VW’s seven-seater is aimed not at the globe but at North America
Dieselgate rumbles on, and one of the rather counter-intuitive results is the Atlas. It’s aimed at taking on the enormous USA market with a seven-seater SUV. Having tried and failed to convert the continent to diesel, VW is now chucking a huge SUV powered by a fairly huge petrol engine at them. The customer is always right.
Even though the Atlas is the biggest vehicle to be placed on the MQB architecture, it’s still only a ‘mid-sized’ SUV in the land of the supersize. It’s longer and wider than the VW Touareg, and that length has been used to add a third row of seats, accessed by flipping up the second row seats.
Engine: 3597cc V6, petrol
Power: 276bhp @ 6200rpm
Torque: 266lb ft @ 2750rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd auto, all-wheel drive
0-62mph: 7.9sec (est)
Top speed: n/a
CO2 emissions: 282g/km
You’ll get two adults in the third row reasonably comfortably so long as they haven’t spent too many mealtimes at fast food diners. Our test vehicle had two big seats in the second row instead of the normal bench for three, and there’s ample room back there as well as the front.
The driver gets a digital instrument cluster that is easy to configure, as well as an eight-inch infotainment system with sharp graphics and Apple and Android smartphone mirroring. We were less impressed by the door trims, which were fake wood and hardly added to the rest of the cabin, that feels fairly premium otherwise.
Under the bonnet the 3.6-litre V6 pushes out a fairly muscular 276bhp and an entirely adequate 266lb ft of torque. The engine is smooth and quiet and powers through an eight-speed semi-auto gearbox to all four wheels. As you’d imagine, with a weight over two tonnes, fuel consumption is not exactly marvellous – 23mpg is the sort of figure that diesels were meant to make obsolete.
But there are sensible driving modes to help you stay on or off the road, while the towing figure of 2207kg is very respectable, underlined by the standard fitment of a tow hitch.
Handling and ride are quite good, although the Atlas has the suspension tuned for North American tastes, and so has a rather gentler damping than Europeans would find ideal. There is some banging and thumping over potholes and rough surfaces, but standard 18-inch wheels rather than the 20-inch wheels fitted would probably help that.
The Atlas does seem to deliver for the North American market. The vehicle is big enough, powerful enough, capacious enough and practical enough. There’s also a six-year warranty with 72,000 miles, but whether that will be enough to entice owners from the established players remains to be seen, and whether it will be enough to make buyers forget VW’s dieselgate woes is very much an unknown.