How would you feel if, one fine day, your chihuahua suddenly starts roaring like a Lion? Well, Volkswagen has done something like that with their new Atlas SUV. Earlier, the German marquee tried its best to make a mark for itself with its European offerings, but it couldn't really gain a lot of appreciation. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? VW had to comply, they had to go the American way. Cue in - the Volkswagen Atlas - the biggest family SUV with the VW badge that the world has ever seen.
Crafted specifically for the US, the Atlas first rolled out in 2018. And with this new member, Volkswagen finally adhered to the American mentality of big and brawny SUVs. The Atlas went on to make a special place in the market for its massive road presence, a practical third row, and a boxy shape translating to enormous space all around. Now, as the 2020 model hits the dealerships, the Atlas has just gotten better with a few tweaks in the feature-list. Some touches have also been given to the exterior, just bringing it head-to-head with the latest trend. So is VW back in the game with the 2020 Atlas? Let's find out!
The 2020 VW Atlas is a seven-seater SUV that offers a competitive level of technology and spaciousness combined with hallmark Volkswagen driving dynamics. Its base 2.0L four-cylinder engine feels underpowered for a fully spec'd Atlas, but the optional 3.6L, V6 motor is quite competitive. On the outside, the Atlas may adorn the looks of its predecessor but has improved on the comfort, reliability, convenience and safety front, which is not so evident in the rivals. The interior quality may not scream premium but hey, no SUV this big comes backed by German tank-like build quality in this segment.
Volkswagen is pretty desperate to grab a fair share of this segment as it offers 7 trims with the Atlas. Apart from that, there's are two different powertrains and two different drivetrains that you can choose from. That means, the 2020 VW Atlas can be had in 16 different kinds of setups. In the spectrum of choices, the base-spec Atlas is placed with a standard 235 hp, 2.0L, four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels, starting at $31,545.
That said, the rest of the trims can be configured with a 276 hp, 3.6L, V6 motor either in FWD or AWD setup. While the base Atlas is a pocket-friendly buy for family utility, the premium versions costing upwards of $45,000 are generously luxurious and bring many segment-above features into the picture.
SE w/Tech R-line
MSRP (FWD) (V6)
MSRP (AWD) (V6)
LED Headlights and DRLs
Add/Upgrades from S
Add/Upgrades from SE
Add/Upgrades from SE w/Tech
Add/Upgrades from SE w/Tech R-Line
Add/Upgrades from SEL
Add/Upgrades from SEL R-Line
Heated washer nozzles
Power Liftgate with Easy Open
stainless steel pedal caps
Overhead view camera
18-inch alloy wheel
Park Distance control
Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking
Active blind spot monitor
Parking steering Assist
Leather/Piano Black Steering Wheel
Heated Rear Seats
Heated Front Seats
With lots of safety features and amenities, this spacious SUV is a family-friendly car. For someone looking for the maximum comfort, stimulated by modern technology, SEL Premium with optional packages ranging to $50,000 is the pandora's box.
Which VW Atlas trim level would be the best pick?
The best choice here would be the mid-level SE trim, which adds useful convenience features like keyless access on all five doors, push-button start and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel apart from standard active safety features. If good fuel economy isn't your priority, get this trim mated to the V6 AWD setup and voila, you've got yourselves a punchy SUV at a good value-for-money proposition.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Engine and Performance
The 2020 VW Atlas's entry-level trim comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, I-4 engine that produces 235 HP of power and 258 lb-ft of torque. That said, irrespective of the trim you pick, an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission translates the power to the wheels. However, the 2.0L motor can only manage to handle the front wheels (FWD). It seems pretty underpowered to drive an almost half-ton vehicle. With a full load of passengers aboard, the 2.0L motor of 2020 VW Atlas demands more power as the gas gauge shrinks faster than the speedometer rises.
On the other hand, the 3.6L V6 trims, driving either the front-wheel (FWD) or all-wheels (AWD), suffice the purpose. As the trim name suggests, a 3.6L, turbocharged, V-6 motor discharges duties in the Atlas producing 276 HP of power and 266 lb-ft of torque. This unit features a linear torque band with the peak torque available at pretty low RPMs. The V6 is quiet and sounds refined, offering a composed and smooth ride quality. That said, ferrying 7 passengers is a much more comfortable task with this motor. It enables the Atlas to gain momentum quickly even when fully loaded.
3.5L Naturally Aspirated V6
3.6L Naturally Aspirated V6
3.5L Naturally Aspirated V6
Comparatively, the V6 engine comes standard from the likes of Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, which tops the list in this category. Though the FWD Atlas is not as fun to drive as its competitors, its V6 AWD unit is still a much engaging proposition from the German carmaker. The Bow-Tie badge in talks here makes the most power here, thanks to its slightly better motor and a slick transmission setup that perform supremely.
