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Car Reviews / 11-22-18

2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: A Jetta on steroids


By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Isabel N. Delos Reyes

 

Technically, the current Audi Q7 uses the biggest chassis in the Volkswagen family. And even when the all-new Touareg arrives next year it will use the corporate MLB chassis shared with the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7/Q8. So, the largest vehicle that Volkswagen builds with the fully stretched-out MQB chassis shared with the more modest models is the all-new three-row full-size crossover, the Atlas. The Atlas is the biggest Volkswagen ever sold in North America, perhaps that is why they chose the name, but the model will hardly carry the brand on its own shoulders despite its namesake. The Golf and Jetta carry that burden.

Having said that, I am sure the Atlas will be a commercial success, unlike the short-lived Routan mini-van that Volkswagen rebranded from Chrysler to try to penetrate the multi-purpose vehicle market. The Atlas, thus far, has only been targeted and engineered directly for the North American (United States, Canada, and Mexico) market and Chinese market with the Teramont moniker, and it is huge. Well, it looks even larger because of its boxy design but it is genuinely cavernous. Unlike a Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Tahoe that has a larger body than what area it actually generates inside, the Atlas fully exploits its cabin real estate. All three rows are spacious, while the critical third row is the most expansive in the segment closely matching that of a Ford Expedition. The seat designs, wrapped in V-tex leatherette, are not exciting; they are in fact quite dull, though they are reasonably comfortable. Our SE with Technology package test unit did not have the 4MOTION all-wheel drive, VW’s version of Audi’s digital Virtual Cockpit, or the 12-speaker Fender audio system, but it did have the excellent signature LED headlights, 3-zone climate control, the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen (up from 6.5 inches) with 8-speakers, and most driver-assist features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, forward-collision, blind-spot, and parking.

The Atlas drives and feels like a Jetta on steroids. There is a lot of familiarity in the interior design and switchgear but unlike its smaller stablemates, the Atlas uses too much cheaper plastics and unattractive phony wood on the dashboard and door panels that only resembles color tone and nothing else.

Thankfully, most of the high-quality driving characteristics of Volkswagen were injected into the Atlas. There is no denying that the 276 bhp V6 engine isn’t healthy, but given the size of the Atlas, perhaps a stronger 2.0-liter turbo could have been used at this scale. The entry-level models do use the ubiquitous EA888 turbocharged 2.0-liter tuned with 235 bhp and 258 lb-ft of torque, so a more potent version from the Golf R, for example, would make up the power and torque deficit without increasing too much cost and weight while extending fuel efficiency.

The ride is actually too compliant and exhibits way too much body roll. The excessive roll is one thing but I think the calibration of the suspension damping could still be improved further to truly handle like a Volkswagen instead of an old Buick Skylark. The Atlas definitely does not feel flimsy or fragile but because it is a Volkswagen, it should still meet the higher expectations of refinement. The handling was mostly predictable and secure, just a touch too clumsy for the brand. The 18-inch alloys on our Reflex Silver Metallic colored test unit were not the most attractive either. Thankfully, the Continental Crosscontact LX Sport 245/60R18 105T tires do what they can to keep the Atlas on its intended path. The brakes are appropriately competent but use regular components from the parts bin rather than the Brembo® units used in the Touareg. The smooth Tiptronic® 8-speed automatic gearbox performed very well and does use the most out of the peppy V6. In the end, Volkswagen does have a winner with its first gargantuan crossover, there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, but it will serve its purpose accordingly in the North American market. It can only get better from this strong starting point.

Specifications

Engine

EngineV8
Displacement3,597cc
Cylinder HeadDOHC 24V
Fuel InjectorDirect Injection, VVT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm)276 bhp at 6200 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)266 lb ft at 2750 rpm
Transmission8-speed Automatic

Performance

Top Speed192 km/h (Governed)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph8.1 seconds

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l)18 mpg City / 25 mpg Highway

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP)US$ 38,015.00
What's GreatMaximum space in its class, a lot of value, distinctively different.
What's Not SoThe AWD model is the one to have, handling could be better, abundant cost-saving measures
C! Editors Rating9/10