The SUV-coupe, five-seat version of the Volkswagen Atlas presents itself before 2020 market debut

BMW has the X6 and X4, Mercedes-Benz the GLE and GLC Coupe, Audi created the Q8, and Porsche’s Cayenne Coupe is fresh off the press. So here comes Volkswagen, trumpeting its intentions to join the SUV-coupe craze with a sloping-roof design that uses the Atlas as a starting point.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the U.S.-only Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. Yes, it’s an SUV-coupe of sorts, because guess what: that’s precisely what was missing from VW’s stable, a model that belongs to the niche of a niche created to appease the buyer’s appetite for sloped-roof yet still high-riding SUVs that don’t require too much investment from the carmaker, which makes them the ultimate cash cow for whoever builds them. Obviously, the Atlas Cross Sport takes a lot after the on-sale-now VW Atlas, but as usual, there’s more than meets the eye. Let’s check it out.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Exterior

  • Stretched headlights
  • Hatch-shaped rear end
  • Sloping roofline
  • Raked C-pillar
  • Same wheelbase and width as the regular Atlas, but shorter and lower
  • Sculpted hood
  • Fake exhausts
  • Chrome detailing
left right
The VW Atlas Cross Sport will logically sit on the same Modular Transverse Matrix architecture, also known as MQB, but overall, it’s a tad smaller than the seven-seat Atlas.

In fact, the whole reason the Cross Sport exists in the first place, according to VW, is that the carmaker saw “an opportunity for a five-seater model that offers even more style and almost as much interior space.” Well, not really, since the Cross Sport shaves off the third row of seats, doesn’t it? But we’ll get to that.

In any case, the regular Atlas is 198.3 inches long, 78.3 inches wide, and 70 inches high with a wheelbase of 117.3 inches. The Cross Sport version, on the other hand, keeps the same wheelbase length but is 2.8 inches shorter at 195.5 inches. What’s more, the Cross Sport is also 2.3 lower than the regular Atlas (you’ll have to thank the SUV-coupe shape for that), coming in at 67.7 inches high. The width stays the same at 78.3 inches.

Visually speaking, the Atlas came to the market with styling cues that almost sent a macho vibe.

We particularly liked the headlight cluster design and the strong, very sculpted character line that runs on the side of the vehicle, creating a shadow band underneath it while leaving natural light do its thing above, in what looks and is a very nice effect to have on a car.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866384

For the Atlas Cross Sport, Volkswagen based the better part of the design work on the original Atlas, but it also applied some tweaks here and there. For example, the front grille gets a three-bar design (with added chrome, of course), and the light clusters are not grouped in a square-y shape anymore, but extend towards the wheel arches, amplifying the width of the entire front end. The front bumper was also tweaked with two or three drops of aggressiveness, while the hood looks more sculpted than what we normally get in the regular Atlas.

Viewed from the side, the Atlas Cross Sport reveals its SUV-coupe nature the best.

The rear pillar has been steeply raked, thus lending a hand in creating that hatch-like rear end. The rear bumper is also slightly redesigned to keep up the pace with the one in the front, there are more chrome-y bits and bobs attached to the lower body sides, and we’re told that R-Line trims are going to feature even more pronounced body sculpting and a mix of chrome and Piano Black elements around the lower air scoops, plus 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866373

It’s also worth mentioning that the Atlas has fake rectangular exhausts - black plastic and chrome bits are used to mimic the real deal, basically - and by the looks of it, the Cross Sport has them too, albeit enlarged and split in the middle, as if VW’s designers were trying to replicate a quad-exhaust setup. Not cool, Volkswagen, not cool.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Interior

  • Same cabin topography as the regular Atlas
  • More legroom on the second row of seats
  • Seating capacity of five
  • 40.3 cu ft of cargo space
  • New steering wheel
  • Volkswagen Digital Cockpit offered as an option
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866364
This is where the Atlas Cross Sport sees most of the changes compared to the regular Atlas, and they work twofold, both in terms of design and practicality.

The later is dictated by the 118.8 cubic feet worth of passenger space. Moreover, VW is quick to praise the Cross Sport’s luggage space available behind the second row of seats (40.3 cubic feet), which can be further extended (to 77.8 cubic feet) by folding down the seats. There’s no third row of seats, and you can’t specify one since VW was clear that the Cross Sport is the five-seat version of the Atlas. These are all the figures we get so far when it comes to the Cross Sport’s practicality prowess, but as usual, it’s worth having a look at what the regular Atlas has to offer.

For example, the passenger volume inside the seven-seat Atlas is 153.7 cubic feet, which is a lot more generous than what the Cross Sport has to offer, regardless of what VW’s PR talk might try to suggest. Now, it’s safe to assume that headroom, shoulder room, hip room, and legroom remain unaltered for the first row of seats, so the ratings we’re looking at are 41.3 inches, 61.5 inches, 58.2 inches, and 41.5 inches, respectively.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866360
Things will definitely change for the Cross Sport’s second row of seats.

In the regular Atlas, headroom is 40.4 inches, shoulder room comes in at 60.8 inches, hip room is rated at 58 inches, and legroom is 37.6 inches. With the addition of the sloping roof and the hatch-like rear coupled with the complete deletion of the third row of seats, it’s headroom and shoulder room that are likely to suffer. Since the two models share the same wheelbase and width, we expect hip room to remain unchanged. Legroom in the second row of seats, however, goes up to 40.4 inches, which is great if you’re traveling in the rear seats, especially for longer trips.