How fast is the VW Atlas from 0-60 MPH?
The Atlas comes blessed with either of the two engines—a 235-hp four-cylinder or a 276-hp V-6, airing fairly well from 0-60 MPH in 7.9 seconds for four-cylinder FWD and 7.2 seconds for the V6 AWD setups. The turbo-four cylinder engine falls head-to-head with the likes of Mazda CX-9 or Subaru Ascent, but, in terms of towing and performance in winters, this motor is a bit of a compromise.
The Atlas's 8-speed automatic transmission coupled with V6 works smoothly and transmits the power to the ground which might not win you a drag race but can lug 5,000 pounds worth of trailer. However, with the all-wheel-drive configuration, the same 5,000-pound towing capacity seems insufficient. The base Atas FWD, on full load, struggles on an uphill trajectory and drains gas like water.
* Figures of 2019 models used for reference
The VW Atlas's V6 motor doesn't really let you feel the punch inside but it is just as quick as its competitors. The Honda Pilot, being an exception, is assisted very nicely with its slick 9-speed shifter to come out as the quickest contender here. Surely, Honda's refinement further adds to the factor. Toyota Highlander, on the other hand, fails to build any momentum past the 100-mph barrier. But that's alright, it's not like any US roads would let you go up to that speed.
How effectively VW Atlas brakes stop from 60-0 MPH?
The braking system on the Atlas is comprised of vented front discs and solid rear discs combined with standard ABS and EBD on all four wheels. As a result, the Atlas can come to a halt from 70-0 MPH in 165ft. It is yet to be tested for braking from 60-0 MPH. Independent suspension for all four wheels further adds to the experience. There is considerable nose-dive but it still feels better composed as compared to the Chevrolet Traverse.
VW is bundling features like Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Forward Collision Assist, EBD, and many others as standard with every trim of the Atlas just to cocoon you and your family in a safety net. The unique ABS programming for different drive-modes available in this VW adjusts the braking effect with a shift of a knob.
Brake Rotors Front
Brake Rotors Rear
**70-0MPH figures used
It is a pretty commendable job from Atlas to manage to stop from 70-0MPH in just 165ft, despite being the heaviest contender here. Nothing challenges the confidence you gain when braking in the Honda Pilot. It handles like a big hatchback. The Highlander isn't much different too as it comes to a halt much faster than it gathers pace.
How is the ride quality of VW Atlas?
With independent suspension on all four wheels, the Atlas offers a composed ride quality. The rack-and-pinion steering features electric power assist and speed-sensitive variable steering assist. This system offers a 16.3:1 steering ratio that allows for 2.76 steering wheel turns from lock to lock and a vehicle turning circle of 38.06 feet. If the numbers seem confusing to you, let's just say the Atlas is a pretty comfortable handler. It may not excite the spirited driver in you (not even the V6 cousin), but it can stay at 70 MPH all day long.
The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system act laterally, avoids wheel slipping and enables the uninterrupted and stable drive. Also, its steering complies with the desired course and keeps the vehicle in a straight line. The Atlas has on-point handling and never feels clumsy. Its MQB platform - pretty common across the Volkswagen family - is a pretty stable structure. However, let's not forget that the Atlas is the biggest vehicle based on this platform, therefore, some body-roll is ought to be there. Simply put, the Atlas is more of a hauler than a sprinter.
How much can the VW Atlas tow?
With a factory-installed trailer hitch (SEL and SEL Premium) the Atlas's V-6 engine can pull a maximum of around 5000 lbs of braked trailer, while all other models require dealer or port-installed hitch which then allow a maximum towing capacity of 2000 lbs. Also, the standard engine feels underpowered to pull the loaded Atlas further reducing the towing capacity.
As stated above, it is not a powerful drive but if equipped properly may suffice. The S trim with 2.0L configuration will not go big for someone prioritizing the pulling capacity. That said, the Pilot trumps everybody here with the class-leading tow capacity. Let's not forget, the figures of the Atlas shown above is just for the base trim, the others can tow as much as the Honda rival.
If you go around the town for a drive, the Atlas returns around 20 MPG, whereas, hit the freeway for a long drive and this number escalates to 24 MPG. With a combined fuel economy of 22 MPG, the Atlas's 2.0L unit is a fuel-guzzler, especially considering that this small 4-pot motor drinks as much as its V6 competitors. Making matters even worse, the Atlas's V6 motor with AWD returns 18 MPG in city and 21 MPG on the highways.
All Atlas models are outfitted with an 18.6-gallon fuel tank that further doesn't work in its favor as it offers a much lesser range than the competition. The FWD V6 still offers a slightly better MPG rating than the optional all-wheel drive. That said, this SUV isn't very proud when it comes to its fuel-economy.
