Seven-seat VW Atlas SUV unveiled in the US

Published: 28 October 2016

► New US-market Volkswagen Atlas SUV unveiled
► Seven-seat VW SUV on sale in spring 2017
► No diesel option, unsurprisingly…

If you want a safe bet for a sales success in the States, you can’t go far wrong with big three-row SUV with all-wheel drive. That said, a seven-seat SUV has always been curiously absent from Volkswagen’s US line-up – despite an ever-present demand for one.

Come spring 2017, however, Volkswagen will finally start producing what its customers have long been asking for – a new seven-seat SUV, called the Atlas, which will fit neatly into a rapidly growing sector. Consider it a timely riposte to the slump in VW’s US sales, following the diesel emissions scandal...

What’s the VW Atlas based on?

The Atlas is underpinned by VW’s MQB architecture, which is also used in – among myriad others – the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq, the Passat and the Ateca.

It’s very much a US-market model, in more ways in one, as it’s even bigger than the aforementioned Kodiaq. Despite the platform sharing and similar concept, the Atlas is 5.04m long, 1.98m wide and 1.77m tall.

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

That’s 34cm longer, 10cm wider and 9cm taller than the Skoda – which isn’t a small car by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s hoping those substantial exterior dimensions translate into decent interior space.

Besides being an American-market model, the new Atlas is also built in the US – at the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly plant in (you guessed it) Chattanooga, Tennessee. That, no doubt, will go some way to uplifting VW’s standings in the American marketplace.

What engine options will there be?

Buyers will be able to pick between two engines. The entry-level choice is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol which produces 238bhp.

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

The more interesting option is a 280bhp 3.6-litre VR6 – often referred to as a V6, these days, by VW and the media alike – lifted from the VAG parts bin. 

Don’t get your hopes up for a manual SUV (in metallic brown, no doubt); there’s only one transmission option, and that’s an eight-speed automatic.  

Is the Atlas all-wheel drive?

The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol version of the Atlas is front-wheel drive only. VR6 variants of the Atlas, however, are available with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

As is the case with many cars featuring the system, the 4Motion offers a host of modes – allowing the driver to tailor the Atlas’ responses to the conditions.

What the interior like? 

Reputedly large enough to comfortable accommodate seven adults, while the boot’s claimed to be vast enough to store all their luggage, too. VW says that an as-yet unspecified ‘innovative’ access system allows access to the third row, even with child seats fitted to the second row. 

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

Volkswagen’s kept the design of the dash fairly simple, in order to cut down on the number of distractions and make the Atlas easier to live with. For example, it retains conventional control knobs for the climate controls – no fiddly touchscreen-based temperature controls here… 

What equipment will be offered? 

Exact specifications are yet to be confirmed, but standard-fit kit for the Atlas include LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, and buyers will be able to opt for matching LED tail lights.

Volkswagen will be offering its modern-looking Digital Cockpit system as an option, too, along with a range of assistance systems – including adaptive cruise control and parking assistance.

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

Other upgrades include Volkswagen’s Car-Net media system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and a 12-speaker Fender sound system.

Anything else I need to know?

Volkswagen says the new SUV will offer class-leading technology and room (well, we’d be surprised if it said otherwise), and that it will offer ‘hallmark’ Volkswagen dynamics. Initial reports of prototype drives suggest it behaves much like a Passat, which is no bad thing for an easy-going SUV. Pricing’s yet to be confirmed, but it’s claimed to be competitive for the segment.

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

Five trim levels will be offered when the Atlas goes on sale, in the US market, in spring 2017 – and more details will be made available closer to the car’s launch.

‘This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven,’ said Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of the North America region for Volkswagen.

‘The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.’ 

If you’re in the UK or Europe and want a seven-seat VW SUV, however, fear not – there’s a new three-row version of the Tiguan on the way, dubbed the Tiguan XL.

Read more Volkswagen news here

Volkswagen Atlas SUV

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car