The first thing you notice about the newest Volkswagen is its name stretched across a large chrome strip on the rear tailgate. And it's missing the T.
AtLast. It should be called the AtLast because it's a good decade and a half overdue. Then again, given the tongue-twisted names of other VW crossovers (Touraeg, Tiguan), maybe we shouldn't complain.
Alas, the Atlas is the latest entry in the crowded midsize three-row, seven-seat SUV segment. It competes directly with the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, and, to some extent, the five-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee.
It also looks like many of those vehicles. Or most of them, in fact-the Atlas looks like everything and nothing, just like one of those renderings used in insurance companies' advertisements. Its styling is inoffensive but also devoid of any clear family resemblance to other VW products.
And it's huge by VW standards. The Atlas is 9.5 inches longer than the Touareg, and its rear seat does something few of its competitors do: It fits full-size adult human beings. This isn't a seven-seater just on paper, and accessing the rearmost two seats is fairly easy, thanks to a middle row that slides and tilts forward. That's a good thing because there's a new Tiguan on its way to take up five-passenger duty.
The Atlas is also far less expensive than the Touareg-and many of its competitors-starting at just $31,425. That's a theoretical price, though, because it's for a base model that won't be available at launch and in a spec few will want. The base Atlas uses VW's 2.0-liter turbo-four, sending 235 hp and 258 lb-ft to the front wheels only.
Most Atlas customers will wind up with a 3.6-liter VR6 (narrow-angle V-6) under the hood. Excluding a limited-availability launch model, the Atlas realistically starts at $35,915 for front-drive and $37,715 for all-wheel drive. That puts it in the ballpark of the established players, albeit with a small premium over a comparably equipped Honda Pilot.
Read more on Motor Trend.