The SUV that will fill the gap between the Tiguan and the Touareg.

As far as SUVs and crossovers go, every manufacturer seems to have an offering that fits exactly what you need in an overgrown people hauler. Some manufacturers have three, while others like Chevy have five, but there’s one mainstream automaker that hasn’t brought their A-game to the SUV market yet, and that automaker is Volkswagen. The brand has its fair share of hatchbacks, but it only has two SUVs – the compact Volkswagen Tiguan and the much larger Volkswagen Touareg. The Volkswagen Atlas was originally expected to slot between the two, however, VW pulled on over on us and actually made the Atlas larger than the Touareg. Finally unveiled on the Santa Monica Pier, the Atlas comes correct with lots of DNA from the CrossBlue Concept, The choice of a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine, lots of safety features, and seating for seven full-sized Americans.

Up until now, we were unsure if this new SUV would be called the Atlas, as VW has also trademarked the name “Teramont” – one that would go along with VW’s “T” naming structure. Now, we’re thinking it’s likely that the Teramont name will be used in other markets, or could – potentially – be reserved for a model that will slot between the Tiguan. Until then, we’ve got a lot to talk about, as the Atlas has a lot of stiff competition. Models like the Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, GMC Yukon, Chevy Suburban, and Ford Expedition all pose some pretty stiff competition. Needless to say, the Atlas really has its work cut out for it over the next few years.

So, can the Atlas stand up against long-standing models that are well established in the full-sized SUV market and help VW overcome the corporate disaster that was Dieselgate? Well, let’s dive on in and find out what it has to offer.

Update 4/4/2017: Volkswagen has announced pricing for the new Atlas, slotting it between the Tiguan and Touareg. Check out the prices section below to learn all about it.

Exterior

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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As we expected, the new Atlas draws a ton of DNA from the CrossBlue Concept, but that’s not necessarily a good thing as that means its excessively similar to the Audi Q7 and the Skoda Kodiaq. So much so, in fact, that the Atlas could have passed as a facelifted version of the Kodiaq or Q7 (Minus the lack of an Audi Grille.)

Up front, we see that the grille from the CrossBlue carried over into this production model, albeit with a few minor changes. For one, the grille is actually rectangular in shape and rests perfectly between both headlight and blinker assemblies. It’s painfully clear that the headlights from the Crossblue are used on the Atlas, however, just below them is another lens that is presumably for the running lights and turn signals. Down below the air dam on the Atlas is shaped the same as the CrossBlue, however, it is much taller on this production model. As such, there is no opening above the air dam. Where there would normally be corner air vents sit a pair of last year’s fog lights, outlined in gray to accent the black coloration of the lower fascia. The hood on the Atlas it identical to that of the CrossBlue and the Q7, so there’s certainly no originality there.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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As we expected, the new Atlas draws a ton of DNA from the CrossBlue Concept, but that’s not necessarily a good thing as that means its excessively similar to the Audi Q7 and the Skoda Kodiaq.

Moving over to the side profile, you’ll notice the same general design found on the Q7 and Kodiaq. There’s that weird body insert on the lower doors that rests above the side skirts. The fender flares are more pronounced on the Atlas compared to the Q7 and Kodiaq and are connected by that bodyline right in the middle of the vehicle. To be honest, it looks like engineers took this area of the Kodiaq, flipped it upside down, and applied it to the Atlas. There’s also another body line that connects the front and the rear that is also integrated into the waistline. There is at least a little breath of fresh air here, though as the bottom edge of the rear quarter glass swoops upward to come to a point as opposed to remaining straight as we see on the other models that come from the VW umbrella.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Around back, the Atlas takes on a bit of its own identity, but it’s still pretty similar to other offerings from the VW umbrella of companies. The taillights offer one of the most unique lens layouts we’ve seen recently, which is nice. The reviews lights are accented by a chrome strip that runs the width of the rear hatch to create a visual link between the two. The little rear overhang on the top of the hatch is reminiscent of the Kodiaq. Down below, the black cladding surrounds the entire bottom of the rear fascia while the rectangular exhaust pipes are surrounded by a gray insert that matches the insert used around the front fog lights. Fortunately, for VW, this design works, however, one could write it off as badge engineering at its best. But, before we give full judgment, we’ll take a look at everything else on offer from the new Atlas.

