In the same way I mourned the departure of my long-term 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport when my year with it ended, I also mourn the loss of the 2017 Mazda CX-9 that I had the pleasure of driving and living with for the past year. But like the saying goes, on to bigger and … well, on to bigger things.
Released in 2017 as a 2018 model, the Volkswagen Atlas sits atop the Volkswagen SUV lineup as its most expansive offering. We invited the Atlas to our 2018 SUVOTY competition, where it made a big impression and earned a spot as a finalist. “It’s huge, like really, really, really big,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said. “The room inside is ridiculous.” Unfortunately, not all of the comments were positive, with judges knocking the Beetle’s big brother for its interior quality and its engine, transmission, and suspension tuning.
First impressions can be tricky, though, so when Volkswagen offered us a longer chance to form an impression, we accepted. Say hello to the newest member of the MotorTrend long-term fleet, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE.
Sitting just below midrange as far as trim levels go, our Tourmaline Blue Metallic over black leatherette Atlas comes in at a cool $38,265 with the $2,100 tech package.
So what does all of the scratch get you? Space. Cargo room, seating space, legroom, headroom—you name it, and the Atlas has it in spades. Wrap your head around this: 96.8 cubic feet of cargo room with the second and third row seats stowed. That’s 2.1 cubic feet more than in a Chevrolet Tahoe, which is 5.6 inches longer, 4.4 inches taller, and 2.2 inches wider than the cavernous Atlas. That’s huge, and for the customer who needs the room and can’t stomach the idea of driving a minivan or can’t afford a truck-based super-hauler like a Chevrolet Suburban, the Atlas might be just the ticket.
Although most of the materials found inside look and feel a little on the cheap side, the black leatherette-sheathed seats are comfortable and feel like they will resist wear well. The front seat heaters get nice and toasty, and the massive rear doors combined with roomy second-row seating (which folds and slides easily) make entrance to the third row easy. That said, I keep that third row of seats stowed most of time to help with visibility out of the rear window.
About that aforementioned technology package. It includes 11 tech and safety-related items. First off—and most readily noticed—is the 8.0-inch center infotainment screen, which supports Apple CarPlay via the USB port in the cubby directly below. You also get an electric parking brake, an anti-theft alarm with an immobilizer, a remote power liftgate, keyless entry with remote start, and a rearview camera system. The roster of driver assistance and safety features includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, and a blind-spot monitor with traffic alert.
The Atlas has some big shoes to fill. I loved the overall design and package size of the Mazda CX-9. One thing has already been made clear by the number of people who have asked to borrow the Atlas: When you need an SUV that can move a lot of people and a lot of stuff, the Atlas is in a league of its own in our long-term fleet.
|2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE V6|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,265|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.6L/276-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,344 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||198.3 x 78.3 x 70.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.6 sec @ 90.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.6 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/25/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.94 lb/mile|
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