Competition is stiff when it comes to three-row SUVs. The segment is crowded with top-sellers including the Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. To keep up with the competition, Volkswagen has refreshed its 2024 Atlas three-row SUV and its smaller two-row sibling, the Atlas Cross Sport midsize SUV. Among the changes, a more refined interior, extra safety and convenience features and a revised two-litre turbocharged in-line four that’s more fuel efficient yet more powerful than the outgoing turbo four-cylinder engine.
For 2024, Volkswagen also dumped the previous 3.6-litre V6 engine in the Atlas. The only engine available now in the new models that start at just under $50,000 is the revised turbo, which delivers 269 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque versus the outgoing four cylinder’s 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This fourth generation turbo engine produces similar power to the old V6, which pumped out 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Yet, it can still tow up to 5,000 pounds. The fuel economy figures have improved slightly – on the 2024 seven seater it ranges from 10.8 litres to 11.5 litres combined city and highway driving (depending on the trim level) compared to the 2023′s 10.9 litres (turbo four) and 11.9 litres (V6) combined driving.
For 2024, Volkswagen didn’t opt for a plug-in hybrid or conventional hybrid like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or the Toyota Highlander hybrid. “For the plug-ins or full EVs, we’ve got some plans in place that I probably shouldn’t be talking about right now... We decided for our Atlas we’re going to keep it gasoline power for now,” said Thomas Tetzlaff, manager of public relations at Volkswagen Canada during the first drive of the Atlas in Saugerties, N.Y.
The Atlas three-row, seven-passenger SUV was first revealed in October of 2016 with deliveries in 2017. The two-row, five-passenger Atlas Cross Sport followed a few years later. Since 2017, more than 564,000 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sports have been sold across North America – more than 62,000 in Canada.
“Our turnaround story in North America is largely due to the Atlas and the Atlas Cross Sport. The Atlas family is an important economic engine for us … it’s our biggest seller, it’s our most profitable vehicle and more importantly it allows us to expand the plant in Tennessee,” said Cameron Batten, chief communications officer at Volkswagen North America Region. To date, the automaker has invested $1.24-billion in its Chattanooga, Tenn. plant to build the Atlas.
Driving along with scenic back streets of the Catskill Mountains, the Atlas felt heavy and strained at times. When pushed, the engine whined and was slow to accelerate. But the smaller Atlas Cross Sport felt more comfortable, stable and secure. Along sweeping roads, it was more agile and nimble with pleasant road manners and a relatively quiet cabin. The eight-speed automatic also shifted gears smoothly. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, standard on all trims, provided excellent traction on the rain-slicked roads.
While the seven-seater Atlas is the same height, width, length and roughly the same weight as the outgoing Atlas, everything below the hood line is new including the grille, LED headlights and taillights and wheel and tire options. But the biggest improvement is inside. With more soft-touch materials and less hard plastic surfaces, it elevates the look and feel of the cabin. All seating positions are comfortable, too, with plenty of head room even for passengers who are six-feet tall. One drawback, though, is the new touchscreen. It is too high tech and makes simple commands complicated. There are no traditional volume or climate control buttons or knobs; unfortunately they’re replaced with touch-sensitive controls and sliders that can be fickle and frustrating to operate. Trying to find items on the touchscreen requires time, focus and often multiple steps to complete simple tasks, which often draws your attention away from the road. At least, VW has a voice-activated personal assistant to help with some tasks. It understood when I said, “Hello Volkswagen. I’m hot.” It knew where I was sitting and which side wanted a cooler setting, adjusting the temperature accordingly. But it wasn’t as advanced as some competitors like Mercedes-Benz’s personal assistant. It couldn’t complete tasks such as opening the sunshade roller or turning on the wiper blades. But it is still impressive technology.
The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport starts at $48,895; while the Atlas SUV is $49,995. They’re expected to arrive at Canadian dealerships in a few weeks.
- 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport
- Base price: $49,995 for the Atlas; $48,895 for the Atlas Cross Sport (plus $2,050 destination and delivery)
- Engine: two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 269 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic transmission / All-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 12.2-13 (city) and 9.2-9.7 (highway) depending on Atlas trim; Atlas Cross Sport is 12.2 (city) and 9.2 (highway)
- Alternatives: Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Mitsubishi Outlander
Attractive sleek exterior body especially on the Atlas Cross Sport. I love the refreshed new grille, front bumper, LED headlights/taillights, new wheel and tire options, extended rear spoiler and available illuminated VW logo and full width panel across the front and rear tailgate.
Spacious interior with a more premium look and feel owing to diamond-quilted leather seats on my tester and available ambient lighting in 30 colours. While the second-row seat tilts and slides forward, even with child seats in place, to make it easier to access the third row, it still is a bit awkward and tricky to get inside. But when you’re in the third row, it’s comfortable and doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
This fourth generation turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets more power and improved fuel economy. Yet, it can still tow up to 5,000 pounds. Not surprising, the Atlas Cross Sport has better ride and handling and is more agile than its big brother, the Atlas three-row SUV.
Even the base model is well-equipped with standard safety and convenience technology including lane-keep assist, rear traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go features and emergency assist, LED headlights and LED taillights, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and ventilated leatherette front seats.
Decent cargo space. With all three rows of seats in use, there’s about 584 litres of space. If you need more space, the second- and third- row seats fold flat. They’re not power operated, but they’re easy to fold. The Atlas Cross Sport has about 1,141 litres of cargo space behind the second-row seats.
Attractive new touches in styling along with a more powerful and fuel efficient turbocharged engine elevates the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Sport Cross. But it still may be tough to take on top-selling competitors like the Toyota Highlander, which also comes in a hybrid.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.