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MSRP: $30,750 - 48,740

8.4

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.6
Performance: 8.0
Interior: 8.8
Safety: 9.8
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Review

The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is VW's first 3-row SUV and the largest vehicle it sells. It ranks in the top half of the crowded midsize SUV class. The Atlas doesn’t offer much more than lower-priced rivals, though it does provide generous passenger and cargo space and a long list of standard and available features.

Pros & Cons

  • Spacious seating – even in the third row
  • Large cargo area
  • Drives smaller than it is 
  • Bland interior
  • V6 sometimes struggles for power

Is the Volkswagen Atlas a Good SUV?

The Atlas is a suitable SUV for families, but many competitors are just as good – and they cost less. The Atlas isn’t without its advantages, however. It can easily fit your family, a pet, and all your cargo. Moreover, the seats are comfortable and supportive. It has tons of connectivity features for your smartphone, and the infotainment system is easy to use. As for performance, this midsize SUV handles like a smaller vehicle. Still, its base engine feels underpowered on the highway, especially when fully loaded with passengers and cargo. The available engine is better but still doesn’t deliver the punch you would expect for highway driving. The Atlas' cabin, while well-made, is dull-looking and includes some hard plastics.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen Atlas?

If you're constantly carpooling, the Atlas is a comfortable and spacious choice in the midsize SUV class. For highway driving, however, it's less than ideal, even with the available V6 engine. The Atlas has an above-average starting price for the class, but it comes with a good number of standard amenities, including smartphone integration and a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system. Its available features list is even longer, with notable extras like forward collision monitoring and navigation. Its interior is made of mostly nice finishes, but it has a somewhat boring design. Overall, the Atlas doesn’t hold many significant benefits over most of its competitors.

Should I Buy a New or Used Volkswagen Atlas?

The Atlas is brand new for 2018, so there are no previous model years to choose from.

We Did the Research for You: 22 Reviews Analyzed

We researched and analyzed 22 professional reviews and combined that analysis with information like EPA estimates, performance specs, available safety features, and much more to create this comprehensive 2018 Volkswagen Atlas review.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. We use that knowledge to craft expert reviews that answer your most pressing car-buying questions. To ensure our objectivity, our editorial staff does not accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all of the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Volkswagen Atlas Cost?

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas starts at $30,750, which is above average among its midsize SUV rivals. For that price, you get a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The V6 model starts at $32,150, and all-wheel drive (only available with the V6) can be had for an additional $1,800. The top trim, the SEL Premium with 4Motion, starts at $48,740. For a closer look at each trim and its standard and optional features, check out the “Which Volkswagen Atlas Model Is Right for Me?” section below.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

Volkswagen Atlas Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Atlas or Audi Q7?

The Audi Q7 is a part of the luxury midsize SUV class, and that luxury title comes at a significantly higher price point than the Atlas. With a starting price of $49,900, the Q7 costs about $19,000 more than the Atlas. Both the Q7 and Atlas seat seven, but the Audi's third row is only suitable for children. The Atlas', on the other hand, is spacious enough for two adults. The Q7 also has a much smaller cargo area of 71.6 cubic feet, while the Atlas has a maximum of 96.8 cubic feet. In terms of interior refinement, however, the luxurious Q7 has top-notch materials, whereas the Atlas has some hard plastics. In addition, the Q7's V6 is more powerful than the Atlas'. Despite their size, both models handle well and drive like smaller vehicles. If you can do without the luxury accommodations, go for the Atlas. It costs less yet has more room and a similar ride.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Atlas or Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot has a starting price of $30,900. There's seating for eight, and like the Atlas, there's ample cargo space, comfortable seats, and a roomy third row. The interior of the Pilot is more refined than the Atlas', with top-notch materials that you'd expect in a more upscale SUV. The Pilot’s lone V6 engine has plenty of power for passing on the highway. Like the Atlas, the Pilot drives like a smaller vehicle and can make tight turning maneuvers without any trouble. The Pilot has a shorter list of standard features, however, and its infotainment system has a finicky touch screen and lacks physical knobs and buttons. Both vehicles are good choices in the midsize SUV class, but the Atlas is better.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Atlas or Volkswagen Tiguan?

