For people with an interest in new cars, the all-new Atlas SUV shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s been strongly hinted at since the 2013 CrossBlue concept, and with SUVs and crossovers taking up an increasingly large percentage of new car sales, a big Volkswagen is the logical next step forward for the embattled company.
There’s a lot more riding on the Atlas than most other new models. Volkswagen is still working its way out of the Dieselgate scandal and trying to regain customers’ trust all while trying to expand its lineup and footprint in the U.S. That’s no small task, but at least from here, it looks like it’s fielding the right model to do it.
A big SUV is new territory for Volkswagen, and it breaks new ground for the brand in several ways. That said, there’s still a lot that’s familiar about it. For a quick rundown on what makes the Atlas stand out, here’s a look at five things you should know about Volkswagen’s all-new, high-stakes model.
1. It’s big
It may not be able to compare with something massive like the Chevy Suburban, but the Atlas is Volkswagen’s largest vehicle ever sold in North America, with its versatile MQB platform stretched to the max. The result is a spacious people mover that’s larger than a Honda Pilot and the same size as the Ford Explorer.
2. Bring all your friends
That big footprint means plenty of room inside. One of Volkswagen’s goals was to provide room for seven adults — not always a given in its segment — and it largely delivers. The second-row seats are designed to hinge forward as far as possible while still being able to hold child seats, giving third-row occupants plenty of room for entry and exit. Once they’re back there, there’s plenty of leg and headroom — just as long as you’re not too much over 6 feet tall.
3. It’s as American as barbecue …
Despite its very German looks, the Atlas will be built at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. This move makes sense; with over 5 million SUVs sold so far this year, the U.S. is still the center of the SUV world. So it’s probably wise for the company — which hasn’t had great success in the segment so far — to have the Atlas, its model “built … for the modern American family,” to be anchored here, especially if it needs any quick revisions down the line.
4. … but it’s still a Volkswagen
Despite being built in Tennessee, the Atlas still has plenty of Volkswagen DNA. Power comes from either the 238 horsepower 2.0 liter inline-four, or the 3.6 liter VR6 that puts out 280 horses — powerplants that are currently available across the Volkswagen lineup. Both models come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and are available in both front-wheel drive, and 4Motion all-wheel drive models. And believe it or not, it’s MQB architecture is closely related to the Golf, Passat, and Tiguan underpinnings.
5. It’ll be here soon
Volkswagen is eager to make a big splash with it’s new seven-seater, so it will be available in five different trim levels in early spring 2017. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but we expect the trims to fall in the low-$30K to mid-$40K range, much like the competition. We expect performance details, fuel economy, and exact pricing to come out some time before then.