2019 Volkswagen Atlas

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz Senior Editor
February 27, 2019

Buying tip

The Atlas SE balances price and features just right for most family buyers.

features & specs

2.0T S FWD
2.0T SE w/Technology FWD
20 city / 26 hwy
20 city / 26 hwy
20 city / 26 hwy

The 2019 VW Atlas prioritizes space above pace, which makes it a must-see for families.

With its 2019 Atlas, Volkswagen doesn’t shrug at the notion of seating seven adults under a single crossover SUV’s roof.

The 2019 VW Atlas has one of the most spacious interiors short of an ocean-going vessel. It’s like a big house in the suburbs: you may not get much charm, but with the 2019 Atlas there’s plenty of room for everyone and everything.

We rate the Atlas at 6.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

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In S, SE, and SEL trim levels, the Atlas lineup stretches from about $32,000 to about $50,000. VW fills that gap with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 base engine paired to front-wheel drive or a thirsty but stronger 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 available with front- or all-wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic shuttles power to the wheels regardless of what’s underhood.

The Atlas has a comfortable, almost luxurious ride, and its handling is more responsive than we’ve come to expect from big SUVs. It makes a serene long-distance cruiser, as long as you don’t mind stopping often for fuel. At 19 mpg combined with all-wheel drive according to the EPA, the Atlas is hardly miserly.

There's hardly a bad seat in the Atlas house, too. It's not exceptionally stylish, but its big spans of sheet metal yield a very spacious interior. The second-row middle seat's adult-worthy, and captain's chairs can be fitted to that row on most trims.

Where some crossover SUVs seat three in the third row, the Atlas only has two seat belts, but it’s easier to access than in most rivals thanks to a trick slide-forward second row. The Atlas’ third row has enough footroom for adult-sized shoes. Even with the third row upright, the Atlas can haul luggage. Fold rows two and three and the Atlas’ cargo area could double as a living room.

If only it was furnished as well as some rivals. Atlases we’ve driven have felt solid, but high-sheen hard plastics dominate their cabins.

This year, all VW Atlas crossover SUVs now include previously optional automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors, which bolsters an impressive crash-test record. In our eyes, the Atlas makes the most sense at about $40,000 for the SE with all-wheel drive an option package that includes family-friendly niceties such as three-zone automatic climate control.


2019 Volkswagen Atlas


The 2019 VW Atlas is a plus-size model among crossover SUVs.

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is not ashamed of its size. It’s a big crossover SUV that proudly wears its curves, and it looks every bit of its nearly 200 inches of overall length.

We rate it at 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The VW Atlas has a wide grille flanked by boxy headlights that sweep back slightly into its fenders. Pronounced wheel arches imply muscularity, but the 2019 Atlas is not a fast machine. Its window line curves upward at the rearmost roof pillar. At the tail, the Atlas looks more conventional and would be featureless if not for a chrome strip stretching between its taillights.

The Atlas comes standard with 18-inch wheels that look big in its squared-off wheel openings. The optional 20-inch wheels included on the SEL Premium trim level and with the R-Design appearance package give the big crossover SUV show car proportions.

Inside, the Atlas is conservative, with simple lines and a convenient control layout. The 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment on the base Atlas S appears lost in the expansive dashboard, but the 8.0-inch display fitted to most models looks better.

Most Atlas crossover SUVs leave the factory with hard-wearing synthetic leather upholstery, although real hides are included on the SEL Premium.

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2019 Volkswagen Atlas


The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas can be hustled down a curvy road better than most crossover SUVs.

The 2019 VW Atlas has balanced handling and a comfortable ride, but it won’t win a drag race. We rated it at 6 out of 10 accordingly. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Most 2019 Atlas crossover SUVs leave Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant with a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 276 horsepower under their hoods. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 that puts out 235 hp is standard, but it’s only available with front-wheel drive. Regardless of engine, the Atlas puts its power to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The V-6 has a strong feel, but it struggles to overcome the Atlas’ 4,500-pound curb weight with all-wheel drive. At least the engine is muffled and the 8-speed automatic responds quickly to inputs. We’ve only briefly driven the Atlas with the turbo-4, and we’ve found acceptable around-town acceleration but no power to spare at highway speeds.

Where the Atlas redeems itself is in its ride quality and its responsive handling. Its three-spoke steering wheel imparts a sporty feel that the crossover SUV delivers on—at least against its competitive set. Its steering is direct and precise, with just enough of a dead spot for comfortable highway cruising without constant corrections. The Atlas’ suspension is taut but not stiff, and it leans into corners less than some competitors.

The Atlas can be hustled down a curvy road better than its bulk might suggest, meaning it may be just the ticket for perennially tardy parents.

