Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

By: Mark Moskowitz MD

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Taggart: Whatcha driving this week?

I answered: a VW Atlas.

T: Never heard of it What is it?

Me: It's VW's new SUV.

How much is it?

$50,000, well actually 49 five with shipping.

$50,000 for Volkswagen are you kidding?

Haven't you heard of the Touareg?
The what?

Doesn't matter…. just understand for high-end top-of-the-line, luxury, all wheel drive mid size SUVs like Jeep Grand Cherokee, Acadia Denali, Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, S50,000 is the new norm.

Oh….. What does it look like?

Like most of the other SUVs, its rear most window is trapezoidal rather than rectangular and like most of the others it's got a hump that's partially curved and partially flattened over the wheel wells. Rather than look like appendages though, those humps are connected by a sculpted line along the Atlas' side, integrating them. The Atlas is attractive and riding on 20 inch rims has scale; it's longer than any of those I mentioned.

How did it drive?

I was pleased to find the suspension was tight. It didn't feel top heavy or sloppy like some native SUV's. It rode quietly even over bumps. When driven with civility, it mimicked a luxo sports sedan. With a 276 horsepower V-6, it seemed quicker from zero to 60 than Car and Driver's measured 7.9 seconds. The Atlas has a multitude of driving modes that affect steering, shift points, traction control, throttle response and the adaptive cruise control. On the road, there were eco, sport, normal and snow (slippery) settings. There was an off road setting; custom mode would allow a mix and match of changeable systems. I didn't find sport steering too helpful, it seemed to resist rather than facilitate driver input. Sport mode seemed to propel the Atlas best from 30 to 55 but from 60 mph and above the Atlas accelerated more quickly in normal mode. The eight speed automatic transmission was quick and buttery smooth. Paddles are not offered but the floor mounted shift lever could be moved to manual mode. In sport mode and left to its own devices, the Atlas seemed to linger in gears when the throttle was released.

Discs are among the biggest in the segment and the Atlas stopped extremely well. The steering wheel response to the lane departure warning system was more than ample.

So what do you like most about the car?

The interior. It's well thought out and cavernous. The multi adjustable power front seats are wide and comfortable with seat memory and lumbar support available for the driver. Even with tall occupants, there's phenomenal foot room behind the front and middle seats. Access to the third seat is mini-van easy. The rear door is 45 inches wide and the middle seat slides and angles forward with the most minimal of effort. Storage is epic. One compulsive reviewer counted 17 cup holders. The wide rear door opens with a light touch, key fob or foot swipe to reveal a four by seven foot space with the seats down. That space is supplemented by 16 inch long, 8 inch wide recesses in the way back. More are found in the front of the console , on the dash to hold a cell phone or two, and in the doors. The console is a foot long.

C'mon now, Volkswagens are known for economy not loveable interiors.
Burning one gallon of regular per 17 miles in the city and 23 miles on the highway, the Atlas breaks no ground. And the interior is elegant not opulent. The faux wood and plastic in the doors seem practical and are not displeasing to the eye. There's leather on the steering wheel and the seats but I am not sure I can discern what's cow hide and what's VW's durable V-tex. Rear seat occupants are treated to separate climate controls and built in rear window shades. Driver and front passenger can be heated or cooled with active ventilation.

The Atlas excels in technology. Any safety feature you can imagine is included in the SEL Premium package and where appropriate is clearly and imaginatively transmitted to the driver on the 12.3 inch driver's screen (formerly known as the instrument cluster) or the eight inch touch screen. Settings are luddite intuitive and response to touch and voice is accurate, quick and forgiving. And there's enough variability in both screen displays to engage techies and the performance minded.

You seem smitten.

I think it sets a standard. Few will be disappointed

Taggart shrugged: I've heard enough, sounds great …but a $50,000 Volkswagen, I can't believe it.

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION
Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Driving Impressions: 2018 ATLAS V6 SEL PREMIUM WITH 4MOTION

Features included but not discussed include power folding heated side mirrors with position memory and puddle lights, panoramic sun roof, heated multifunction steering wheel, surround view camera, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, parking distance control, park assist, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, trailer hitch with 5000 pound towing capacity, Fender Premium Audio System with 12 speakers and subwoofer, VW Car Net (a safety and convenience communication system), and a 6 year 72000 mile warranty.

Atlas's available base model has front wheel drive and the V-6 has an MSRP of $31,900.

2018 Atlas V6 SEL Premium w/4Motion
price as tested
month tested
mpg city
mpg highway
curb weight (pounds)
torque (foot pounds)
266 @ 2750 rpm
displacement (cubic inches)
length inches
wheelbase inches
fuel capacity (gallons)

Photo credit: Mark Moskowitz MD
Mark Moskowitz MD
About Mark Moskowitz MD
Mark Moskowitz MD is a retired surgeon, racer, and car collector. He is director and curator of The Museum of Automobile History (pvt), manages the estate of renowned automotive artist, Carlo Demand, serves on the Board of Directors of Carolina Motorsports Park and is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. He is a frequent contributor to multiple motoring publications. Dr. Moskowitz is a member of International Chief Judge Advisory Group and has been privileged to judge concours events at Boca Raton, Greenwich, Hershey (the Elegance), Radnor Hunt, Cobble Beach, Hilton Head, Dusseldorf, Monticello Raceway and Delhi, India.



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