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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas ranks in the top third of the midsize SUV class. It has a spacious interior, user-friendly features, and composed handling. Lukewarm engine performance keeps the Atlas from ranking higher.

Pros & Cons

  • Roomy seating
  • Vast cargo area
  • Intuitive touch screen
  • Many standard safety features
  • Composed ride and handling
  • Mediocre engine performance
  • Some cheap cabin materials

New for 2021

  • Refreshed styling for the three-row Atlas
  • AWD now available with four-cylinder engine

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas's #9 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Volkswagen Atlas has a score of 7.9 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 38 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 7.9
Performance: 6.8
Interior: 8.6
Safety: 9.4
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Volkswagen Atlas?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

 Is the Volkswagen Atlas a Good SUV?

Yes, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is a good midsize SUV, and it's available in two- and three-row variants. Both provide generous seating space and cargo room, along with many standard driver assistance features, including blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning. The Atlas earns praise for its easy-to-use infotainment system, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also rides and handles well for an SUV of its size. That being said, the Atlas could benefit from a stronger engine lineup and nicer cabin materials.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen Atlas?

The Atlas is worth buying, especially if you want an SUV with lots of interior space. It has one of the largest cargo areas in the class, and it’s one of the few midsize SUVs with adult-friendly third-row seats. Still, this is a jam-packed segment, so you may want to consider some of the Atlas’ top competitors before buying. Check out the luxurious Kia Telluride, sporty Mazda CX-9, or similarly practical Chevrolet Traverse.

Compare the Atlas, Telluride, and CX-9 »

2020 vs. 2021 Volkswagen Atlas: What's the Difference?

There are two main differences between the 2020 and 2021 Atlas. Volkswagen updated the exterior styling of the three-row Atlas for 2021, bringing its headlight and bumper designs in line with the two-row Cross Sport model. Additionally, the 2021 Atlas’ four-cylinder engine can now be optioned with all-wheel drive; it was previously limited to front-wheel-drive models only.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Atlas »

Here are the key changes for the Volkswagen Atlas since it was introduced for 2018: 

  • 2019: forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring became standard (previously optional)
  • 2020: two-row Atlas Cross Sport debuted with updated exterior styling
  • 2021: refreshed styling for three-row Atlas, all-wheel drive now available with four-cylinder engine

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Atlas, 2019 Atlas, and 2020 Atlas reviews to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Atlas »

We Did the Research for You: 27 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 27 Volkswagen Atlas reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible. This 2021 Atlas review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2018.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has decades of experience in the auto industry. Though we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To maintain objectivity, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Volkswagen Atlas Cost?

Pricing for the 2021 VW Atlas starts at $30,545 for five-seat models and $31,545 for seven-seat models. That’s about average for a midsize SUV. Prices climb to $48,995 for the Atlas’ top trim level.

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 Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot echoes many of the Atlas’ strengths. It rides comfortably on uneven pavement, boasts a large cargo area, and offers ample seating space for adults in all three rows. Both SUVs have user-friendly infotainment systems as well. On the other hand, both skimp a bit on interior materials. Opt for the Pilot if you want punchier engine performance. It packs a brawnier V6 engine. Otherwise, the Atlas is a fine choice, and it comes standard with more tech features.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Atlas or Toyota Highlander?

The Toyota Highlander is another fine option in the midsize SUV class. The Highlander has an intuitive touch screen, lots of cargo room, a smooth ride, and decent engine performance. It’s also well-equipped with standard safety features. For most buyers though, the VW is a better pick. It has a much roomier third row, and its starting price is lower by a few thousand dollars.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Atlas or Volkswagen Tiguan?

The Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact SUV, though it looks very similar to the midsize Atlas. Both SUVs are available in two- and three-row variants. Both offer roughly the same tech and safety features, and both have pleasant driving dynamics. The Tiguan is the better pick if you’re on a tight budget. Prices start at just $24,945, which is $5,600 less than the Atlas. On the other hand, the Atlas is the more-capable SUV. It has a roomier third-row seat and more cargo space. Test-drive both to see which you prefer.

