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2018 Volkswagen Atlas: Our View
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By: Cars.com On: 10-31-2017 Model(s): The newest vehicle from Volkswagen is also its biggest: the aptly named 2018 Atlas. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Author Experience: Expert review

The newest vehicle from Volkswagen is also its biggest: the aptly named 2018 Atlas. Why does the name fit so well? Because its cavernous interior can carry passengers and cargo better than anything in its class.

The Atlas competes in a crowded segment of three-row SUVs that are a step below full-size, truck-based behemoths like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition. Its rivals include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. Compare the Atlas with those vehicles here.

I tested two versions of the Atlas, both with the optional V-6 engine and all-wheel drive: an SEL (priced at $43,615 including destination charges) and an SEL Premium ($49,415), the Atlas' top trim level.

There are two engines available for the Atlas: The base engine is a 235-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 258 pounds-feet of torque. Both models I drove were equipped with the optional 276-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 266 pounds-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available on V-6 models.

I found the V-6 to be underwhelming. It doesn't feel like it has quite enough oomph to propel the Atlas' considerable girth with ease. It strains a bit during merges and passing maneuvers, but I found the transmission to be a willing kickdown partner in those instances.

In her video review, fellow editor Jennifer Geiger faulted the Atlas' steering, saying it was too light on center — especially at speed, where keeping the SUV centered in its lane was difficult. I agree with her assessment; the steering wheel feels like it belongs on a smaller vehicle. However, thanks to the Atlas' individual drive settings, I found a happy medium: I set the steering to Sport, which adds some heft, while keeping the powertrain at its Normal setting (the accelerator is too twitchy in Sport).

Fuel-economy ratings vary widely by engine. Four-cylinder models are EPA-rated 22/26/24 mpg city/highway/combined, beating FWD V-6 models (18/25/20 mpg) by a fair margin. AWD V-6 models come in slightly behind that, at 17/23/19 mpg. Both engines use regular gasoline. These figures lag most of the competition: The Toyota Highlander with a V-6 engine and all-wheel drive gets an estimated 20/26/22 mpg.

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