The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas is all about providing the basics. For families in need of a vehicle with tons of space, it delivers in abundance. Each seating row is so spacious that you could comfortably fill the Atlas exclusively with 6-footers, while more of their luggage will be able to fit inside than in virtually every competitor. Despite this size advantage, it’s competitively priced and equipped, providing families great value for the money – especially when you consider that it comes with an extra year of warranty beyond most non-luxury carmakers.
What’s new for 2020?
The base 2.0-liter turbo engine is no longer exclusive to the base S trim level. Though still exclusively married to front-wheel drive, it also now comes standard on the SE, SE with Technology and SEL trim levels. In-car WiFi and VW’s next-generation Car-Net remote services technology is now standard, while the “SE with Technology” trim and SEL Premium get bigger wheels. One final update for 2020: Volkswagen’s warranty may be better than more non-luxury brands, but it was actually better last year having been reduced from six years down to four.
What’s the interior and in-car technology like?
Interior materials and overall ambiance are disappointing. There is classically austere German design and then there’s just plain – the Atlas falls into the latter category. That’s especially true in the lower trims, but even swapping out the S and SE’s silver plastic accent trim (pictured above right) for the unusual wood-ish substance of the SEL (pictured above left) doesn’t snazz things up enough. The quality of plastics, particularly on the center console, is worse than what you’d find in rival SUVs. Upmarket interiors used to be a Volkswagen trademark. Today, it’s space and value, which might be fine for many shoppers.
How big is it?
The Atlas is enormous. Quite simply, if you need more space than this, you really have no choice but to go with a minivan or a full-size SUV like a Ford Expedition. Even the Chevrolet Traverse, which surpasses the Atlas in most dimensions, isn’t so much bigger to really matter.
Like competitors, there is a second-row three-person bench seat available for an eight-passenger capacity or captain’s chairs with a seven-person capacity. We’ve tested examples with the bench, which is 60/40-split and slides further fore and aft than those of competitors. This allows you to bring children in car seats closer to mom and dad, or free up even more third-row legroom. They also allow for a much larger pass through to the third row than other crossovers can manage.
What’s it like to drive?
The Atlas doesn’t suffer with the base four-cylinder engine as you’d might expect. Acceleration can actually be quicker than the VR6 model and we found that having less weight to lug around makes the four-cylinder Atlas lighter on its feet and comparatively tossable around corners.