The Volkswagen Atlas is a solid three row contender in the SUV segment. But while the Atlas is a solid workhorse for growing families, the big VW is not exactly known for its athletic charm. Volkswagen aims to solve all that with the all new Atlas Cross Sport. But does the Cross Sport succeed in adding more excitement to the Atlas? Or is it a dead end?
Sloping roofline and revised looks add some needed edge to Cross Sport
At its core, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is pretty much what you expect it to be, which is to say an Atlas with a sloping rear roofline. This particular change was meant to help the Atlas look more dynamic, and while we’re still not sure whether it succeeds at that or not? We can say that it certainly lends trace elements of Audi Q8 into the design. The Atlas Cross Sport also benefits from revised exterior styling, with the front grille featuring a slightly more aggressive design, and the tweaked headlights give off a distinctive flair.
The side profile of our SE grade tester features a prominent character line that accents the slightly more aggressive design, but sadly, our Cross Sport did not feature the up-level wheels that can be had on higher grade models, which caused it to not have quite as potent of a visual statement. The rear fascia is arguably where the bulk of the changes are found in the Cross Sport, with the roofline being accented by a tidy rear roof spoiler, revised taillights, and a tweaked rear bumper. This new look allows the Atlas to challenge contenders such as the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, as well as select flavors of Jeep Grand Cherokee. But with those models being designed from the very beginning to accommodate this type of design from the start, it’s safe to say that the Cross Sport can be thought of as a knee jerk reaction move by the German car maker.
Comfortable Cross Sport interior is a balanced all rounder, lacks standout features
With the exterior of the Cross Sport being infused with more youthful lines, it should come as no surprise that the interior also has undergone a transformation when compared to its three row sibling. A big one is that the third row itself has been pitched, and the Cross Sport is strictly a two row offering. This move did cut seating from six to five passengers, but second row passengers will benefit from the increased room this brings, with the seats actually being able to slide further back than before, which allows them to stretch out and relax.
The rest of the cabin follows typical VW clichés which means a space that is efficient and comfortable, albeit at the cost of having any form of visual excitement. Our SE grade tester is in the lower end of the model family, but even that doesn’t excuse the shiny hard plastics that are evident through out the interior. It’s a shame too, because our example came with a commendable suite of standard equipment. Buyers will take joy in operating the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the soft comfort provided by the front leatherette seats. A wireless charging pad is also on board, but as is the case with others of its type, the phone will need to be out of a protective case for it to work effectively
Rear passengers aren’t left out in the cold either, with the space back there featuring climate vents, as well as two USB charging ports. Despite the sloping rear roofline, the Cross Sport still offers good amounts of headroom, and even adults will find that there is still plenty of headroom in this Atlas variant.
Turbocharged four cylinder puts Atlas in the hunt with two row rivals
Performance for our tester came from Volkswagen’s base 2.0 liter 235 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine. This engine is used in a whole pool of Volkswagen group products, and it still delivers commendable amounts of grunt for its size. Our tester managed to make the sprint to 60 mph in just under 7.0 seconds which is pretty good for an offering in its segment. An eight speed Tiptronic automatic is carried over from the traditional Atlas, and it proved to be a smooth operator during our tester’s time at the office.
With the engine providing ample amounts of gusto, it’s a shame that the handling can’t quite cut the mustard. The Cross Sport uses the same suspension setup as its three row sibling, and the tuning here is designed to cater to American tastes. Corner carving Teutonic poise aren”t found here, and instead you are greeted with an emphasis on comfort and isolation from the road. That’s also on target with rivals, but VW fans looking for a more involving utility driving experience are best served elsewhere.
The Cross Sport can also be equipped with a slightly more powerful 237 horsepower 3.6 liter V6. However, we personally don’t see the immediate benefits of the upgrade, especially considering that the gap of horsepower between the two engines is not that expansive, and the four cylinder also gets better fuel economy to boot.
Pricing for the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is also geared towards American buyers, with a base S model starting at $30,545. SE grade models like our lightly optioned tester start at $35,945. Buyers looking for more style can go for the range topping R-Design model, but should be advised that you come very close to the $40,000 barrier if you do.
Our advice is to go for the SE Cross Sport model. While it might not have quite the same styling punch as its R-Line tinged cousin, it does bring a balanced amount of equipment for the money, and will still be a very comfortable place to spend time in on long road trips. This trim also allows the Cross Sport to go head to head with other value focused SUV variants including the Ford Edge and the Chevrolet Blazer.
While the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport will not exactly light the world on fire with its styling or driving dynamics, it still brings the comfort, technology, and capacity that utility buyers go for, and ultimately those traits help the Cross Sport redeem itself when faced with a very crowded segment of contenders all vying for a slice of the buyers attention.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.