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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Performance

#9 out of 22 in Midsize SUVs

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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Performance Review


Performance: 6.8

For the most part, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is a pleasant SUV to drive. The Atlas remains stable and composed through turns, its steering is responsive, and the SUV rides comfortably over most road surfaces. Its four- and six-cylinder engines aren’t particularly powerful though.

  • "The V-6 feels and sounds refined, transmitting nary a shiver into the cabin. Though the last four-cylinder and V-6 Atlas we tested had ordinary acceleration, out on the road they rarely felt underpowered." -- Car and Driver
  • "This is one of the roomiest vehicles in its class but also one of the slowest." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "This big coach rides comfortably, absorbing bumps and ruts well. Barring the odd side-to-side jostle and an occasional firm jiggle, the Atlas is a relaxed cruiser." -- Consumer Reports (2020)

Acceleration and Power

The Atlas is available with two engine options: a 235-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and a 276-horsepower V6. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that provides quick, seamless shifts. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available.

Both engines feel a bit taxed when hauling the Atlas up to speed, but they offer adequate muscle for everyday driving around town and cruising on the highway. The main difference is that the V6 sounds smoother under hard acceleration. The four-cylinder engine returns an EPA-rated 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, while the V6 gets 17/23 mpg city/highway. These are decent fuel economy ratings for a midsize SUV.

  • "The 235-horsepower 4-cylinder engine may seem small and possibly underpowered for a vehicle weighing over 4,000 pounds, but it’s up to the task, thanks in part to its excellent low-end torque that peaks at just 1,600 rpm. The naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, with 276 horsepower, feels more relaxed in its duty, but fuel economy goes down a bit." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "… the two engines feel similar on the road, though the V6 gets the nod over the I4 because it's a bit quieter, and what you do hear sounds a touch more refined, especially when your right foot gets heavy. Since the two engines have similar outputs and use the same transmission, the refinement separates them." -- Autoweek (2020)
  • "While the powertrain feels lively in everyday driving situations, benefitting from the tested V6 engine's rich torque and the eight-speed automatic transmission's smooth and responsive shifts, it's no rocket ship -- it trails its competitors in the 0 to 60 mph dash at 8.7 seconds." -- Consumer Reports (2020)

Handling and Braking

The Atlas has pleasant driving dynamics. It feels quite stable around turns for an SUV of its size, and the steering is quick and responsive. The suspension filters out most bumps and dips in the road on models with the standard 18-inch wheels. However, the available 20- and 21-inch wheels transmit more shudders through the cabin.

  • "While it's not as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9, the Atlas responds obediently to steering inputs and never feels clumsy. It is composed on the highway and feels nimble in the city. Ride comfort is smooth, and all but the harshest potholes are absorbed." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 2021 Atlas' focus on sense and sensibility also shines through in the way it drives. And, like many other cars in this segment and beyond, much of it will depend on the wheels and tires that come with your trim. Take my SEL R-Line tester, for example: Its 21-inch wheels are the largest on offer, and while they fill the wells nicely, they also contribute to a ride that's a smidge more brittle than I'd like over harsh bits like expansion joints." -- CNET
  • "Comfort and serenity are the hallmarks of the Atlas' driving experience. Driving manners are stable and composed, and the high driving position will please many." -- Autotrader (2020)
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2021 Volkswagen Atlas

MSRP: $31,545 - $50,695

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