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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Review: Trims, Features, Expected Price, Release Date, Specs and Rivals

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John Bedrow

Automotive Journalist

July 09, 2020 at 11:41 AM

The Atlas is Volkswagen's most significant SUV offering for the American customers, and it did not do well in the start with its dated boxy looks and common interior space. Volkswagen learned its lesson and now is back in the SUV segment with the updated much better 2021 Volkswagen Atlas. And now, it expects to attract even young American customers who are also looking to get an SUV with its striking looks and features list.

This new Atlas has numerous changes on the exterior with a significant redesign for the 2021 year, which now looks more appealing and better to an American customer. The Atlas also gets more highlights standard with 2021 cars and gets updated safety features along with advanced driver assistance technologies. But the rivals are always present and offer fierce competition which includes the likes of the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, and the Toyota Highlander.

What’s New?

  • Redesigned exterior and interior
  • Updated standard safety features
  • Optional AWD

Expected Price and Release Date of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas will be available in the United States starting from the Spring of 2020. Thankfully, with the 2021 Atlas, Volkswagen has also offered the AWD option with even the base trim variant S that comes with the 2.0 liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder engine.

But surprisingly, even though with all the latest updates both on the exterior and the interior along with more features, the prices of the Volkswagen Atlas stays very close to that of the current generation model starting at $31,545` and goes all the way up to $50,695 for the range-topping trims.

What’s under the hood of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas retains the same engine options just like that on the previous generation models which means you get either a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine or a 3.6 liter naturally aspirated V6 engine. Out of both engines available with the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, the 3.6-liter V6 unit provides the most power at 276 hp and has a torque of 266 lb-ft on offer.

Volkswagen's 3.6-liter V6

The 2021 Atlas like the previous generation model feels lacking in the performance segment when compared to all its rivals. The Atlas equipped with the 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine finishes the 0 - 60 mph sprint in just 7.2 seconds whereas the quarter-mile timings for the Atlas come in 14.9 seconds. The slow acceleration figures of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas can be attributed to its massive curb weight.

Models

2021 Volkswagen Atlas (Expected)

2020 Honda Pilot

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2020 Toyota Highlander

MSRP

$40,195

$33,550

$34,900

$36,200

Engine

3.6-liter V6

3.5-liter V6

3.6-liter V6

3.5-liter V6

Drivetrain

AWD

AWD

AWD

AWD

Transmission

8-speed automatic gearbox

6-speed automatic gearbox

9-speed shiftable automatic gearbox

8-speed automatic gearbox

Power (hp @ rpm)

276 hp @ 6200 rpm

280 hp @ 6000 rpm

305 hp @ 6800 rpm

295 hp @ 6600 rpm

Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)

266 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm

262 hp @ 4700 rpm

260 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm

263 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm

All the vehicles in the segment are offered with a similar engine with similar power output. If you're looking for the exact numbers, the Traverse is the most powerful with 305 horses under the hood. However, when it comes to the torque figures, the Atlas beats the lot but a narrow margin.

What kind of driving dynamics to expect from the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas has a perfect balance between ride quality and driving dynamics. However, still, it is safe enough to say that the Atlas is a little bit more biased towards ride quality and comfort than driving dynamics. This is evident when hard cornering as the body roll is very evident at those times. Passengers on the inside will be very comfortable, thanks to the spacious interior combined with fantastic ride quality and supportive seats.

However, we cannot complain a lot of about the dynamics since at the end of the day it is an SUV and SUVs cannot handle like a sports car. On the other hand, the Atlas surely looks sporty from every angle and corner. It fairs pretty well on that front. To sum it up, the VW Atlas is a comfort-oriented vehicle and it is very good at being so.

What kind of fuel economy to expect from the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas?

The fuel economy was always a stronger point for the previous Volkswagen Atlas models and that stays true with the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas as well. The Atlas gives 18 mpg in the city followed by the 22 mpg in the highway and has a combined mpg rating of 20. This combined with the fuel tank capacity of 18.6 gallons, gives it a combined range of 372 miles.

Models

2021 Volkswagen Atlas (Expected)

2020 Honda Pilot

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2020 Toyota Highlander

MPG (City)

18

18

17

20

MPG (Highway)

22

26

25

27

MPG (Combined)

20

21

20

23

Fuel Capacity (Gallons)

18.6 gallons

19.5 gallons

19.4 gallons

17.9 gallons

Range (City/Highway/Combined, in Miles)

335/410/372 miles

351/507/410 miles

330/485/338 miles

358/483/412 miles

Among its competitors in the segment, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander does the best in terms of range in the segment because it has marginally bigger fuel tank capacity than the Volkswagen Atlas.

