2018 Volkswagen Atlas Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.0

The brand-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is a well-rounded performer, with comfortable handling and a capable engine. However, you'll notice that the acceleration struggles at times when passing on the highway. The Atlas may be big, but it doesn't drive like it, and the available all-wheel drive keeps you planted to the road in bad weather.

  • "On the very frozen paved and unpaved roads upon which we drove our V6 Atlas, it impressed us with its docile nature and ease of use, as well as grip helped in no small part by studded winter tires." -- Autoweek
  • "I said in my first impressions of the Atlas that 'as long as performance is adequate, the 2018 Atlas has a chance to make some sorely needed positive noise for Volkswagen.' It clears that bar with some room to spare." -- Cars.com

Acceleration and Power

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 235 horsepower. A 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 276 horsepower is optional. The eight-speed automatic transmission has smooth shifts, and the V6 is fine for most driving situations. However, the Atlas is a heavy SUV, and the engine sometimes struggles under its weight.

Four-cylinder Atlas models get better gas mileage than many competitors, earning an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. V6 models get up to 18/25 mpg city/highway, which is in line with what many rivals earn.

  • The engine is refined and the transmission offers smooth shifts, but the power is just adequate. Our test vehicle had two people aboard and there was enough engine for climbing grades in Hill Country in Texas. The real test will be with the cabin filled with that varsity team, or a family and its luggage, perhaps with a boat in tow." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "I found the V-6 to fall a bit flat: It had to be coaxed to move up to passing speeds and low-end torque is lacking. The Atlas is a big, heavy vehicle with a curb weight of 4,502 pounds for AWD versions. That puts it at the higher end of the spectrum for this class, along with the Toyota Highlander (4,655 pounds for its top trim level)." -- Cars.com 
  • … overall, the Atlas is engaging enough and its smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission is standard." -- New York Daily News

Handling and Braking

Front-wheel drive is standard and Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system with four driving modes (Dry, Rainy, Snowy, and Rough) is available. The SUV handles extremely well in all driving conditions. Despite its rather large size, it moves like a smaller vehicle, and there is little body lean in corners. Additionally, it remains smooth over broken pavement.

  • "Fortunately, the Atlas doesn't feel as big as it is. It drives smaller—although not quite as small as a CX-9. Solid-mounted front and rear subframes communicate chassis behaviors, although the steering is all but mute. … Brake feel, something often overlooked in this class, is strong, too, with immediate pedal response and an intuitive correlation between effort and stopping force." -- Car and Driver
  • "The steering is responsive as opposed to the vagueness of some of its counterparts, and the vehicle was tight and composed during our drive along the lulling hills of south central Texas. Even on a few dip-heavy sections of road, the Atlas never felt hold-your-drink turbulent." -- New York Daily News
  • "Ride quality was great and the Atlas moved confidently on the road, even over sections of broken pavement. Through corners, there's a bit of body roll, but not so much that the SUV feels loose or out of control. And I want to give a special shout-out to the steering wheel, an often overlooked component that Volkswagen consistently nails. It's the right size and feels great." -- Cars.com

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