How did VW’s all-new 7-passenger SUV perform? It's big but drives small. Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – June 19, 2017 2018 VW Atlas - $30,975 to start including the $925 D&H Charge and offers owners an 18/25 mpg city/highway rating in FWD trim. This week’s ride is the formidable 7-passenger, 18/25 mpg city/highway rated 2018 VW Atlas SE with Technology. It includes the aging but still competitive 276 hp and 266 lb.-ft. of torque naturally aspirated 3.6L V6 w/ Start/Stop mated to an all-new 8-speed AT. There are six standouts from my short four days with it. Its first claim to fame is the passenger volume of 153.7 cu ft. and cargo volume of 20.6 cu ft. behind the 50-50 split third row, 55.5 cu ft. behind the 60-40 split 2nd row, and a monstrous 96.8 cu ft. behind the first row with the second and third row folded flat into the floor. 2018 VW Atlas Cargo Capacity There is a lot of cargo volume available in back. The second is in a sea filled with 7-passenger SUVs, what makes the Atlas stand out on the road? The exterior character and feature lines are all close to 0-radius creases creating deep and attractive shadows along every line. Nobody except for but VW and its subsidiary Audi – BMW and MB as well, makes body panels with sharp edges and the Atlas has them in both the hood and profile. The rest of the exterior is std. fare including 18” alloys, lower cladding, short overhangs… I did notice fit and finish has improved tremendously from the prototypes we drove at the short lead a few months back. Another standout is the std. LED headlamps. The SE Technology trim does not include steerable or Auto High Beams unfortunately but they are bright and the fog lamps are slow speed cornering lamps that light up the left or right corner edges when cornering. The Start/Stop system is the best I have experienced in any vehicle to date. It shuts down even after short slow speed movements, is quick to restart, and is reasonably quiet. If there was one attribute that owners may find a shortfall with the system is the Hill Start Braking does not release as quickly as the engine off to on and transmission engaged transition when ready to move the Atlas. The Radar CC is the std. VW/Audi excellent. It provides soft accels and decels and looks out over 20 degrees to each corner. The LKA system barely touches the wheel to keep the Atlas centered. Another plus vs other OEMs more aggressive LKA systems that wait until the edge is being touched. And finally, the warranty. The Atlas arrives with a 6 yr/72k mile bumper to bumper warranty and 3-years of road side assistance. This is a long time coming and should have been included quite some time ago. Pricing? A full sized 7-passenger SUV with a starting price at just $30,975 incl, the $925. D&H charge means the pencils were sharpened. The FWD SE Technology we drove came in at $38,015 incl. the $925 D&H charge. Other impressions is that the Atlas moves away from the std. VW road feel. I applaud the very light steering to handle this large SUV. Especially in tight parking lots that is almost effortless in fact. The light steering and tight 38.1 ft turning circle makes the large SUV feel a lot smaller than it is. 2018 VW Atlas Interior Moving inside, the std. heated and longer lower seat cushions plus 10-way adjustable driver seat incl. lumbar provides the long-distance comfort we have experienced within all VWs from the Golf on up to the Atlas. The taller seating position of the SUV is ok but the B and D-pillars are thick causing some view angle constraints into the blind spots. The sunglass holder and sun visors that extend to cover the entire side windows are always welcome. The leather wrapped 3-spoke wheel – I wish it were a four spoke unit as I could not comfortably hold the bottom at the 6 o’clock position, and shift knob is std. VW as well. I do wish the wheel was a bit softer. The plastic A-Pillar coverings, door inserts that look good but are very “plasticy”, and the large dash with molded stitch accents appears a bit low rent for a VW. The Golf has better std. interior looks imho. 3-Zone auto climate seems to work fine but I only used the driver’s side. A/C cooled quickly and heat came up as soon as the coolant was near 120 degrees F. It happened