What to expect from the 2021 VW Atlas's interior?

The 2021 Volkswagen now gets improved with the dimensions in terms of wheelbase and thus has great space in the interiors compared to any other SUV in the segment. The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas also is the best SUV in the segment with the best space for all the passengers in the third row of seats.The first row is roomy and comfy with seats that provide sufficient bolstering in every trim level. When opposed to others in its class, the seats aren’t pillow-soft, but they are suitable for a long drive.

Dasboard layout of the Volkwagen Atlas

The second row in the Atlas pushes fore and aft to provide access to the third row, but the important metric for parents is that up to three child seats can stay in place in the second row, even with the seats pushed forward.

Models

2021 Volkswagen Atlas (Expected)

2020 Honda Pilot

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2020 Toyota Highlander

Seating Capacity

7 seater

8 seater

8 seater

8 seater

Front Row Space (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

41.3/61.5/41.5

40.1/62.0/40.9

41.3/62.1/41

41/59/44.2

Second Row Space (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

40.4/60.8/37.6

40.2/62.0/38.4

40/62.2/38.4

40/60/38.4

Third Row Space (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

38.3/54.9/33.7

38.9/57.6/31.9

38.2/57.5/33.5

35.9/55.0/27.7

It is very evident from the above table that the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas leads the pack in terms of space on the interiors than any other SUVs in the segment. The Volkswagen Atlas always had a decent cargo space and with the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, it just got better. There is also an option to fold the third row and second row of seats which opens up even more space on the inside. Being a massive practical SUV, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas undoubtedly has great storage space on the inside too. This includes cup holders on the center console along with big bottle holders on the door pockets which can hold big water bottles without any problem.

What about the infotainment system of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas?

The 2021 Atlas gets Volkswagen's latest MIB-II infotainment system which is very intuitive and easy to use. The unit comes paired with an 8.0-inch touchscreen system along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity. The touchscreen and the system by itself are more intuitive and easy to touch than the system found on most of its rivals in the segment. Some highlights of the 2021.

VW's latest infotainment unit

Volkswagen Atlas's infotainment system include:

  • 4 USB ports
  • 12 speaker and 12 channel amplifier 480 Watt Fender premium audio system
  • 8.0-inch standard touchscreen system
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration
  • Optional navigation system
  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • AM/FM/HD Radio
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Exterior changes to expect from the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

The one major disadvantage of the previous generation Atlas was that it looks pretty much dated and boxy, But with the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen has made some massive design upgrades to the exterior which now makes it look very bold and attractive. It now sports a bigger front grille that houses the new VW logo. 

Volkswagen Atlas's side profile

The Volkswagen Atlas has also received dimension upgrades and now stands three-inches longer than the ongoing model. This midsize VW SUV still is immediately recognizable as a Volkswagen Atlas, one with LED headlights and taillights. Further enhancing the freshened looks are newly sculpted bumpers and a 3-bar grille like that used on the new Atlas Cross Sport. The wide grille extends into the headlight assemblies.

Models

2021 Volkswagen Atlas (Expected)

2020 Honda Pilot

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2020 Toyota Highlander

Curb Weight (lbs)

4612 lbs

4217 lbs

4362 lbs

4134 lbs

Length (inches)

200.7

196.5

204.3

194.9

Width (inches)

78.4

78.6

78.6

76.0

Height (inches)

70.1

70.6

70.7

68.1

Ground Clearance (inches)

8.0

7.3

8.0

8.0

Wheelbase (inches)

117.3

111.0

120.9

112.2

Every SUV in this segment looks different and it comes to personal preference when it comes to choosing one between all these SUVs in the segment. 

Will the 2021 Volkwagen Atlas be worth it?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is similar to the previous generation model. Still, with this year's model, Volkswagen has increased the dimensions of the 2021 Atlas which make it the best SUV in the segment to carry passengers on all the three rows of seats. It has many things going for it and some things hamper its desirability too.

Some positives include an upscale interior, spacious and comfortable seats, a long list of features, excellent ride quality, better-looking exteriors, excellent fuel economy, and of course is less expensive than all its rivals in the segment. It is not all good though with the Atlas as it lacks the performance and driving dynamics of all of its competitors, but this will not be a massive deal-breaker for those who have a gigantic, imposing SUV that can transport the entire family with great comfort.

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