Volkswagen has unveiled a new seven-passenger sport utility for the North American market. The 2018 Atlas will be the largest vehicle made by VW in North America and aims squarely at the high-profit large SUV segment, but with a V-dub twist.
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is a very large vehicle, by VW standards, sitting above their Tiguan and Tuareg crossover models as a full-sized, seven-passenger SUV. The production Atlas will measure 198.3 inches in length, 77.9 inches in width, and 69.6 inches in height (503.7 x 197.9 x 176.8 cm), about 10 inches longer and two inches taller than the Tuareg. As a full-sized SUV, the Atlas will compete in one of the most profitable segments in the United States, but takes a slightly different tack in its aim for appeal.
Most sport utilities are marketed as either muscular, utilitarian machines that are capable of doing anything or as refined, near-luxury family haulers with get-anywhere credibility. VW seems to have taken a cue from its German neighbors in the luxury segment, BMW, and created a more active lifestyle bent to the new Atlas. Renderings from Volkswagen showing design attributes of the 2018 Atlas include cargo spaces configured to haul surfboards, paddleboards, and scuba gear.
In terms of style, all of the V-dub design cues from current-generation vehicles are found on the Atlas, including the straight body lines and a thin, sport-minded grille. Exterior elements such as the standard LED headlights and daytime running lights are a part of this new-generation VW look.
Emphasis for the unveiling of the 2018 VW Atlas was on the interior experience, however. The general design of the front driver and passenger position and dash will be familiar to those who've spent time in the Tuareg crossover, with a design that appears to be mainly about straight lines and clean intersections rather than on an open cabin feel. Several differences are apparent, especially at the squared center stack and in the lifted, more angular dashboard lines.
The second row bench is simple, but adjustable. As is now becoming standard in the segment, VW engineered the second row outboard seats to rock forward for easier access to the third row without requiring removal of child safety seats installed in that second row. The third row is two captain's-style chairs made, Volkswagen says, to accommodate full-grown adults. Seating is situated high, riding over the rear axle, so we aren't sure how comfortable those seats will be, though the obvious legroom advantages are apparent. The second row is a 60/40 split-fold that allows multiple cargo options.
Powering the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas will be one of two engine options. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs 238 horsepower (177.4 kW) or a 3.6-liter 280-horsepower (208.7 kW) V6. An eight-speed automatic transmission will be standard equipment, as will be front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive will be available for the V6 option. The AWD (called "4Motion") option will include weather/terrain driving mode selections. VW promises fuel economy numbers ahead of the 2018 Atlas' production release in early 2017.
In addition to powertrain options, trim levels (as yet unspecified) will carry various driver-assistance and infotainment technologies. Volkswagen Car-Net connected services will be available for the Atlas, giving App-Connect smartphone access as standard. Integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink are also to be available. As with other VW models, premium audio will be from Fender. Driver-assistance features will include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and parking assistance with semi-automated parking.
Exclusive to Volkswagen and available on the Atlas will be the company's innovative Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. The system applies the brakes immediately after an impact, minimizing the vehicles' movements post-impact to reduce vehicle movement after-impact as well as reduce kinetic energy from the impact rebound. Both of which, Volkswagen says, can reduce collision injuries to passengers.
The 2018 VW Atlas will be manufactured at the carmaker's Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant in the US, which has been expanded specifically to undertake this task.