When the suits at Wolfsburg met to decide on a name for the new three-row, seven-seater SUV aimed specifically at the American market, the ‘Atlas’ tag would have been approved pretty much unanimously. No other name embodies the magnitude of responsibility that this new SUV carries on its shoulders. With its reputation tarnished considerably following the Dieselgate affair, the German carmaker needed something big to lure Americans. And it believes the Atlas is that big something.
At 5,037mm long, 1,979mm wide and 1,768mm tall, the 2018 Atlas is bigger than any other Volkswagen on sale in North America, and incidentally is even bigger than its current large SUV, the Touareg. And while the Toureg and the smaller Tiguan are built elsewhere, the Atlas will be built at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the new Passat is also built. So, this is a Volkswagen that’s been designed for America, and built in America. If that doesn’t please Americans nothing would. Volkswagen doesn’t try to hide its intentions either. “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,” says Hinrich J. Woebcken, VW’s CEO of the North America region. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”
Despite its large dimensions, the Atlas is built on the same MQB architecture that underpins smaller cars like the Golf and the Audi A3, which has also seen use in the recently launched Skoda Kodiaq SUV. Naturally, the generous proportions translate to substantial amounts of space in the cabin, which VW says will seat seven in comfort.
Obviously, no diesel engines here, with the two powertrain options on offer being a 238bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and a 3.6-litre V6 that’s good for 280bhp, both mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of design, with the lines being typically boxy and restrained like most other cars from the brand.
It also packs a host of connectivity options including integration with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link, as well as driver assistance features adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, blind spot monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Assist, and Park Assist among others.
The Atlas is set to go on sale in the US early next year.