First Look: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas – It Will Likely Be a Sales Success

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The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is going to sell well, and here’s why. You can gain access to the third row with a child seat affixed firmly in the outboard second-row seat. I don’t have children, so I couldn’t care less about that small convenience, but the people who buy midsize crossovers make a big deal about small conveniences, and that could be enough to give the Atlas an edge over its competition–namely the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

Skeptical one minor advantage can make a big difference? Don’t be. A therapist once gave me an anecdote about how married couples can survive the toughest of atrocities like infidelity and abuse, but he said that often times couples will split over trivialities like failing to put the seat down or placing the cap back on the toothpaste. That sounds crazy, but the therapist revealed that repeat trivial offenses compounded over thirty-odd years has a way of eating at the psyche like a termite at load-bearing lumber.

With that in mind, I can imagine the soul-sucking tedium of having to fiddle with a child seat thousands of times over several years to access an SUV’s third row. If VW is offering child-hauling parents a way out of the tedium, that one feature has a good chance of making the Volkswagen Atlas a competitive player in the three-row, midsize crossover SUV market.


The Atlas does other things well, too. It’s got an upscale-looking cabin, which is a surprise from a U.S.-assembled Volkswagen designed for the American consumer. While the interior uses less-expensive plastics than genuinely German VWs, the surfaces you touch still look and feel nice, while the ones you don’t touch look nice, but feel hollow. Still, sitting inside a decked-out Atlas equipped with VW’s new Digital Cockpit (yes, it’s just like Audi Virtual Cockpit) feels like a premium experience. It’s the smartest execution I’ve seen so far of Volkswagen’s money-saving interiors.

One area where more money was invested was with the SUV’s optional 12-speaker Fender audio system. VW says it’s the most advanced Fender audio experience yet to be featured in any of its vehicles. I didn’t get an opportunity to listen to it at VW’s recent Atlas unveiling, but I loved the Fender audio in the 2016 MOMO Edition Volkswagen Jetta GLI I sampled earlier this year. I can imagine the Atlas offers only more aural glory.

The Volkswagen Atlas will hit dealerships next spring with a 238-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission connected to the front wheels. An available 280-hp, 3.6-liter V6 will also pair with the 8-speed auto, and either front- or all-wheel drive. An Atlas hybrid is likely in the cards as well. All Atlas models will come equipped with LED headlights and LED daytime running lights. LED taillights will be available as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

Fuel economy and pricing information will be announced closer to the SUV’s launch. The Volkswagen Atlas will make its public debut at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November.

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