Competitive Dimensions

So, here’s the deal. The new Atlas is 198.3-inches long, 77.9-inches wide, and 69.6 inches high. This officially makes it larger than any other VW offered here in the states (VW is really hoping to impress all of us size-obsessed, gas guzzling Americans, huh?) Compared to the Touareg, the Atlas is 9.53 inches longer, 1.53 inches wider, and 2.32 inches taller, but how does it compete with the competition?

Interior

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The interior of the Atlas is pretty upscale and features a number of handy features. To start off, we’ve got a sporty steering wheel that has a mild flat bottom to it, along with thumb buttons on the side spokes. Ahead of the steering wheel sits VW’s digital cockpit – a setup that is remarkably similar to the Audi Virtual cockpit. A small storage compartment sits in the center of the dash on the very top. Down below you’ll find a large infotainment display. Volkswagen’s Car-Net system is available as an option and includes the availability of phone connectivity via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or MirrorLink. A Fender Premium audio system can also be opted for, which includes a 480-Watt amplifier and 12 speakers. Volkswagen claims this is the most sophisticated audio system available in a VW to date.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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The interior of the Atlas is pretty upscale, but to a trained eye, it’s pretty clear that it’s quite similar to that of the Skoda Kodiaq.

While we don’t have exact dimensions for the interior quite yet, VW says there’s ample room for seven adults and their luggage. The middle rows fold downward to allow for easy access to the third-row seats. BW says that the second row can fold even with child seats installed, however, we have yet to see how and early sketches of the design don’t lend any assistance in understanding how this is possible either. The seats themselves are very inviting with the center of the cushions and the backrests perforated in nature, likely allowing for heating and ventilation – something we would expect for an SUV that will probably command a small fortune before the transfer of ownership takes place.

Drivetrain

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Drivetrain
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Originally thought to borrow drivetrain options from the Q7, the Atlas will first be offered with one of two different engines. On the four-cylinder front, there’s a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct injected, four-banger that delivers 238 horsepower. For those with a bit a hunger for power, there’s also a 3.6-liter VR6 that delivers some 280 horsepower. VW has yet to announce specs for torque, towing capacity or the like, but the good news is that models equipped with the 3.6-liter can be equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive. That system has a driving mode selection that will cater to the needs of various driving and road conditions. More information and full specs will be available closer to the Atlas’ official launch in spring of 2017. Shifting duties are handled by an eight-speed automatic transmission regardless of what engine choice you go for.

Pricing

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The Atlas is available in three primary trim levels. The entry-level S trim starts out at $30,500 and climbs to as much as $35,300. The SE starts out at $33,590 and climbs to as much as $38,890. The range-topping SEL trim starts out at $39,160 and tops out at $48,490 for the SEL Premium. This puts the entry-level model at almost $5,000 more than the entry-level Tiguan and $19,000 less than the entry-level Touareg.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas S four-cylinder $30,500
2018 Volkswagen Atlas S 3.6-liter V6 S FWD $31,900
2018 Volkswagen Atlas S 3.6-liter V6 S AWD $33,700
2018 Volkswagen Atlas S Launch 3.6-liter VR6 FWD $33,500
2018 Volkswagen Atlas S Launch 3.6-liter VR6 AWD $35,300
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE four-cylinder $33,590
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE 3.6-liter V6 SE FWD $34,990
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE 3.6-liter V6 SE AWD $36,790
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology four-cylinder $35,690
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology 3.6-liter V6 SE FWD $37,090
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology 3.6-liter V6 SE AWD $38,890
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL four-cylinder $39,160
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL 3.6-liter V6 SEL FWD $40,890
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL 3.6-liter V6 SEL AWD $42,690
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium $48,490

Competition

Nissan Armada

2017 Nissan Armada Unveiled High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Nissan Armada Unveiled High Resolution Exterior
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The Nissan Armada entered its second generation for the 2017 model year, so it’s nice and fresh in terms of competing with the likes of the Volkswagen Atlas. The one major benefit over the Atlas is that the Armada can actually seat eight passengers. Sharing its platform with the Infiniti QX80, the Armada is no longer based on the Titan pickup and is actually a huge leap forward for Nissan in this regard. It’s largely comfortable, has a good portfolio of active safety features, and is strong that ever thanks to its ladder-style frame and body structure. Unlike the Atlas, however, the Armada has a serious powerhouse under the hood thanks to a new 5.6-liter V-8 (not to be confused with the 5.6-liter from the previous generation) that delivers a cool 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Pricing starts out at $44,900 but can go for as much as $60,490 for the range-topping Platinum trim level.