Design-wise, don’t expect the Cross Sport’s cabin to look that much different. Volkswagen does say that it tweaked the interior a bit, which is only natural but not by much. In this regard, the Cross Sport will feature a new steering wheel with more buttons, contrast stitching for the seats and door inserts, as well as wireless mobile charging.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866392

Optionally, customers will be able to specify the heated rear seats and the heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades, and the 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System that’s also offered on the regular Atlas. What’s more, the Cross Sport will also offer the VW Digital Cockpit on higher trims (SEL and SEL Premium, that is). Otherwise, the cabin topography is identical to what we get from the regular Atlas.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Drivetrain

  • Two engines available
  • 2.0-liter turbo inline-four with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft
  • 3.6-liter V-6 cranks out 276 hp and 266 lb-ft
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission on all models
  • Both engines can be married to VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive
  • Four predefined AWD settings: Onroad, Snow, Offroad, Custom Offroad
  • Towing capacity of 5,000 lb for the V-6 models fitted with the Towing Pack
2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 711946
Volkswagen says that the new Atlas Cross Sport will be available with the same engine duo found inside the seven-seat Atlas.

These mills are a 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged and intercooled FSI gasoline unit, and a 3.6-liter V-6 badged VR6 with a cylinder angle of 10.6 degrees. Both engines are obviously front- and transversely-mounted on the chassis, but the V-6 is offered with either a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive architecture inside the Atlas, which is interesting because VW now says that the Cross Sport will also get all-wheel drive. The sole transmission choice is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

On the oomph front, the single-scroll-turbo 2.0-liter mill is good for 235 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from as low as 1,600 rpm, while the V-6 cranks out 276 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 266 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm. As we mentioned earlier, the Cross Sport can be specified with AWD regardless of the engine choice. Here, Volkswagen offers the 4MOTION permanent all-wheel-drive setup that incorporates a clutch-pack center differential, adaptive torque distribution, and four pre-defined settings: Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. Onroad comes with additional presets, such as Normal, Sport, Comfort, and Individual. These alter the working parameters for the engine, transmission, and steering, but they also fine-tune the likes of hill descent assist, hill start assist, and adaptive cruise control.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866363
V-6 Atlas models fitted with the V6 Towing Package can pull up to 5,000 pounds.

There’s no word on 2.0-liter models, but we know from the regular Atlas that they can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport specifications
Engine 2.0L inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged/intercooled, FSI 3.6L VR6
Bore 3.25 in 3.50 in
Stroke 3.65 in 3.80 in
Compression Ratio 9.6:1 12.0:1
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 235 @ 4500 276 @ 6200
Maximum torque, lb-ft @ rpm 258 @ 1600 266 @ 2750
Towing 2000 lb 2000-5000 lb

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Pricing

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866356

There’s no word on pricing yet, but VW says the new Atlas Cross Sport will be offered in eight trim levels. That’s right, eight: S, SE, SE with the Tech package, SE R-Line with the Tech package, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line. Official details on price and whatnot are expected to surface ahead of the model’s market launch, which will take place in spring 2020.

VW builds the Atlas Cross Sport on the same production line that churns out the regular Atlas and the Passat sedan at the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Competition

Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer
- image 784490

The Chevrolet Blazer was introduced in 2018 as a lifestyle SUV of sorts. It slots between Chevy’s Equinox and Traverse SUVs and places a lot of emphasis on Camaro-inspired looks. Size-wise, the Blazer sits on a 112.7-inch wheelbase and stretches to 191.4 inches in length. The Blazer is 76.7 inches wide and 67 inches high.

For the Blazer, Chevrolet is offering three engine choices. The first one is a 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged powerplant that makes 235 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque between 1,450 rpm and 3,500 rpm. Numero dos is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit that’s shared with the Colorado, GMC Canyon, and GMC Acadia. The unit makes 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. Those who believe they need more grunt have the option of picking the 3.6-liter V-6 unit, which is set up to produce 308 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Every model uses a nine-speed automatic transmission to handle the engine’s resources.

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer

Hyundai Santa Fe

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 781625

Without bringing so much visual drama as the Chevy Blazer, the Hyundai Santa Fe is another good looking alternative to the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. The Santa Fe is 187 inches long, 75 inches wide, and its wheelbase measures 108.9 inches.

Engine-wise, the Santa Fe can be had in three variants, powered by two petrol units and one diesel mill. The oil burner displaces 2.2 liters and generates 190 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 322 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 rpm and 2,500 rpm. The smaller gasoline engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged unit good for 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, while another choice is a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated mill that churns out 285 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 178 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Regardless of what engine you pick, it marries to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which can also be specified with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Read our full review on the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Final Thoughts

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
- image 866366

There’s no doubt that Volkswagen is looking to supplement its income with the Atlas Cross Sport by letting it do battle in a segment that’s booming at the moment. Ignore the Sport in the SUV-coupe’s nameplate, though, because there’s nothing sporty about VW’s five-seat version of the larger seven-seat Atlas. Sure, if it follows in the footsteps of the regular version, the Cross Sport will offer above-average levels of comfort, space, and storage solutions, but don’t expect it to release endorphins upon acceleration or carve corners like a hot hatch. It simply won’t do that.

It’s also worth noted that while VW’s clientele doesn’t care too much about the look of its cars, the Atlas Cross Sport - while nicely proportioned - doesn’t feature that design uniqueness seen in the Blazer or Santa Fe. So we’ll refrain from speculative on whether the new Atlas Cross Sport will become a huge hit - time and sales reports will tell that above everything else.

  • Leave it
    • Bland looks
    • Just another SUV-coupe
    • Regular Atlas is much better at serving your family
    • Meh to drive
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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