Compare the Atlas, Pilot, and Highlander »

Atlas Interior

How Many People Does the Atlas Seat?

The 2021 VW Atlas is available in two- and three-row body styles. The two-row Atlas Cross Sport has five seats. The three-row Atlas has seven seats, though the available captain’s chairs lower the seating capacity to six.

Regardless of body style, the first- and second-row seats are comfy, and they provide generous headroom and legroom, even for taller occupants. The third row isn’t quite as spacious, but it’s still roomy enough for adults to sit comfortably. Outward visibility is excellent in all directions. Cloth upholstery is standard. Available upgrades include synthetic and genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats.

Atlas and Child Car Seats

The VW Atlas has three full sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row seats and two upper tethers for the third-row outboard seats.

Atlas Interior Quality

The Atlas gets mixed reviews for interior quality. The cabin filters out most road and wind noise, even at highway speeds, and the interior styling is clean and minimalist. On the other hand, some of the interior plastics look and feel rather cheap, especially compared with most class rivals.

Atlas Cargo Space

The Atlas has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats, 55.5 cubic feet with these seats folded down, and a vast 96.8 cubic feet with the second-row folded as well. The Atlas Cross Sport has 40.3 cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats upright and 77.8 cubic feet with these seats folded. These are excellent capacities by midsize SUV standards.

Atlas Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The 2021 Atlas comes standard with a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a USB port, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker stereo system. Available features include an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, HD Radio, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Fender sound system, up to five USB ports, automatic climate control, and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit.

Both of these screens have simple menus and crisp graphics, and they respond quickly to inputs. There are also physical buttons and knobs on the dashboard that make it easy to adjust the audio and climate controls while driving. One of the neatest features is the Digital Cockpit system, which replaces the standard instrument cluster with a 10-inch screen. It can be customized to display as little or as much information as you want, including the navigation map.

Read more about interior »

Atlas Performance

Atlas Engine: Slow and Steady

The 2021 VW Atlas is offered with two engine options: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard with both engines; all-wheel drive is available.

Neither engine is particularly muscular, but both provide adequate punch for everyday driving. The Atlas shuttles up to speed steadily and has decent passing power on the highway, thanks in part to the smooth and prompt shifts from the transmission. The four-cylinder turbo feels a bit gutsier at low speeds, while the V6 has more punch at higher speeds.

Atlas Gas Mileage: Midpack

The Atlas gets decent fuel economy for a midsize SUV. The four-cylinder Atlas gets an EPA-rated 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. All-wheel drive drops this rating to 20/24 mpg city/highway. The V6 Atlas returns 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway and 16/22 mpg with AWD.

Atlas Ride and Handling: Passing Grade

The VW Atlas has well-rounded driving dynamics. The Atlas feels stable and composed around turns, its steering is quick, and its brakes slow down the SUV confidently. This SUV’s ride quality is peaceful. The suspension soaks up bumps and potholes comfortably, at least on models outfitted with the 18-inch wheels. The available 20- and 21-inch wheels are wrapped in low-profile tires that tend to send more jitters and jolts through the cabin on rough pavement. Stick with the standard wheels.

Atlas Off-Road Performance

The Atlas isn’t really an off-road SUV, but its 4Motion all-wheel-drive system can handle rutted dirt roads and snow-covered streets without issue. All models provide a respectable 8 inches of ground clearance.

Atlas Towing Capacity

The Atlas can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with its V6 engine and tow package. Atlas models without this package have a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Atlas Reliability

Is the Volkswagen Atlas Reliable?

The 2021 VW Atlas has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

Volkswagen Atlas Warranty

Volkswagen covers the Atlas with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Atlas Safety

Atlas Crash Test Results

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2021 VW Atlas.