With a starting price of $24,595, the Volkswagen Tiguan is about $6,000 less than the Atlas. It is part of the compact SUV class and seats five in two rows. A third row is optional, but unlike the Atlas' third row, it's cramped. Both models have generous cargo space for their respective classes, but the Atlas provides a lot more. The Tiguan has a strong turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but it gets below-average fuel economy for its class, and all-wheel-drive models require premium fuel (the Atlas takes regular). While the Tiguan is less expensive than the Atlas, it's one of the more expensive compact SUVs. If you can handle the price increase, the Atlas is a better choice.

Compare the Atlas, Pilot, and Tiguan »

Atlas Interior

How Many People Does the Atlas Seat?

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas seats seven on cloth upholstery. Standard features include 60/40 split-folding second-row seats and 50/50 split-folding third-row seats.

Available features include heated and ventilated front seats, leatherette and leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory settings, an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats.

All the seats in the Atlas are comfortable and supportive. The Atlas also has plenty of head- and legroom in every row – even in its third row. Rivals may brag about first- and second-row leg- and headroom, but the Atlas can brag about third-row space as well. It is spacious enough to fit two adults, and thanks to the tilting and sliding second-row seats, it's easy to access. The second-row seats also tilt forward, providing a generous amount of space for passengers.

Atlas and Car Seats

The Atlas has three full sets of LATCH connectors in the second-row seats and two upper-tether anchors in the third row. The Atlas' LATCH system received a Marginal rating (the second-lowest possible) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for its ease of use.

Atlas Interior Quality

The Atlas has a simple interior design with plenty of soft-touch materials. Though some hard plastics are used, they're not prominent and don't make the cabin look cheap. Wood and metal accents give the cabin a little style. The smaller Volkswagen Tiguan has an upscale interior with no hard plastics and a handsome design.

Atlas Cargo Space

The Atlas has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats. This expands to 55.5 cubic feet when the third row is folded and 96.8 cubic feet when the second and third rows are folded. This is much more than the Audi Q7's 14.8, 37.5, and 71.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third, second, and first rows, respectively. Standard 60/40 split-folding second-row seats and a 50/50 split-folding third row increase cargo-carrying flexibility, and an available hands-free power liftgate makes loading the Atlas a breeze.

Atlas Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The 2018 Atlas comes standard with Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a six-speaker audio system, and the Car-Net App-Connect system, which lets you integrate your smartphone into the Atlas' infotainment system through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink.

Available features include a panoramic sunroof, an 8-inch touch screen, proximity key, push-button start, four USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, tri-zone climate control, a remote power liftgate, remote start, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit), LED taillights, a Fender premium audio system with 12 speakers, and navigation with traffic and weather updates.

The Atlas' touch screen is responsive and has crisp graphics. There are many menus, but they're organized and easy to navigate once you familiarize yourself with the system. Physical knobs and buttons control climate and some infotainment functions. The top-of-the-line model features a 12.3-inch digital cockpit that is fully customizable to display a variety of information directly in front of the driver.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Atlas Performance

Atlas Engine: Optional V6 Is Good Most of the Time

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 235 horsepower. A 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine is optional. The optional engine is adequate for this hefty SUV in most everyday situations. Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly. For more power, the Audi Q7's V6 has plenty of punch and immediate acceleration.

Atlas Gas Mileage

With the base four-cylinder engine, the Atlas gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. With the V6 engine, mileage is 18/25 mpg city/highway, and opting for a V6 model with all-wheel drive brings mileage down to 17/23 mpg. The competing Honda Pilot gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Atlas Ride and Handling: Drives Smaller Than It Is

Front-wheel drive is standard in the Atlas, and Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available in V6 models. It includes four different driving modes: Dry, Rainy, Snowy, and Rough. Steering is light but improves when the Atlas is in Sport mode (which can be selected when in Dry mode). Despite its large size, the Atlas has little body lean around turns and feels like a smaller vehicle. It rides over bumps and dips in the road with little disturbance and feels relatively stable in inclement weather.

Atlas Towing Capacity

The Atlas has a maximum tow rating of 5,000 pounds. With this capacity, you can tow a fully loaded 6-by-12-foot U-Haul or a 20-foot powerboat.

Read more about performance »

Atlas Reliability

Is the Volkswagen Atlas Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2018 Atlas a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is average.