(Tons/yr. of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)
The Atlas fall behind from its competitors in this category. The likes of Toyota Highlander enjoy better MPG ratings with a higher range as well. Turns out, the Honda Pilot may be pretty fast, but it isn't very generous when comes to sipping fuel. The Chevrolet Traverse, owing to its heft, isn't very far behind either.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Interior
The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas offers roomy interiors and comfortable ride for all adults in all three rows. Its utilitarian interiors and laid on the line interior controls make it the best choice for a family among its highly anticipated rivals. Unlike most of the Volkswagens, the Atlas's interior consists of a broadly laid dashboard with masculinity dripping everywhere. The steering wheel is a familiar sight and the cleverly placed A-pillar makes the Atlas feel much smaller than its actual size.
The VW Atlas studded its abundant space with ample of storage nooks to stash small items. There's a unique style to that, reducing its acreage among style mavens. Also, the leatherette seating surface is standard except in base trim which comes in tough-feeling cloth work. You can also opt for Captain's Chair package which comes with second-row captain's chairs and third-row easy access mechanism. All in all, your spine will appreciate the Atlas.
First Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
Second Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
Third Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
On the outside, the Traverse might seem to be the biggest of the ones mentioned above, however, the Atlas's clever engineering translates to a cavernous cabin. Even vehicles as big as Traverse and the Highlander fail to offer so much space in the third row. The middle and front rows are almost equally matched in all of them.
What are the key interior features of the Atlas SUV?
Apart from an impressive passenger volume, the folks at VW have also blessed this mid-size SUV with a ton of comfort features. Out of them, the most notable offerings include
Ventilated, 10-way power driver's and 8-way passenger seat w/ memory
How is the VW Atlas Infotainment system?
The 2020 VW Atlas is well connected, wi-fi enabled, and crafted to elate the driving experience with great reason. The Premium trim exclusively features Discover Media 8.0-in touchscreen w/ navigation in addition to standard feature which includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen with AM/FM radio and one USB port. On up-gradation to the SE or SEL models, three more USB ports in the console, SiriusXM radio, and two additional speakers to amplify the volume are also included.
This infotainment should remind of various other Volkswagens like the Golf and the Jetta that share the same infotainment screen. As expected, this interface is fluid in transiting from one menu to another and comprises of a user-friendly interface. One quirk we found here was that on broad day sunlight, this infotainment gets slightly hard to see even when at the maximum brightness. That said, some of its key features that caught our eye were:
AM/FM Stereo HD Radio
Car-Net 2.0 telematic system
Satellite Radio Service
12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System
Voice Control and Media Control
How much is the VW Atlas's Cargo Capacity?
Owing to its boxy and an upright structure, the 2020 VW Atlas can, impressively, carry 20.6 cu.ft of cargo space with 7 passengers inside the cabin. Each row is conveniently foldable and the high-lifting tailgate enhances the loading/unloading factor. This works in the Atlas's favor as no other SUV, which is backed by the German reliability, can carry this much luggage at this price point.
The designers of the 2020 VW Atlas intelligently articulated small nooks inside the cargo area to augment the customer’s convenience. Moreover, there are options provided by VW that may buy you a power liftgate and Captain’s chair which comes with second-row and third-row easy access.
Cargo Capacity (with 3rd row folded)
Cargo Capacity (With All Seats folded)
The Highlander loses outrightly as it is clearly dwarfed by the other giants in the discussion here. The gigantic Chevrolet Traverse offers the maximum space as long as the seco0nd row seats are upright. The Traverse's and the Atlas's class-leading front passenger volume takes away some space from their maximum abilities when both rows are folded down. The Honda Pilot emerges as the winner in that case then.
The 2020 Atlas's front, unlike any other VW, showcases an upright hood with no curves to spoil the view. Good, chunky, squared-off headlamps added with the chrome grille dominate the front look of the car. Move over to the sides and the high window line imposes a rugged look here as well. The bent-over A and C-pillars may seem out of proportion for an SUV with straight lines all over. Nevertheless, it's nothing to crib about. A broad crease follows across either side of the SUV further adding to its presence. The rear pretty much looks like a swollen-up VW Tiguan, just broader.
Despite being the biggest Volkswagen, the Atlas is still not the biggest SUV in the segment. However, it also means that parking the Atlas in cramped spaces won't be much of an issue. Moving through crowded spaces will be easier as well as opposed to other adversaries in talks here. 8 inches of ground clearance add to the SUV's go-anywhere attitude, and if your Atlas has an AWD setup, you just might!
