Volkswagen Reveals All-New 2018 Atlas Seven-Seat SUV
Tennessee-Built Atlas Offers Stylish Alternative to Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot
Tonight, Volkswagen finally revealed the rumored and anticipated seven-seat crossover it has been working on for years. The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, which is the brand’s first seven-passenger SUV, will challenge industry stalwarts like the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot for the hearts and pocketbooks of stylish American families.
Inspired by the CrossBlue Concept that first bowed at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, the VW Atlas will be powered by one of two engines. The base powerplant will be a direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0L I-4 producing a respectable 238 hp, while a 280hp 3.6L VR6 engine will be optional. Both will come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and 4Motion all-wheel drive will be optional with the VR6, with front-wheel drive standard.
The interior of the Atlas is respectably spacious and adaptable, and Volkswagen claims the rear seat is big enough for two adults. Furthermore, accessing the third row will be made easier by a second-row seat that folds out of the way even when a child seat is installed, much like the Nissan Latch and Glide system in use on the Pathfinder. Volkswagen Digital Cockpit will be available on the Atlas, marking the first time such technology will appear on a U.S.-market VW. We’ve sampled a version of the reconfigurable instrument display on Audi vehicles, and it’s very user-friendly and technologically impressive. If the illustration is any indicator VW will allow Atlas owners to turn the dash instruments into a giant navigation screen, as is possible on Audis.
At 198.3 inches long, 77.9 inches wide, and 69.6 inches high, the 2018 Atlas is about as large as its competition from Ford, Honda, and Nissan, although we personally think it’s the best-looking family crossover out there. Its blocky styling does it many favors, and we love the strong, horizontal character lines that connect the front and rear wheel arches. Its front end looks very similar to that of the CrossBlue, and the W-shaped LED accent lamps suit the SUV well. On the whole, the conservatively styled Atlas is handsome and attractive, and although it isn’t terribly attention-grabbing, it will age well and look good for years to come.
Inside, it’s a similar story. Horizontally oriented wood trim, a widescreen center stack display, and simple, clean lines give the Atlas a very roomy feel up front. The light interior colors on Volkswagen’s cover model further the sense of spaciousness, as do the large side windows. Simplicity is the order of the day, with no whiz-bang fashion cues to either enliven or clutter the interior. If the interior styling is vanilla, at least it’s vanilla done well.
Volkswagen is hitting safety hard in its publicity of the 2018 Atlas. Foremost among its standard features is Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which applies the brakes if a crash is detected. Such a system helps slow the vehicle to prevent or reduce the severity of secondary collisions, which can sometimes be even more damaging than the first collision. Available features include adaptive cruise control and forward collision monitoring, which both provide automatic emergency braking if needed, while an optional lane-departure prevention system will gently steer the Atlas back into its lane if the driver wanders too close to the edge. Blind-spot monitoring is also available, as is an active parking assistant.
Built on the company’s MQB platform, the Atlas will share bones with the forthcoming 2018 Tiguan. Such platform-sharing should help Volkswagen keep costs in check for the Atlas, and although it hasn’t released pricing information just yet, the company claims each of the five trim levels will be “priced for the heart of the competitive SUV market.” Production starts at the end of the year, with the first Atlas SUVs hitting dealerships in 2017.
The Atlas will be built in Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, manufacturing facility, a plant that currently builds the Passat sedan. Volkswagen affirmed its commitment to Chattanooga (and the Atlas) last year, debunking concerns the SUV project would be scrapped amid the company’s diesel emissions crisis. The 512,886-square-foot expansion will add about 2,000 jobs to the factory. Furthermore, according to the University of Tennessee, the SUV could bring up to 9,800 new jobs to the state, thanks to increased spending from the company.