feature IQ.DRIVE – which uses front and rear radar, a front camera and multiple sensors to collect data and activate functions such as forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor (Side Assist); Return traffic warning; Adaptive cruise control; Lane Assist; Travel assistance; and emergency assistant.
Travel Assist is a new function in some equipment variants that enables partially automated, practical driving in the Atlas Cross Sport, which is activated via a button on the steering wheel.
Other safety features of the Atlas Cross Sport include the dynamic traffic sign display; High beam control, overhead view camera and tire pressure monitoring system.
Official four-cylinder four-wheel drive Atlas Cross Sport fuel mileage is 20 city / 24 highway / 22 combined and my experience has confirmed that these numbers are correct. That’s decent but not spectacular numbers in a segment with a wide range of two-row SUVs.
Other fuel consumption figures are 21/24/22 for the four-cylinder engine with FWD; 18/23/20 for the V6 with FWD; and 23.17.19 for the V6 with AWD. The Atlas Cross Sport has a 19.5 gallon fuel tank.
The Atlas Cross Sport I tested was at the high end of the price range and cost a little over $ 48,000. The basic version starts at around $ 33,000, so there is a wide price range depending on what features you include. These prices are generally around what you’d pay for the many two-row SUV alternatives available, although they are a bit higher than some of its competitors.
Eight trim levels are available, and the Atlas Cross Sport warranties include a 4 year or 50,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty, whichever comes first. VW’s Carefree Maintenance Program also offers scheduled maintenance services for 2 years or 20,000 miles.
VW’s Atlas Cross Sport may not be the most powerful option in the midsize, two-row SUV class, but it’s a strong new entry that’s well designed for cargo and comfort, and packed with technology and safety innovations. For people who like the Volkswagen aesthetic but don’t need the three-row Atlas, this is a welcome alternative.
Matt Myftiu can be reached by email at [email protected] His previous reviews can all be viewed online at autotechreviews.com.