Volkswagen Atlas Warranty

Volkswagen covers the 2018 Atlas with one of the longest bumper-to-bumper warranties you can get, at six years or 72,000 miles. Volkswagen only covers the Tiguan with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Honda offers the same terms on the Pilot. The Audi Q7 has a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Atlas Safety

Atlas Crash Test Results

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas received Good ratings (the best possible) in all crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Atlas received a perfect five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received five stars in the NHTSA frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test.

Atlas Safety Features

The Atlas comes standard with automatic post-collision braking and a rearview camera. Available advanced safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision monitoring with automatic braking, lane departure warning, and front and rear park assist.

Read more about safety »

Which Volkswagen Atlas Model Is Right for Me?

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas comes in six trims: S (base) Launch Edition, SE, SE with Technology, SEL, and SEL Premium. The SE with Technology trim comes with the best mix of technology, convenience, and safety features, including Apple CarPlay, forward collision monitoring, tri-zone climate control, and a remote power liftgate.

Volkswagen Atlas S

The base S trim starts at $30,750 and comes standard with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Standard features include, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a six-speaker audio system, LED headlights, and Volkswagen's Car-Net App-Connect, which lets you integrate your smartphone with the Atlas' infotainment system through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. The Atlas S with the V6 starts at $32,150, and you can add 4Motion all-wheel drive to V6 models for $1,800.

Volkswagen Atlas Launch Edition

The Atlas Launch Edition starts at $33,750. It comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, cloth upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding second row, a 50/50 split-folding third row, Bluetooth, automatic post-collision braking, a rearview camera, a USB port, satellite radio, a six-speaker sound system, an 8-inch touch screen, voice recognition, and the Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect. The Launch Edition is available with 4Motion all-wheel drive for $1,800.

Volkswagen Atlas SE

The SE trim starts at $35,240 ($37,040 with 4Motion all-wheel drive). It comes with lower trim features and adds heated front seats, keyless entry, push-button start, leatherette upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, four USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

The SE with Technology trim starts at $37,340 ($39,140 with 4Motion all-wheel drive). It comes with lower trim features and adds tri-zone climate control, a remote power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, remote start, forward collision monitoring with automatic braking, and lane departure warning.

Volkswagen Atlas SEL

The SEL trim starts at $41,140 ($42,940 with 4Motion all-wheel drive). It adds an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, driver's seat memory settings, and front and rear park assist.

Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium

The top-of-the-line SEL Premium trim starts at $48,740 and comes standard with 4Motion all-wheel drive and adds a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit), LED taillights, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, automatic high beams, park assist, a 360-degree camera, a Fender premium audio system with 12 speakers, and navigation with traffic and weather updates.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

See 2018 Volkswagen Atlas specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is a decent SUV in a competitive class, but it doesn’t stand out from many rivals, especially for its above-average price. It does, however, offer plenty of space for passengers and cargo, a generous list of standard and available features, and excellent handling. The infotainment system comes standard with advanced smartphone integration capabilities and is easy to use. However, the Atlas' cabin includes some hard plastics, and the V6 engine can feel underpowered on the highway.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is no doubt a bold move for the automaker but one that will most likely pay off in dividends. It's smartly packaged, handles well, offers family-friendly features, and is priced in the heart of the segment. Other midsize crossovers should not rest on their laurels as this segment rookie is not looking for a one-and-done career." -- New York Daily News
  • "The Atlas struts into dealerships this June, fully capable of shouldering the responsibility of transporting families and all their stuff as well as a big chunk of VW's future in America. Like its namesake, this VW is strong enough to handle heavy lifting." -- Car and Driver
  • "A roomy SUV with VW pricing is something Volkswagen has needed for a long time, and the Atlas ticks all the right boxes and more. With a starting price in the low $30,000 range, it seems too good to be true for those used to car-based German station wagons and jacked-up hatches (we're looking at you, Mercedes GLA-Class) at twice this price. The knee-jerk reaction some will have is, 'Where's my twin-turbo V8 and napa leather interior?' Answer: At the Porsche dealership where it belongs. We've yet to experience the Atlas in all weather and road conditions, from twisty back roads to miles and miles of sun-baked interstates. But this SUV already feels like one of the most promising Volkswagens in years." -- Autoweek

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: December 14, 2018

Strong Sales: The Volkswagen Atlas went on sale midway through 2017 and quickly became a runaway hit for VW. This midsize SUV is a top-seller for Volkswagen, right behind its compact SUV brother, the Tiguan.

Research more buying advice »
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