Driven

2020 VW Atlas & Atlas Cross Sport

We first got behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Atlas back in 2018. For 2020, however, VW has taken the third row out of the Atlas and stylized it with more of a sloping roofline and dubbed it the Atlas Cross Sport. It seems like VW has gone to great lengths to differentiate this Atlas Cross Sport and make it known they believe it competes in a completely different segment. How different can it be? We scheduled back-to-back weeks with an Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport to find out.

For our second go-round in the Atlas, we were fortunate enough to drive the nicely designed R Line trim. The black trim and large wheels really add to the visual distinctiveness of this model, with its bright red paint really standing out in a sea of sameness. In contrast, the Atlas Cross Sport arrived in SEL trim line with very bland silver paint. It was pretty appliance looking, and we feel that the R Line trim with some color and larger wheels would be the route to go. The other thing that we noticed was how far the competition has come in terms of interior design since VW introduced the original Atlas. The Cross Sport suffers here most, since the interior is near identical to the Atlas yet it arrives billed as a new model. The hard plastics, older looking infotainment and black interior really make things rather drab inside. The digital gauge cluster is a highlight as is the incredible comfort afforded to you in any seat. That is helped by the sliding and reclining second row.

The Cross Sport was clearly going for the “Q8” or “Urus” look with its roofline, and for the most part, it was successful. Unfortunately, the fake exhaust ports are egregious and the rear window opening isn’t as good as the full size Atlas. Cargo room is generous without the third row there, and the sloping roof doesn’t hinder carrying larger items. The reason for all this convenience and comfort of course is the fact that the Atlas Cross Sport is still built on the Atlas chassis. The wheelbase remains identical, just with some of the sheetmetal sliced away in favor of a two-row lifestyle.

The fact that the Cross Sport is built on the Atlas chassis is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Ride comfort on the Atlas, regardless of which one you buy, is impressive for the most part. Some harsh bumps occasionally rock the cabin, and unsettled the car, especially when in mid-corner. The Cross Sport felt slightly more nimble, likely due to the slight weight advantage, but both variants of the Atlas can be equipped with the 2.0L four cylinder or the 3.6L V6. Our R Line Atlas featured the V6, and the Cross Sport featured the 2.0L, and after a week of driving both, we’d probably lean on the V6 just for the added grunt. Fuel economy that we had for the two weeks was almost identical at 21 mpg combined.

Overall, we still like the Atlas, but feel that the visual and technology updates coming next year would be worth the wait if you’re considering either of the two siblings. The Cross Sport is a compelling choice if you don’t need all three rows, but the price difference is only $1,000 to the full-size Atlas. With two engine options available and both FWD or 4MOTION AWD also available, there’s plenty of variants to pick from. Which would we choose? It was a clean split, with half the team opting for the full Atlas and the other half opting for the Cross Sport. In any case, make sure to find one with some color as it best showcases the Atlas’ square features and strong lines.

-Scott Villeneuve

Related: Sophisticated Versatility: 2018 VW Atlas

2020 Atlas Cross Sport SEL 2.0T
$39,545
Destination Charges $1,020
As Tested MSRP $40,565
2020 Atlas V6 SEL R-Line 4MOTION $45,145
Destination Charges $995
As Tested MSRP $46,140

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