Another failed attempt from Volkswagen to enter the luxury segment?

The SUV and crossover market is about as jam-packed as it could possibly be and yet automakers still manage to cram yet another model into the mix. Case in point: the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas five-seater. Essentially a smaller version of the seven-seater Atlas we were introduced to in 2018, it promises to provide a slightly smaller footprint on the road with seating for five. Of course, this specific niche is already filled by the Tiguan, so there’s a bit of confusion here, but maybe not. See, the Touareg won’t be offered in the U.S. after 2018, so the seven-seater Atlas will become the range-topping “luxury” model while the five-seater Atlas will take its place above the Tiguan. We don’t know much about the five-seater as of now, but let’s talk a little more about it.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas five-seater Exterior

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five Seater
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With the Touareg about to depart the U.S. market for good, the Atlas will take its place as king in the lineup.

With the Touareg about to depart the U.S. market for good, the Atlas will take its place as king in the lineup. As such, the five-door Atlas will serve as its sportier alter ego. As you can see from Volkswagen’s official rendering, it sports a lot of the same design cues, including the flared front fenders, beefy rear quarters, and even the same body lines at the bottom of the door and below the belt line. For what it’s worth, that middle body line actually runs in line with the door handles as opposed to sitting below them as we see on the current Atlas.

The front end will have more of a slant to it, with the grille having more of a gangster lean. The front fascia will get bigger trim elements to create the look of aggressive corner vents while the air dam will be larger to increase that sporty feel. The hood gets a few mode body lines while the roof is possibly a little more slanted. Furthermore, the rear pillar on the five-seater should be thicker, making for a smaller piece of glass in the back, which may even be missing altogether as the five-seater Atlas will likely be significantly shorter than the seven-seater.

Of course, as the sportier of the two, the grille, headlights, and other various trim elements will get their own look, while the rear end may even get a mild diffuser-like element and some different taillights too. It may feature the same name, but it will likely be its own mode, at least in some regard, anyway.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five-Seater Interior

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Interior
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2018 Volkswagen Atlas interior shown here.
Expect to see a lot of commonalities between the five- and seven-seater.

Volkswagen has to play things carefully on the inside. First off, it’s in the business of making money so it can’t spend all kinds of money to design an all-new interior for a car with the same name as the one that sits above it. Sure, things will be different since it’s smaller and features fewer seats, but don’t expect the interior to be all that bespoke compared to the seven-seater model.

With that in mind, expect to see a lot of commonalities between the five- and seven-seater. The door trim panels will probably have their own look, as will the top of the dash, both of which will be slightly modified. Think about the trim on the face of the dash – the five-seater will feature something similar, but it will take a different shape. The center console will be similar, with the cup holders likely oriented behind the shifter instead of next to it. Expect to see the same instrument cluster and infotainment screen as well. The big thing here is that the five-seater Atlas will be billed as a coupe-like SUV, so VW may go with paddle shifters and more maybe even some polished aluminum here and there.

The other thing to keep in mind is that VW is discontinuing the Touareg here, so its lineup will be void of a “luxury” model. The current Touareg didn’t sell well here, so VW probably won’t make that mistake again – there just isn’t a desire for it here in the States – but the five-seater could take on a more luxurious approach, with more leather and finer materials to help fill the gap that VW seems to think it has.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five-Seater Performance

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Drivetrain
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VR6 from 2018 Volkswagen Atlas shown here.

The five-seater Atlas may be a little smaller than the seven-seater, but VW is going to spare every penny it can in the development of this SUV. As such, expect to see the same powertrains here as well. That means you’ll have the choice of a turbo-powered 2.0-liter that’s good for 238 ponies or a 3.6-liter VR6 that’s good for some 280 horses and offered with AWD. If VW wants to stay true to the coupe-like SUV and offer up some extra performance, it could tune out the 3.6-liter to offer more like 300 ponies but don’t expect too much in this department.

On that front, if you follow the assumption that Volkswagen will try to inject a little more luxuriousness into his model compared to the seven-seater, then we can expect to find a tuned-out suspension for a better ride as well as a stronger, stiffer chassis for better handling. After all, VW could try to market this thing as the performance model of the SUV lineup, so handling will be important.

Pricing

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five Seater
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This is where things get a little iffy and where we’ll see VW’s true colors. See, the Tiguan starts out at $24,595 while the seven-seater Atlas starts out at $30,750. Finally, the Touareg – for now – starts out at $49,495. VW has a couple of plays here; one will position the five-seater Atlas as the more luxurious model with a price tag above the current Atlas, probably about $35,000 or so. But, with that in mind, the Touareg is gone, and VW doesn’t want to lose out on a bunch of cheddar, so it could make it more luxurious and performance oriented and up that price to between $40,000 and $44,000, making it a little more affordable than the Touareg it may replace.

The second play involves something a little shadier but not out of the realm of possibilities. See, with the Touareg soon to be gone, VW could simply increase the price of the current Atlas, which was unveiled in 2017, to as much as $42,000, then position the new five-seater below it at $34,000. It’s hard to say at this point, but it’s going to be a tough call. The Touareg didn’t sell here because nobody will spend $50,000 on a Volkswagen SUV when you can go with an Audi or Porsche.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five-Seater Competition

2019 BMW X4 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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and a speed-sensitive steering system

This is another area that’s really cloudy. If Volkswagen really does make this one of those Coupe SUVs, it’s really out of its element. BMW isn’t a luxury brand, and yet it will be forced to compete with models like the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. With that being the case, there are only two things that Volkswagen could be doing. It will position the five-seater Atlas as a luxury model that will compete directly against them. If it does that, then it will have to be a lot more upscale than the seven-seater Atlas. If you’ve sat in that thing, you know it’s nice, but it’s not Mercedes nice – that’s for sure. In that regard, VW will also have to charge somewhere around $50,000, making it yet another high-priced VW model that America probably won’t want.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Volkswagen could maintain the same general quality and materials in this vehicle, and carry on with the coupish-SUV look. While it would, technically, sit in a niche all its own as a non-luxury model, it could garner success as it will allow those with a smaller budget to get into a coupish-SUV, something you currently need at least $50,000 to do. This seems like a more reasonable path for Volkswagen to take, but we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

Conclusion

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Five Seater
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Volkswagen could have a winning idea on its hands, or it could have a serious flop. In one hand, VW could make this the first non-luxury coupe-like SUV and gain the patronage of those who like the look but can’t afford a BMW or Mercedes Badge. On the other hand, Volkswagen seems to have this misconnection that it’s plastic dashboards, semi-comfortable seats, and barely-tolerable infotainment systems make it a luxury automaker. If you’ve sat in the Atlas, the Tiguan, or even the Volkswagen Golf, you know VW isn’t a luxury brand – at least if you’ve been inside a real luxury model before, anyway. With that said, VW could bite the bullet as it did with the Touareg, which sold like shit here in the States, and try to step into the luxury segment all over again with a completely different model. The former method will probably lead to some nice success, the latter, on the other hand, well, there’s a reason the new Touareg isn’t coming to the States.

  • Leave it
    • * Will probably be another failed attempt at luxury
    • * No room for it in the lineup

References

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

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Read more Volkswagen news.

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Read more New York Auto Show news.

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