quick as well. Within the SE Technology Trim, RCC with Auto braking and pedestrian detection, BSM with the excellent LKA mentioned above, and rear cross traffic alert are all std. Soon this will be standard on all cars but it is nice to see this included in the SE with Technology pkg. The power rear liftgate is also good although I wish it were a little faster opening. The proximity key system includes the "Reach into the door handle and it unlocks," This nice to see vs. many moving to the button on the handle. Remote start? I wish nobody offered this and you all know the reasons why. 2018 VW Atlas Seating Second Row slid back. Second Row slid forward allowing some third row seat leg and knee room. From within with seats moved back and forward. The second row seat slide forward and lift for access to the third row works similar to the Pathfinder’s system from back in 2014 although the third row like almost every 7-passenger SUV regardless of second row fore and aft adjustment is still tight to get into, not very comfortable while back there, and even harder to get out of. For kids under 12 maybe. For adults, it is just too tight imho. The second row on the other hand has good knee and leg room when slid back (see pics above) and tilts back for those of us that like the lean. On the infotainment front, the 8” central display audio screen is fast and the gesture control works well. While it includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay std. - I will use Android Auto tomorrow on the way to the airport, no embedded NAVI in a full-size SUV seems a bit cheap? I have made the same not with some of Lexus’s $40k + offerings as well so it is just a personal complaint with little merit given the well under $40k price point of this large SUV. Audio fills the cabin well and like many VWs, a CD-Player is still included. XM and HD Radio are std. It is not the powerful Fender system however. Now onto the aFCD Calibration Drive… 2018 VW Atlas LAX Shell and the initial top off with aFCD, Trip and Garmin. Even with a 6:15 pm launch thanks to over an hour to top off, the infamous 405 sucked! 1 hour to cover the first 15-miles on this SOB!!! Almost 2.5 hours later and 90.2 actual miles I arrived at my hometown Shell in Carlsbad, CA. Another hour to top off and the first measured fill was complete. 35.8 mpg over 90.1 miles indicated was 35.6 mpg over 90.2 miles actual. I have never seen an odometer/Trip odometer that close. Ever! Great accuracy on the aFCD as well. The 90.2 miles on 2.537 gal = 35.6 mpg vs. 35.8 mpg actual for an aFCD*0.994 = Actual mpgUS. Not bad for ridiculous traffic and a very heavy 4,336 lb. 7-passenger SUV with a Cd of 0.34. With that out of the way, let’s knock out to those Steady States. The 18/25 mpgUS city/highway rated 2018 VW Atlas SE w/ Technology uses the aging 3.6L V6 described above. It is powerful enough to move the mass but on the efficiency front is going to cost you. Especially around town with stop light and sign to stop light and sign despite the excellent Stop/Start trying to save it. The steady state(s) were undertaken between 12:15 AM and 02:45 AM early this morning. Temperatures ranged from 59 to 64 degrees F with calm winds for the northbound and southbound measured segments. 2018 VW Atlas with the 3.6L V6 Just minutes after the data collection early this morning. Notice the hood and roof feature lines? Best in the industry. The 25 mpg EPA highway crossover occurred at a calculated 70.38 mph. If we were generous, the Atlas should be provided another 1 mpg highway but in this day and age, VWs conservative rating is smart. The indicated speeds of 50 through 70 mph matched the actual mph through the entire range from 50 to 70 mph per the Garmin. RPM at 60 mph indicated 1,700 RPM vs. the calculated 1,643. 2018 VW Atlas Conclusions While the 2018 VW Atlas SE with the Technology Pkg. is solidly rated, if you need a 7-passenger SUV, my recommendation is to wait for the less expensive and hopefully more efficient 2.0L TSI mated to the 8-speed AT. I will be driving the 2.0L TSI engine tomorrow and Wednesday in Denver while inside the all-new 2018 Tiguan. Looking further, this is a great platform from which to build a future full-sized VW pickup from. Talk about creating a rumor!