Volkswagen entered the family-size 3-row crossover arena just 2-years ago ready to play, with the fantastic Atlas. Well, it turns out that the mid-size Atlas was just the beginning of things to come. Now we find that this new 2-row Atlas Cross Sport has joined the team. Now is the Cross Sport going to be another game changer for Volkswagen or just a supporting player?
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to this 5-passenger 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, is that “Sport” here applies to this Atlas’ re-formed shape, plus perhaps to a bit of a lifestyle change. So, forget about any hot rod upgrades. There are no performance enhancements compared to its 3-row brother. Still, it ditches that young-rider 3rd row in exchange for more style and more features.
But, hold on. It’s also not really a coupe-like redo, as the German luxury brands are wont to do; more of just a slightly more stylish 2-row version of an existing 3-row SUV. Think Honda Passport.
And in profile it is indeed very similar to the rest of the mid-size 2-row crossover crowd. Overall length is about 5-inches less than the Atlas, on the same 117.3-inch wheelbase. And it sits 2.2-inches lower, feasibly lending some credence to the Sport moniker.
The 3-bar chrome grille, front bumper, and lighting are all slightly altered; with full LED lights across the board.
Silver roof rails and 18-inch wheels are standard, with up to 21s available; as is a huge panoramic roof.
Still very spacious inside, with plenty of room for growing families, and remains highly functional. Front seats are wide and roomy, while the back seat has additional legroom, and reclines farther than in the Atlas; 3-across is not a problem here.
And in another slight nod to Sport, there’s a unique steering wheel, as well as an available 2-tone interior theme.
Everything is very simple and straightforward inside. Base S gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment; which goes to 8.0-inches for every other trim.
Standard gauges are clear and informative, but we really do love Volkswagen’s Audi-inspired digital cockpit. It alone is worth the upgrade to SEL trim.
There’s 40.3 cubic-ft. of cargo space; expanding to 77.8, with the rear seatbacks folded, which is 19.0 cubic-ft. less than the Atlas.
It’s not overly powerful, regardless of which of the 2 engines you choose. Standard with all trims is a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter I4 turbo. SE and SEL trims can upgrade to this 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with 266 lb-ft. of torque.
The biggest advantages of the 6-cylinder being smoothness and overall quieter operation, plus the ability to tow up to 5,000-lbs.
Both are available with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, with programmed drive modes for off-road and snow.
Like the Atlas, ride quality is smooth; the 8-speed automatic transmission equally on board with that mission, as well.
The Atlas Sport Cross is the first Volkswagen to offer Traffic Jam Assist and Dynamic Road Sign Display; there’s also Maneuver braking which intends to keep you from hitting anything when parking. But Automatic Emergency Braking is standard.
Put the “Sport” in Sport Mode, and off the line the V6 feels, well, very sporty. Throttle tip-in is aggressive. But as revs climb and shifts lag, so did our 0-60 at 8.4 seconds. Still, that’s fast enough to get home before the ice cream melts. And, the ¼ miles is competitive at 16.3 seconds and 94 miles per hour.
We’d stop short of calling it nimble through the cones, but it feels pretty darn agile for a fairly large SUV; and that can of course be attributed to its MQB-bones, the same architecture you’ll find under a VW Golf. Identical 4-wheel independent suspension as the regular Atlas, just slightly re-tuned.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive 3.6-liter are 16-City, 22-Highway, and 19–Combined. We averaged a respectable 20.4 miles-per-gallon on Regular. Still that’s a worse than average Energy Impact Score; 17.3-barrels of oil yearly, while emitting 7.9-tons of CO2.
Like the 3-row Atlas, pricing is very reasonable, starting at just $31,565; top SEL trim, at $40,565. Adding all-wheel-drive, another $1,900.
So, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is not another game changer. But, with it, VW not only wedges another all-important SUV player into their lineup, but gives people that don’t need a 3rd row a slightly more stylish, comfortable, and perhaps better lifestyle option. Looks like Volkswagen found an alternative role for success for the Atlas.
Engine: 3.6 liter
Torque: 266 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 8.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.3 seconds @ 94 mph
EPA: 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 17.3 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 7.9 tons/yr