When Volkswagen first introduced the Atlas to the U.S. in 2017, the SUV was touted as a new journey for the brand; a road trip straight into the heart of the American market. Now at its first mid-cycle refresh, the big, bold seven-seater is one of VW’s top selling models and a fixture on roads from ATL to LAX and beyond. Here’s a few things that have elevated this relative newcomer to apple pie status so quickly.
- A true family-sized SUV. Ever bought a “family size” package of cereal, soap or toilet paper only to feel like you’ve been sold a whole lot of nothing? That’s not the case with the Atlas. With standard seating, the SUV fits seven adults comfortably, or countless combinations of people, pets and playthings via its highly configurable interior space.
- What’s in a name? The Atlas represents an important derivation from Volkswagen’s traditional SUV nomenclature. Before its introduction, every offering (Touareg and Tiguan) began with the letter T and were created in Germany, as they were global models. In building a new vehicle specifically for the American market, VW’s management decided to break the status quo. To some “Atlas” means a book of maps—suggesting that this model can take you to anywhere—to others a god. Any way you look at it, it’s a strong leap forward for the image and branding of VW in America.
- Trims on trims. Americans love options. Consider how many ways you can order something seemingly as simple as coffee. True to American form, Atlas buyers have the choice of two engine offerings (a 235-hp turbocharged four cylinder or 276-hp V6), front-wheel or 4Motion all-wheel drive, and a tremendous range of trim levels from S to SEL Premium R-Line. And they’re all grande.
- Cupholder capaciousness. On the subject of beverages, it wasn’t that long ago when the cupholders in many German automobiles were afterthoughts at best; crude, flimsy little devices that were underdeveloped by engineers and product planners who didn’t understand the U.S. driver or market. Those days are over. Just about every SUV offering, foreign or domestic, now comes with a plethora of cupholders. The Atlas has 17, meaning each passenger can store 2 drinks each, and have room to spare.
- Bold and beautiful. You don’t become an American classic by blending in. And blending in is something the Atlas does not do. “The facial expression of a car defines its character. We wanted to give the car a wide appearance, and an earnest look,” said Klaus Bischoff, Head of Volkswagen Design when the Atlas program was still in development. “It should look substantial, without looking too aggressive.” Substantial sums up the Atlas road presence quite nicely; and its chiseled lines will look good for a substantially long time.
- Tow & go. With optional factory-installed towing package, Atlas V6 models can haul up to 5,000 pounds, making a weekend at the beach—or a cross-country trek of America—reality without having to look at a vehicle other than your daily driver.
- Assembled in America, for America. The Atlas is assembled alongside the Passat at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant, the result of an approximately $900 million investment by Volkswagen in the facility. Since the birth of Atlas, Chattanooga has added another model to the production lines—the slightly smaller brother, Atlas Cross Sport—bringing the all-American Atlas family to two.