Following an extensive track record of manufacturing vehicles for the American market that are an inexpensive lackluster imitation of their former offerings. No, the Jetta still hasn’t recaptured its former glory. And the Passat appeared as though it were constructed for Communist officials, not Americans. Nevertheless, it appears that Volkswagen is finally heeding the message.
Since the release of the Volkswagen Atlas in 2017, a three-row SUV about the dimensions of the Ford Explorer quickly became Volkswagen’s top-selling vehicle in the United States. It seemed as if the automaker was finally comprehending the American consumer after seven decades in the market. Nonetheless, it suffered from a stark interior flooded with inexpensive, tough plastic, something that’s eradicated by its comprehensive 2024 transformation. The Atlas is ultimately coming into its own.
The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas retains its classic, conventional broad-shouldered appearance, giving it an underlying visual power. However, it now features modern adaptive front lighting with LED headlights and an illuminated logo in the center of a redesigned grille. The back also sees revised rear lighting.
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However, it’s the cabin that signifies the change, as designers filled it with soft-touch materials and higher-quality finishes. Plus, there are extra standard luxuries, including automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a height-adjustable passenger seat, and voice control for vehicle functions. You can even choose quilted leather seats and ambient lighting.
The instrument panel has been redesigned with a more sculptural feel. It features a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and is anchored by a 12-inch touchscreen. There’s standard wireless charging, six USB-C ports with 45-watt fast charging, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. Nevertheless, volume and tuning knobs have vanished. Similarly, a traditional transmission shifter. Since the Atlas now uses shift-by-wire, the space beneath the center console is perfect for stowing handbags or computer bags.
However, it’s the spacious cabin that remains its significant selling point, where adults can comfortably fit in all three rows. Even with all seats occupied, there’s still a generous 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space, expanding to 96.6 cubic feet with both rows folded. Payload is rated at 1,091 pounds on front-wheel-drive models, 1,135 for all-wheel drive models.
All Atlas models are powered by a new turbocharged, intercooled, 16-valve 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. It generates 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s lower horsepower than last year’s VR6, but 28% more torque, reducing 0-60 mph runs. All-wheel drive is available on all trim levels, with front-wheel drive offered on SE and SE with Tech trims. Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds for all models, and all but the base SE get a standard tow hitch.
Smooth, quiet, and refined, without a trace of vibration, the four-cylinder engine performs like a larger powerplant, supplying the required power when navigating different terrain. It only becomes noticeable when cruising in the sport driving mode. Then, a distant growl alerts you to its more assertive intentions. Wind and road noise are notably absent.
Stable and confident, the Atlas adeptly absorbs the rough terrain with an absorbent, well-controlled ride. Nevertheless, it does exhibit more body rebound over bumps than its two-row counterpart, the Atlas Cross Sport, while its longer length makes it a bit less nimble. If you prioritize agility more than space, the smaller two-row Atlas Cross Sport is your better option.
However, the changes bring a much-needed touch of refinement and civility to a vehicle that no longer seems as though it’s designed by some penny-pinching accountant. Spacious and composed, it’s a superb family vehicle, a beautifully balanced SUV that seems large enough to carry the whole world.
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