2018 Volkswagen Atlas Preview

Christian Wardlaw | Oct 29, 2016
  • All-new midsize, 7-passenger crossover SUV
  • Turbocharged 4-cylinder or V-6 engine
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Options to include modern infotainment, convenience, driver-assistance, and collision-avoidance technololgies
  • Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • On sale in spring of 2017


2018 Volkswagen Atlas front quarter left photo


Volkswagen, its dealers, and loyal fans of the brand have been waiting for the 2018 Atlas for a long time. And now, the new crossover SUV is almost here, debuting in Southern California in advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

A midsize, 7-passenger crossover SUV available in five trim levels, the new Atlas will be priced closer to its appearance in dealership showrooms in the spring of 2017. Volkswagen hints at what you can expect, though, by claiming the Atlas will be “priced for the heart of the competitive SUV market.”

Exterior Features

Volkswagen is building the Atlas on the VW Group’s MQB architecture, a modular platform providing the basis for several Audi and Volkswagen models.

At 198.3 inches long, 77.9 inches wide, and 69.6 inches high, the new Atlas will be the largest vehicle on the MQB platform and the largest Volkswagen model on sale in the United States. To put those measurements into perspective:

  • A Ford Explorer is 198.3 inches long, 78.9 inches wide, and 70 inches high
  • A Honda Pilot is 194.5 inches long, 78.6 inches wide, and 69.8 inches high
  • A Toyota Highlander is 191.1 inches long, 75.8 inches wide, and 68.2 inches high

So then, the new Atlas is essentially identical in size to the segment heavy-hitters. That’s a good start.

It also helps that the new Atlas is attractively designed. While initial photography depicts what is likely to be the top trim level or an off-road version with the largest wheels and tires, chiseled styling and dramatic fender arches blend with traditional Volkswagen conservatism and SUV design cues to present an appealingly balanced appearance.

Volkswagen has revealed that the Atlas will feature standard LED headlights and running lights, and will be available with LED taillights.

Interior Features

Seven people will fit inside of the new Volkswagen Atlas, which is equipped with a 60/40 split-folding second-row seat and a 50/50 split-folding third-row seat.

The second-row seat slides forward to make extra room for people assigned to the third row, where Volkswagen promises enough space for two adults. The company has designed an entry system that folds the second-row seat forward even if a child safety restraint is installed in the SUV, maximizing clearance to the third-row seat.

Alternatively, the second-row seat slides back to maximize legroom when the third-row seat is not in use. Available side window sunshades are perfect for helping to keep sunlight out of a child’s face, particularly infants riding in reverse-facing safety seats.

Optional Features

Among the extra-cost features that Volkswagen has confirmed, perforated leather upholstery, a panoramic glass sunroof over the first 2 rows of seats, a 12-speaker Fender premium sound system, and a Car-Net App-Connect infotainment system with navigation are on the menu. Additionally, the company will offer its new Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrumentation technology on the Atlas (see detail below).

Under the Hood

As standard equipment, the 2018 VW Atlas will have a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 238 horsepower. An 8-speed automatic transmission will feed the power to the SUV’s front wheels, and a Sport shift program should make the Atlas feel more responsive.

As an option, a 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine is available. It is required to obtain the 4Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, which includes Driving Mode Selection technology. Using a knob on the center console, the driver can select the type of driving conditions, such as snow/ice, highway, or off-road, thereby calibrating the powertrain to deliver maximum effectiveness, VW says.

According to VW, the Atlas will display “hallmark Volkswagen driving dynamics.” Helping achieve this goal, the driver can select Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Custom driving modes, depending on how the SUV is equipped.


Because Volkswagen believes that secondary collisions following a main impact can cause injury to occupants, the Atlas will have a standard automatic post-collision braking system. This system automatically activates the SUV’s brakes following a collision in order to bring the vehicle to a halt as quickly as is possible.

Additionally, Atlas buyers will be able to equip the SUV with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, and a lane-departure warning system with lane-keeping assist.


Similar to Audi Virtual Cockpit, the new Volkswagen Digital Cockpit option replaces the SUV’s traditional gauges with a configurable display screen. The owner can minimize the gauges and maximize the information displayed between them, including the navigation map and route ahead.

Optional for the Atlas, the Car-Net App-Connect system supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink smartphone-projection systems. A Parking Steering Assistant system is also available for the Atlas, autonomously steering the SUV into a parking space while the driver operates the pedals and the transmission.

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