2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium 4Motion

The Volkswagen Atlas may be from a German automaker, but it’s made for the American market. The big, boxy, two- or three-row crossover gets its first major refresh for 2021 and is now even larger with even more room for growing families and all of their stuff. The Atlas also comes with many standard driver assistance tech; however, its cabin isn’t as upscale as some rivals.

Base Price: $48,995
As Tested: $50,015
Horsepower: 276
Mileage: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway/18 mpg combined

Volkswagen introduced the Atlas for the 2018 model year. Some driver assistance tech became standard in 2019. The two-row version was added in 2020. The 2021 refresh includes updated exterior and interior styling, more passenger and cargo room and the availability of all-wheel-drive with the four-cylinder engine.

The 2021 Atlas is available with either two or three rows of seating and in five trims:  S, SE, SE with Technology, SEL, and SEL Premium. Staring prices range from $30,545 to $50,695 which are about average for the class. Front-wheel-drive is standard on all trims, except SEL Premium which has standard all-wheel-drive. AWD is available on all the lower trims for $1,900.

Two engines are available: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 276 horses and 266 pound-feet. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Like most three-row crossovers, the Atlas doesn’t have exhilarating performance, but it’s easy to handle, which is what you want in a vehicle like this. My tester with the V6 has enough power for everyday driving situations. Acceleration is decent and there’s enough oomph for merging and passing at freeway speeds. Steering is responsive and the Atlas feels planted around corners. The ride is smooth even over bumpy roads. Visibility is good all the way around.

V6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. The Atlas has eight inches of ground clearance.

Fuel economy is about average for the class. EPA ratings for my tester are 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with a combined rating of 18. I got 19 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.

The cavernous cabin is plain but comfortable. Controls are logically laid out. Seats are supportive and passengers enjoy lots of leg- and headroom; in fact, the Atlas is one of only a few three-row crossovers where adults will be comfortable in the third row. Cabin materials aren’t as upscale as what you’ll find in many rivals but there are many standard tech features.

Standard features include remote keyless entry, rearview camera, cloth upholstery, 6.5-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a USB port.

Standard driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and pedestrian detection.

Available features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, surround-view camera, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, automatic climate control, digital gauge cluster, eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, HD Radio, satellite radio, 12-speaker Fender audio system, smartphone charging pad, up to five USB ports, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Available driver assistance technologies include lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, parking sensors, and hands-free parallel park assist.

The infotainment system is straightforward with intuitive menus and responds quickly to voice and touch commands. Buttons and knobs are handy for often-used functions such as volume and climate settings.

The Atlas has more cargo space than most competitors. There are 20.6 cubic feet with all three rows of seating in place, 55.5 cubes with the third row folded, and a whopping 96.8 cubes with he second and third row folded. A power liftgate and hands-free power liftgate are available.

The good:

Smooth ride

Cavernous cabin

Lots of room for passengers and cargo

User-friendly infotainment system

Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

The not-so-good:

Meh handling

Plain cabin

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $48,995. Destination charge is $1,020 bringing the grand total to $50,015.

Bottom line:

The Volkswagen Atlas is a cavernous and comfortable family hauler. With its 2021 refresh, the Atlas offers even more room and more creature comforts, and delivers a smooth ride. While the cabin isn’t as upscale and performance isn’t as zippy as some rivals, the Atlas is still a worthy offering in the competitive midsize crossover category.