- 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line ($31,555-$50,725)
- Awards: Family Car of the Year by Cars.com
- Pros: It offers up tremendous size and tech for a resonable sum
- Cons: The V6 isn’t much of an upgrade over the base 2.0-liter engine
If you’re looking for a three-row SUV to drive a large family around, you’ve got more options today than ever before. As a result, these SUVs need to bring more to the table than just a cheap price tag if they want to stand out. To aid in this effort, Volkswagen has doubled down on the largest vehicle it currently sells in the U.S., the Atlas. Aside from offering an ample amount of space, you can have plenty of tech and safety features without breaking the bank.
The specific model I’ve been driving over the last week is the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line. As its lengthy name suggests, this SUV boasts the sporty R-Line pack, which gives us improved aesthetics as well as a larger V6 engine under its hood. Since this version has all the bells and whistles, it has a $51,715 as-tested price to match.
How large is the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6?
If size is what you’re after, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 has tons of it. Coming in at 198 in long, 78 in wide, and 70 in high, it is one of the largest contenders in its segment, beating out the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and the Toyota Highlander. As a result, the Atlas falls right in between a mid-size and a full-size SUV. Regardless, its enormous proportions give it tons of presence on the road. Couple that with a curb weight of over 4,600-lb, and you’ve got a daily driver that looks big and bulky because it is.
From a styling perspective, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 has come a long way since its pre-facelift model. For starters, the front end left behind its boxy beginnings in favor of a sleeker front grille, headlights, and bumper. Keep in mind that my tester featured the R-Line pack, which gets you redesigned bumpers, exterior trim, and excellent 21-inch wheels. The rest of the bodywork is the same across all trim levels, meaning that you’ll get those sporty flared wheel arches regardless of how much you spend.
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas offers up three rows and a footprint to match
While having a large SUV is great from an aesthetics perspective, the real benefit becomes apparent once you step inside the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6. In total, you’re getting 20.6 cu ft of cargo space behind the third row, 55.5 cu ft with the third row folded down, and 96.8 cu ft with all of the seats laying flat. For a bit of context, this is more space than you get in a Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, and the Toyota Highlander. The added benefit here is that you can get this level of space in the entry-level Atlas as well, no need to upgrade for that.
However, you will need to upgrade for items such as the upgraded audio, leather seats with heating and cooling, and the three-spoke R-Line steering wheel. For the most part, the interior layout makes sense, is easy to operate, and looks decently sharp. However, there is no denying the abundance of the plastic trim in this cabin. While the layout is nice, nothing inside of the Atlas screams high-quality. While these plastics are fin in the entry-level trim, they’re a bit harder to swallow at $51,000.
What standard tech does the Atlas offer?
When sitting inside of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6, the first thing you’ll notice is VW’s Digital Cockpit. While you can certainly have the Atlas with traditional analog gauges, I wouldn’t if your budget allows. That’s because this digital instrument cluster is excellent. Not only is it highly configurable, but it also displays all of its information on a crisp screen with dynamic colors. Aside from being a very luxury-oriented feature, it modernizes the Atlas’ cabin.
In the center of the dash, you’ll find a standard eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Additionally, you get a wireless charger for your phone in this SEL Premium trim. The Fender audio system is also an optional extra and works well, especially considering how much area it needs to cover in the interior.
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 is surprisingly light on its feet
Given how large and heavy the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line is, you would expect it to be a bit of a slouch in the corners. While it isn’t a GTI by any means, the Atlas manages to be surprisingly light on its feet. For starters, its steering is completely numb, not communicating any sensations from the road. However, the benefit is that the steering itself is very light, making this large SUV quite maneuverable.
If you throw the Atlas into a corner at speed, there is surprisingly little body roll to report. Additionally, it seems eager to change direction without much drama or understeer. All in all, the Atlas lacks the sloppy and lazy driving dynamics some of its competitors suffer from. If you’re wondering why it’s likely because this Atlas shares its architecture with smaller sporty models such as the GTI, albeit scaled up.
Despite this agility, the Atlas’ suspension remained quite refined during normal driving scenarios, offering a reasonable amount of comfort. However, the main drawback comes in wind and road noise, both of which were painfully present during my time with the Atlas.
How much power does the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 have?
As its name suggests, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 I’ve been testing features the largest engine option available. It’s a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 that pushes out 276 hp and 266 lb-ft. My tester also came equipped with the optional all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is an upgrade over the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine, which pushes out 235 hp and 258 lb-ft.
If I had to point out the most underwhelming part of the Atlas, it would have to be its engine. It’s not that it’s rough, underpowered, or loud. Instead, it’s that I don’t feel it is a massive upgrade over the base four-cylinder engine. Look at the torque figures listed above, and you’ll notice that they’re quite close. However, the V6 develops its peak torque figure at 2,750 rpm, far later than the four-cylinder at 1,600 rpm. As a result, the smaller engine feels just as punchy around town.
Despite feeling relatively similar, the smaller engine offers up greater fuel efficiency, at 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, than the V6’s 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway figures.
There’s plenty of standard safety tech onboard
If you’re looking at a base 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, you’re not missing out in terms of standard tech. That’s because you get a forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, bling-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. If you want more safety tech, you can option lane-keeping assist, dynamic road sign display, high beam control, and a parking steering assistant. As a result, you can option the Atlas to meet your daily driving needs precisely.
Is the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 expensive to maintain?
According to a study conducted by CarEdge, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas won’t break the bank during a 10-year period. That’s because you’ll pay an estimated $7,856 during that time. According to CarEdge, this beats the average by $1,024, meaning you shouldn’t get any expensive surprises during your time with the Atlas. In total, CarEdge estimates that there is a 22.80 percent change the Atlas will need a major repair during its first 10 years on the road.
How does the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 stack up?
After spending a week with the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line, it’s easy to appreciate its size, comfort, and tech features. However, my main takeaway is that you don’t need all of the bells and whistles to get the best out of this SUV. That’s because all of its best attributes come standard. As a result, if you’re looking at an Atlas, I’d steer you away from a fully loaded one at $51,715 and more toward a mid-tier trim with the base 2.0-liter engine.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas an expert rating of 7.1 out of 10
The MotorBiscuit editors gave the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas a rating of 7.1 out of 10. Although it’s clearly a Volkswagen, the Atlas sets it apart from the rest with a utilitarian and sporty look. We liked its engaging driving experience and potent V6 engine, however, it could use better fuel economy ratings. Nonetheless, the Atlas serves its purpose well as a three-row family hauler.