The optional all-wheel-drive system requires no driver inputs. A control knob on the center console features modes for snow and off-road use, but the Atlas isn’t meant for serious off-road use. Its 8.0 inches of ground clearance are enough to clear small rocks on the way to a campsite, however.

Properly equipped, the Atlas can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the V-6 engine.

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2019 Volkswagen Atlas

Comfort & Quality

Although not luxurious, the 2019 VW Atlas is spacious for everyone.

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is rated for seven passengers. Unlike many of its rivals, it’ll actually seat seven adults in reasonable comfort. We rate it at 9 out of 10, giving it points above average for each of its three rows and another for its exceptional cargo utility. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Front seat riders have decent outward vision and they sit on firm, mildly bolstered seats wrapped in cloth on the S trim, synthetic leather on SE and SEL, and real leather on the 2019 Atlas SEL Premium.

The Atlas’ massive rear doors swing wide open for excellent access to the second row. A three-seat bench is standard, while individual captain’s chairs with a narrow walk-through is optional on most trims. The second row slides forward at the tug of a lever to allow access to the third row. Unlike most crossover SUVs, it doesn’t require parents to remove child seats.

Even adults can easily make their way into the spacious third row, which has seating for two plus cupholders and, on some trims, USB ports.

With the third row upright, the Atlas has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity. With the individual third-row seats folded flat, that grows to 55.5 cubes. Fold both the second and third rows and the Atlas’ cargo hold swells to nearly 97 cubic feet.

The Atlas is more about space than it is about dressy interior finishes. Even in range-topping Atlas SEL Premium trim, hard plastics abound, the fake wood looks less than real, and even its real leather upholstery feels more like synthetic.

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2019 Volkswagen Atlas


The 2019 VW Atlas has a good safety record and standard active safety tech.

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas doesn’t skimp when it comes to important safety technology. This year, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts are standard equipment on all trim levels.

Combined with good federal and independent crash-test results, the 2019 Atlas scores 8 out of 10 points on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

In addition to that standard active safety tech, all versions of the 2019 Atlas have six airbags and a system that holds their brakes after a collision is detected to prevent the vehicle from rolling forward.

Adaptive cruise control and active lane control are optional on the Atlas SE and standard on the Atlas SEL.

The NHTSA rates the Atlas at five stars overall with four stars for the calculated rollover test. The IIHS has similarly good things to say, granting the Atlas its Top Safety Pick award. Only headlights rated “Marginal” at best prevent it from earning the Top Safety Pick+ award.

The insurance industry-funded group rated the Atlas’ collision-avoidance tech “Superior.”


2019 Volkswagen Atlas


Base versions of the 2019 VW Atlas want for little, but this crossover is pricey with options.

Starting at around $32,000, the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is a lot of metal and a lot of features for the money. That value equation starts to deteriorate on high-spec trims, however.

We rate the 2019 Atlas at 7 out of 10, granting it points above average for a stellar warranty and a high level of standard equipment. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The base VW Atlas S includes power features, three rows of seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, active safety tech, and a roof rack. With all-wheel drive and the V-6 engine, the Atlas’ price climbs to about $35,000.

VW dealers don’t stock most versions of the Atlas with the base turbo-4 engine, but they can be special-ordered. The turbo-4 is not available in trims other than the base S. 

We like the Atlas SE trim level, which swaps in easy-clean synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, more USB charging ports, keyless ignition, and a few more features for about $3,000 more. Captain’s chairs add about $650 to most trims.

Opt for a package that includes a power liftgate and three-zone automatic climate control and a well-outfitted Atlas SE with the V-6 and all-wheel drive costs about $40,000.

We’d skip the R-Design appearance package, which costs about $2,000 and adds little of substance.

The range-topping Atlas SEL can be outfitted with leather seats, a power panoramic moonroof, cooled front seats, Fender-branded audio, built-in navigation, a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, and a few other features that sound nice but add up to a crossover SUV that can top $50,000.

Notably, the Atlas includes an extensive 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

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2019 Volkswagen Atlas

Fuel Economy

The 2019 VW Atlas is not a thrifty choice.

With no hybrid option, the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas scores low when it comes to its fuel efficiency. We rate it 3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The most popular 2019 Atlas is powered by a V-6 engine and paired to all-wheel drive. At 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined, it’s as thirsty as some truck-based SUVs capable of towing more than its 5,000-pound rating.

Stick with front-wheel drive as many sunbelters are likely to do and the Atlas V-6’s numbers climb to 18/25/20 mpg.

The standard turbo-4 isn’t a big seller, but it is more fuel-efficient at 22/26/24 mpg.

All Atlas engines run on regular unleaded gasoline.

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