Road Test: 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport

Volkswagen ignited the crossover game with the Atlas, the largest VW currently on the market, and a real winner for families seeking the space and towing capacity of a large SUV.

Now VW is building a sporty version of the Atlas with the Cross Sport moniker. With a shorter overall length, sleeker proportions, and some revisions inside and out, the Cross Sport is a welcome addition to anyone wanting the large SUV feel without the long length.

Exterior 

Engineered from Volkswagen’s award-winning Modular Transverse Matrix architecture, the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport builds on the latest Volkswagen design DNA to create a bold new look in the 5-seater SUV segment. The Atlas Cross Sport has a modern design with sharp angles and a striking silhouette.

Featuring a lower roofline than Atlas and a dramatically angled rear hatch, the Atlas Cross Sport sits 195.5 inches long, 78.4 inches wide, and 67.8 inches high, giving it an athletic stance.

Up front, Atlas Cross Sport wears an upscale three-bar chrome grille with a new light signature. All Atlas Cross Sports feature full LED exterior lighting, including low beams, high beams, turn signal indicators, Daytime Running Lights, side marker lights, and taillights.

SEL and SEL Premium models use more powerful IQ.LIGHT 900-lumen LED headlights with Volkswagen’s Adaptive Front-lighting System, which we found to be incredibly bright and useful on winding local roads at night. Auto lights and rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard, a nice perk.

A large panoramic sunroof measuring about 4.5 feet by 3 feet, with a two-part glass opening system and powered sunshade, let in an incredible amount of light. We loved the airy feel in every seating position.

And of course, the tailgate opens with just a kick of the foot below the rear bumper when the key’s in range. It’s a huge help when hands are full from the grocery store.

Interior 

The interior design of the Atlas Cross Sport is classic Volkswagen—clean and functional, with a premium feel. Driver controls are positioned for optimal ergonomics and usability, and simple, driver-centric displays enhance involvement behind the wheel. The seat position, shifter height, and the spacing between the pedals are all designed for max comfort.

Despite its shorter stance and raked rear-end, the Atlas Cross Sport has generous interior space for five adults and cargo. There’s a cavernous 112 cubic feet of total passenger volume. Standard rear bench seating offers a 60/40 split, with a 14-degree recline function.

Atlas Cross Sport’s cabin was clearly designed with people in mind. There’s an array of available inputs (12V, USB, auxiliary), cup holders, bottle holders, storage nets, and cargo containers. Max cargo volume sits at 77.8 cubic feet behind the front-row seats when the rear seats are folded down, and 40.3 cubic feet when all seats are up.

The front seats are comfortable as can be with support in all the right places. The heated leather steering wheel is fantastic for anyone with cold hands.

Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit system, presents drivers with a fully-digital instrument cluster. Using a 10- inch display, it’s a neat way to customizing the gauge cluster and having only information that the driver wants depending on the type of driving. Road trips are better suited for the minimal display focusing on adaptive cruise while more spirited driving would use the analog gauge look.

Powertrain

Our front-wheel drive tester came with the standard 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine with engine start-stop. Mated to an 8-speed automatic, power always felt plentiful and robust. Output is rated at 235 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 rpm (achieved with premium fuel). We can’t imagine the need for the VR6 6-cylinder except for those who need to tow.

Handling and comfort on the road are excellent for a crossover. It’s comfortable with good absorption and isolation to keep passengers happy, but steering feel is engaging enough to allow the driver always feel in control.

Fuel economy is one of the smaller engine’s strong suits. We averaged 24 mpg in mixed driving, which is more than the 21 city, 24 highway, 22 combined rating. With a strong turbo at low RPMs, there’s no need to get the engine spinning faster than it needs to, thus better efficiency.

Safety

On the driver assist front, the Atlas Cross Sport comes with a host of standard safety tech.

Standard equipment on our SEL trim include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Traffic Alert; Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist); Traffic Jam Assist; Park Distance Control; Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist); Dynamic Road Sign Display; High Beam Control (Light Assist); and Overhead View Camera (Area View).

The systems work together to keep the driver informed of everything going on around them, and even intervening when needed to prevent an accident.

Our typical test of adaptive cruise showed us that the Atlas Cross Sport has a refined system that works well on the highway, especially in stop-and-go traffic thanks to Traffic Jam Assist. It’s not too conservative and doesn’t accelerate wildly, it’s just right and we commend the calibration engineers who refined the system.

The Digital Cockpit also does a great job of keeping the driver aware of what the system is doing, much like Tesla’s Autopilot.

VW also has their own version of telematics and connectivity, much like OnStar from GM that paved the way. For 2020, Car-Net moves into the next generation with an updated mobile app, a long list of no-charge services for five years, and new subscription options. Car-Net Services are offered in four areas: Remote Access, Safe & Secure, Hotspot, and Guide & Inform.

Car-Net Remote Access gives owners the ability to interact with their vehicle from miles away via the mobile app. It is offered at no additional charge for five years from the date of vehicle purchase. Features include remote start and stop (if vehicle is equipped), remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and flash of lights, last parked location, and remote vehicle status display, which provides information on fuel level, mileage, and door and window status.

VW Car-Net app for smartwatch (Apple Watch and Android Wear) allows users to control a host of functions, including remotely locking and unlocking doors, remotely starting the vehicle, and viewing the status of doors, windows and sunroof (open or closed). It can also help locate a parked vehicle.

Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription that includes Information Assistance, Emergency Assistance, Automatic Crash Notification, Anti-Theft Alert, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance.

Infotainment

The MIB II system in the Atlas Cross Sport is the most impressive we’ve seen to date from VW. It uses capacitive touch on a glass screen much like a smartphone instead of the resistive touch displays that we’re all used to in vehicles.

The backup camera view is sharp and bright, and stays clean thanks to the camera being hidden behind the VW emblem on the tailgate. It’s a major perk that most people don’t realize is important until they have it.

Summary

If Volkswagen set out to make an all around functional, stylish, yet sporty crossover, then they achieved it. The Atlas Cross Sport is unlike any other vehicle in this segment, offering the space and comfort of a full-size SUV for occupants while remaining a driver’s car through and through.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling10
Braking10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy8
Noise10
Headlights10
Interior Fit and Finish10
Seating10
Visibility9
Gauges and Controls9
Infotainment10
Crash-Avoidance10
Total Score96


Make: Volkswagen 
Model: Atlas Cross Sport
Trim Level: SEL
Engine: 2.0 Turbo
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Options: None

Base Price: $ 39,545
As-Tested Price: $40,565

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