The mid-size three-row SUV has been the German’s best attempt at landing a US-centric SUV. Its long 117.3-inch wheelbase assists in soft landing through a crater. Having said that, Volkswagen still needs to step up its effort to make it look sporty, athletic and appealing in order to keep up the sales aginst the fierce styling toppers from Honda, Chevrolet, and Toyota. The American in the talks here also casts the biggest shadow on the road here.
What are the Atlas' most notable Exterior features?
Volkswagen has bundled a plethora of features on the outside of the Atlas to ensure that onlookers stay hooked to the Atlas, every time one passes by. Here are the most notable features on offer:
Apart from this tan-like build quality, the German SUV also comes backed by a plethora of advanced safety features that just keep on increasing as you move up towards the higher trims. Having said that, the Atlas's key safety features that we appreciated the most were:
Dual front & side airbags, front & rear curtain airbags
Although the 2020 VW Atlas has embarked on next-generation technology and intuitive infotainment features standard on all models, its base trim with a sluggish 2.0L four-cylinder turbo motor has failed to impress. The V6 option might not be the best in class in terms of power and performance either but it masks the base trim's shortcomings by offering superior quality ride and comfort along with ample space. For the price that you'll be paying for the Atlas, we think it's a good value for money proposition.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas FAQs
Which is the best trim level of 2020 Volkswagen Atlas?
The Volkswagen Atlas is offered in a range of 8 trim levels: The VW Atlas S, the VW Atlas V6 S, the VW V6 SE, the VW V6 SE with Tech, the VW SE with Tech R-Line, the VW V6 SEL, the VW V6 SEL R-Line, and the VW V6 SEL Premium (most of the trims come with AWD).
The base S trim enjoys a 2L Turbo engine that returns 235 hp. As you go premium, the VW Atlas offers a 3.6L V6 engine that delivers 276 hp. The mid-level trims offer a virtual cockpit, overhead view camera, and more. If you want power and performance, consider the latter trim options, but if you seek space with normal daily use features, go for the lower trims to fulfill your needs.
What’s the price of a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas?
The cost of VW Atlas depends on the trim level you choose that includes added features warranty, and accessories. The least-expensive model, Atlas S 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A) costs MSRP $31,545.
Other trims prices are as follows:
SE w/Technology 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A): MSRP $37,045
SE 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A):MSRP $34,695
V6 SE w/Technology 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A):MSRP $40,245
V6 SEL 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $44,395
S 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A): MSRP $31,545
V6 SE 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $37,895
V6 SE w/Technology R-Line 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $40,645
V6 SEL Premium 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $49,195
V6 SE w/Technology 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $38,445
V6 SE w/Technology R-Line 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $42,445
V6 SEL 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $42,595
SEL 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A): MSRP $40,795
V6 S 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $34,745
V6 SE 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $36,095
V6 SEL R-Line 4dr SUV (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $44,295
V6 SEL R-Line 4MOTION 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 8A): MSRP $46,095
Can the Volkswagen Atlas go off-road?
When installed with 20" black triple 5-spoke alloy wheels along with iconic Volkswagen 4MOTION all-wheel drive, any Volkswagen Atlas trim level in the lineup is capable of going off-road without any hassle. The standard 4 driving modes (with 4MOTION) helps the drivers to toggle between the terrain as per the weather conditions.
Does the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas offer Apple CarPlay?
The VW Atlas comes with a standard 6.5-inch center dash touchscreen with App-Connect that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to the virtual cockpit, the addition goes well with the available 80-watt Fender Premium Audio System.
How many seats does the Volkswagen Atlas have?
The VW Atlas is a 3-row seating SUV that can accommodate up to 7 passengers. The cargo area comprises 97 cubic feet space with back seats down. The seats are made up of soft material and offer ample legroom to the passengers. The Climatic 3-zone climate control makes the Atlas interior one of the most comfortable cars in the segment.
Which variants of 2020 Volkswagen Atlas have All-Wheel Drive?
Most trim levels with the 2.0L engine come with the front-wheel-drive as standard. You can choose the all-wheel-drive configuration on selected trim levels of VW Atlas. The models include the Volkswagen Atlas V6S with 4MOTION, the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE with 4MOTION, the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE with Tech with 4MOTION, the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE with Tech R-Line with 4MOTION, the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL with 4MOTION, the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL R-Line with 4MOTION, and the Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium with 4MOTION.
Buying a smaller engine- Not a great decision. It is underpowered and for an SUV this capable it is not the best choice.
by Nicky Collins
User Overall Rating
"Great car but..."
There is always risk buying an unproven car like Atlas. I wanted to wait some time before I bought it but I just couldn’t wait any longer. Bought it. Now that I have it and I start to see the flaws a little by little. Flaw might be a big word for the situation but let’s see what I’m talking about and you can judge it yourself. Gas mileage is not the best. Yes I bought the bigger engine and I...