Read our full review on the Nissan Armada here.

Ford Expedition

2018 Ford Expedition High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Ford Expedition High Resolution Exterior
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The current Ford Expedition has actually been on the market since 2007 with minor changes taking place each model year. For now, there’re no plans that we know of to usher in a new-gen model anytime soon, but with the current generation approaching 10-years old, I wouldn’t expect this generation to stick around for very much longer. Available in a total of eight trim levels, there is a model that’s just right for about anybody. It does offer seating for up to eight, but is only offered with one engine – a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that delivers 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Shifting duties are handled by a six-speed automatic. Pricing starts out at $46,225 for the entry-level XLT model and climbs to as much as $65,957 for the Platinum EL model.

Read our full review on the Ford Expedition here.

Conclusion

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There’s no doubt about it that it’s a good move for VW to expand its SUV offering, but there’s still a lot about the Atlas that’s still up in the air. Its size makes it the largest SUV offering from VW, which would indicate that it should be more expensive than the current Touareg. However, the Touareg is already priced rather high and actually competes on the price front with Models like the Expedition and the Armada. It doesn’t make sense for VW to have two SUVs with the same focal price point, so something is going to change at some point. This model could be priced to slot between the Tiguan and Touareg, but that would likely make the Touareg obsolete as customers will clearly go for the larger, cheaper option. If it prices it close to the Touareg, it will have to drop the price on the Touareg for that to make any sense at all. If the Atlas simply comes at a higher price than the Touareg, then VW is really reaching, and I don’t see the Atlas being a success at all. Hopefully, VW’s incredible need to make some money won’t cause it to be greedy and put too high of a price on this new SUV. But, only time will tell.

Press Release

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, unveiled tonight on the Santa Monica Pier at the end of historic Route 66, launches a new chapter in the company’s American history. Built in Tennessee, the seven-passenger Atlas offers class-competitive levels of technology and spaciousness combined with hallmark Volkswagen driving dynamics and attention to detail, all at a price designed to draw customers’ attention in the family SUV segment.

“This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven, ” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of the North America Region, Volkswagen. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Engineered from Volkswagen’s award-winning Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture, the Atlas draws on the latest Volkswagen design DNA to create a bold new look in the SUV segment. At 198.3 inches long, 77.9 inches wide, and 69.6 inches high, Atlas is larger than any other Volkswagen on sale in the U.S., yet it retains classic proportions and clean lines that create a sense of timelessness and precision. Up front, standard LED headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights combine for a unique visual signature, with optional LED taillights to complete the look.

Inside, the Atlas makes maximum use of its dimensions to offer space for seven adults and their luggage. The third-row can be easily reached by an innovative folding seat solution, one that works even with child seats installed in the second row. Simple, driver-centric displays enhance the feeling behind the wheel rather than distracting from it; while the available Volkswagen Digital Cockpit allows drivers to reconfigure how they view vehicle information.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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The available Volkswagen Car-Net® system provides a full suite of connected vehicle services, including standard App-Connect technology that offers integration with the three major smartphone platforms—Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®. The vehicle also features an available Fender® Premium Audio System that is the most sophisticated yet seen in a Volkswagen, with 12 channels, a 480-watt amplifier and 12 speakers.

The Atlas offers available driver assistance features that had been previously been reserved for premium SUVs, at an affordable level. These include: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert; Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist), which actively helps the driver steer the car back into its lane; and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist).

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Also, the Atlas is the only vehicle in its class to offer the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System addresses this by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus helping reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.

The Atlas arrives with a choice of two powertrains: the 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI® four cylinder with 238 horsepower or the available 3.6-liter VR6 engine with 280 horsepower. Either engine routes power through an eight-speed transmission to help maximize engine efficiency, and the Atlas can be configured either as front-wheel-drive or with available 4Motion all-wheel-drive in VR6 trims. The 4Motion system has a Driving Mode Selection feature that allows the driver to select specific parameters based on driving conditions. EPA fuel economy estimates will be released ahead of the launch in the Spring of 2017.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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The Atlas is built alongside the Passat at the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant, the result of an additional $900 million investment by Volkswagen in the facility. The Chattanooga plant is the only automotive manufacturing facility in the world to receive Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program.

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