Atlas Safety Features

All 2021 Atlas models come standard with a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. Available safety features include front and rear parking sensors, hands-free parallel park assist, a surround-view parking camera system, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed traffic jam assist.

Read more about safety »

Atlas Dimensions and Weight

The two-row Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is 16.3 feet long, and it has a curb weight of 4,103 to 4,411 pounds. The three-row Atlas is 16.7 feet long, and it weighs between 4,248 and 4,612 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Built?

Volkswagen builds the 2021 Atlas in Tennessee.

Which Volkswagen Atlas Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas comes in two body styles – the seven-passenger three-row model and the five-passenger two-row Atlas Cross Sport model – as well as five trim levels: S, SE, SE with Technology, SEL, and SEL Premium. Opt for the three-row Atlas if you have a growing family or frequently shuttle around passengers. Otherwise, the Atlas Cross Sport is perfectly fine and a bit less expensive.

We think the SE trim is the best option for most shoppers because it adds a few convenience features that the base model lacks, including a power liftgate, automatic climate control, and heated front seats.

Volkswagen Atlas S

The entry-level Atlas S has a base price of $30,545 for two-row models and $31,545 for three-row models. Standard equipment includes a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. You can upgrade to all-wheel drive for $1,900.

Standard features include a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, a USB port, a six-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, cloth seats, remote keyless entry, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking.

Volkswagen Atlas SE

The Atlas SE has an MSRP of $33,945 for two-row models and $34,895 for three-row models. Both are available with all-wheel drive for $1,900. This trim gains an 8-inch touch screen, HD Radio, satellite radio, three more USB ports, a smartphone charging pad, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, a power liftgate, automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and rear sunshades.

Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

The midrange SE with Technology trim is priced at $35,945 for two-row models and $36,895 for three-row models. This trim adds remote start, a hands-free power liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, and 20-inch wheels. You can opt for a V6 engine, which raises the price of both models by $1,400. Other options include all-wheel drive ($1,900), a tow package ($500), second-row captain’s chairs ($695), a panoramic sunroof ($1,200), and an R-Line package with "R" badges and restyled bumpers.

Volkswagen Atlas SEL

The Atlas SEL has an MSRP of $39,545 for two-row models and $42,395 for three-row models. This trim adds a navigation system, a digital gauge cluster, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, a trailer hitch and tow package, automatic high-beam headlights, lane keep assist, and low-speed traffic jam assist. Options include a V6 engine ($1,800), all-wheel drive ($1,900), second-row captain’s chairs ($695), and the R-Line package.

Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium

The luxe Atlas SEL Premium only comes as a three-row model, and pricing starts at $47,195. This trim adds all-wheel drive, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ambient interior lighting, a 12-speaker Fender sound system, power-folding side mirrors, hands-free parallel park assist, and a surround-view parking camera system. Options include the V6 engine ($1,800) and second-row captain’s chairs ($695).

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 2021 Volkswagen Atlas specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is not the quickest or swankiest vehicle in the midsize SUV class, but it is one of the most practical options for large families, thanks to its roomy seating space, huge cargo area, pleasant ride quality, and numerous standard features.

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

  • "The VW Atlas has always stuck to the no-nonsense side of things, and its 2021-model-year refresh helps it stand apart in an ever-growing crowd." -- CNET
  • "A competent SUV lacking the upscale feeling of some of its rivals." -- Car and Driver (2020)
  • "While it's the product of a European automaker, the Atlas was designed and developed in the US for the US market. Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Atlas appeals to American sensibilities with regard to space, equipment and overall demeanor." -- Autotrader (2020) 


Expert Advice

Last Updated: January 29, 2021

Ascending Sales: The refreshed Volkswagen Atlas finished last year in the middle of the competitive midsize SUV segment in sales. It sold well in 2020 though, despite low sales throughout the auto industry related to the Coronavirus pandemic. Relative to 2019, Atlas sales increased7.2 percent last year.

Research more buying advice »
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2021 Volkswagen Atlas

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