Despite all the negative publicity it garnered following the Dieselgate emissions scandal, the Volkswagen juggernaut is charging ahead at a rate of knots, emerging as the world’s largest automaker last year. However, while it has most of the bases covered in the light vehicles department, the Volkswagen Group didn’t have many convincing three-row SUVs to boast of other than the premium Audi Q7. Seeing that rival manufacturers that are close on its heels in terms of global sales such as Toyota and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have a clear advantage in this all-important segment, the German behemoth also took the large SUV plunge in early 2017, that too under its bread-and-butter VW badge.
Dubbed Atlas in the crucial American market, and called Teramont in the equally vital Middle East markets, the first seven-seater Volkswagen is built in the brand’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. This is part of its efforts to project the ‘designed and built for America’ image just like it did with the current Passat. This strategy might not have worked any magic for the Passat, but the Teramont has generated quite a lot of interest in its main markets. With passenger car sales slowing down, and SUVs making up the bulk of every automaker’s sales numbers, the Teramont has allowed Volkswagen to be more in line with customer demand.
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Visually, the Teramont is unmistakably Volkswagen, building on the brand’s current design language that goes for a bold fascia and angular, brawny lines all around. The design takes inspiration from the CrossBlue concept vehicle from 2013, and underpinning the clean, characteristically Volkswagen sheet metal is the group’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture. At 5,036mm long, 1,978mm wide and 1,769mm high, the Teramont is comparable in dimensions to its main rivals and is the largest German offering in this segment. The wide grille, standard LED headlights and the flared fenders all combine to provide the SUV a distinctively muscular stance that sets it apart from its competitors, most of whom have relatively more smooth flowing, typically soft-roader lines.
The clean styling of the exterior is carried over to the cabin as well, with a layout that is intuitive and clutter-free. The 8.0-inch infotainment interface is well positioned and easy to read and navigate, but the screen is a fingerprint magnet, so those with OCD will do well to carry a couple of sheets of chamois leather or microfibre cloth in the glovebox. For all the ergonomic quality of the cabin, the interior feels a bit too conservative, especially in comparison with the relatively more plush appointments seen in rival models. However, what is lost is flair is compensated in the practicality department, with all three rows of the Atlas offering passenger room that’s better than the segment average. The second row provides flexible adjustments to enable convenient ingress and egress for occupants of the third row, which is also reasonably spacious. As with the case with other vehicles in this class, it’s better to leave the last row of seats for children.
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Adding to its practicality are several cup holders, bottle holders, storage nets and cargo containers and 12V, USB and auxiliary inputs for the first two rows. The Teramont boasts a maximum cargo volume of 2,741 litres with just the first row seats up, which comes down to a still decent 1,571 litres with just the third row folded and 583 litres with all seats up.
Our test car is equipped with the 3.6-litre V6 engine that’s good for 280 horsepower with 360Nm of torque, while lower trim variants are available with a 220 horsepower, 350Nm 2.0-litre turbo powertrain. In both variants, power is sent to the wheels through a 4Motion, eight-speed automatic transmission with four drive modes including On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road. The V6 is smooth and quiet, and with a payload of two adults and two kids, it didn’t struggle at all in any situation. Although the Teramont isn’t meant for extreme off-roading, with its decent ground clearance and the solid fourwheel drive system, it will surely be up to most off-road tasks if the need arises. Leg and back support is good in the front and second row seats, and the quiet cabin and solid suspension add to the overall ride quality which is as refined as any in the segment. Safety and convenience systems abound, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, front and rear Park Distance Control, Park Assist; High Beam Control and Area View.
Launched in the Middle East last year, the Teramont is significantly late to the three-row SUV party, as the segment’s spoils are already being shared by veteran players like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and the Mazda CX-9. With Hyundai and Kia set to join the fray with the Palisade and the Telluride respectively, the fight for a slice of the market share is going to be particularly tough. But the good thing is the Teramont turns out to be as strong a contender as any of the above-mentioned stalwarts in terms of build quality, practicality, performance and looks. Those who have had a preference for the Volkswagen brand or wanted a German brand in general but never had the option will definitely go for it. Prices in the UAE start at Dh137,100 and go up to Dh189,950.