2020 Atlas Cross Sport
Adding the Atlas Cross Sport to VW’s lineup brings a new dimension to the Atlas. While the Cross Sport is heavily based off the three-row Atlas, it does have some Urus design cues. Volkswagen sent us a near top of the line Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium for a week to review.
Crossover coupes have been on the market for a few years now. Americans wanting the space of a crossover with the driving dynamics of a sports car have this new class of vehicle. BMW started this trend with the X6 and now there are offerings such as the Audi Q8, Lamborghini Urus, and Mercedes GLE Coupe.
The idea is the same for all these vehicles, take a boxy crossover already in the lineup and slant the roof and rear glass for a sporty fast back look. In the case of the Cross Sport this design works very well. The wide platform of the Atlas converted to a fastback, makes the Cross Sport look very aggressive.
From the front, the Atlas Cross Sport looks just like it’s older and larger sibling. It has a surprisingly wide, stance which gives it an aggressive look. Standard LED daytime running lights, headlights, and taillights are well designed to accentuate the rest of the vehicle.
Moving down the side, the Cross Sport almost has an armored vehicle look. The body panels are high and large with short windows. It gives the appearance of brute strength and looks like it could handle a roll over event pretty well (we didn’t test that so we can’t say for sure). To help break up the large side panels there are large curves and creases. All-together it’s an appealing design. Even when compared side by side with an Atlas, the 3-inch shorter length of the Cross Sport is barely noticeable.
Moving to the rear, the low and wide look is even more accentuated than the front. The coupe styling certainly helps with this. At the bottom of the rear bumper is a receiver hitch to accommodate the Cross Sport’s 5,000-pound towing capacity.
Inside the Cross Sport
Inside the Atlas Cross Sport is very much a two row Atlas. There are a few updates like the steering wheel and stitched door panels, but it remains largely the same.
Heated and ventilated front seats make for excellent personal temperature control. They are also very comfortable with enough side bolstering to hold the driver in place without encroaching on driver comfort.
As is common today, the driver can control most necessary functions from the heated steering wheel. The climate control is simple to use with physical dials and buttons and within easy reach of the driver.
Adult passengers riding in the rear seats will be comfortable and have plenty of space. Heated outboard rear seats and a fold down center arm rest with cupholders add to the comfort level. Hauling three adults in the rear seat isn’t an issue because of the wide platform.
For charging devices there are plenty of power outputs. Up front there are two USB-A ports, a 12-volt outlet, and a wireless charging pad just below the center stack. In the rear there are two more USB-A ports and a 115-volt outlet. There is one additional 12-volt charging port in the cargo area.
The cargo area is large with wide access. We love the optional Monster Mats trunk liner that also runs up the rear seat backs for use when the seats are folded. Under the cargo floor there is addition storage around the spare tire, which is a good place for extra tools, tire chains, or a tow strap.
Interior cargo volume is one of the highest in the class with the Honda Passport barely beating the Cross Sport. Others like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Subaru Outback, and Hyundai Sante Fe are all down on space comparatively.
Driving the Cross Sport
The on-road driving dynamics are quite good in the Cross Sport. The 3.6-liter V6 our test model was equipped with puts out 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. While adequate, this engine didn’t get the Cross Sport to move as quickly as we would have liked at our 4,600 ft elevation testing area.
The EPA also rates it at 16/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined. Both the fuel economy and power are bested by competitors like the Honda Passport and Jeep Grand Cherokee. A turbo 4 is also available with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque with an EPA rating of 21/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined.
Steering is precise and provides good feedback. Body motion is controlled well, which makes cornering more comfortable. Nevertheless, the ride is a little stiff and the wheels hit potholes with a resounding thump that sends a shudder through the vehicle. The Atlas Cross Sport doesn’t isolate the driver from the road as well as would be expected from a vehicle this size.
There are seven drive modes, but they are laid out in an interesting way. Just behind the shift lever is the rotary dial that controls four of the drive modes, snow, normal, off-road, and off-road custom. Interestingly, an additional “Mode” button in the center of the drive mode selector must be pressed to get into the economy, sport, and custom modes.
Each of the seven modes adjusts the traction control, throttle, transmission, and steering feel depending on the situation. In the custom modes, adjustments can be made to suit the driver’s preferences.
Taking the Cross Sport Off-Road
We were able to take the Atlas through our standard set of off-road tests. This includes a high-speed gravel and dirt section with undulations, whoops, and a few holes, an articulation hill, and a steep hill with an easy and a hard line.
The Cross Sport’s independent suspension does well to keep the vehicle planted on loose gravel. However, once the bumps become large the suspension is quickly pushed to its limits. This puts the Cross Sport about average with the rest of the midsize crossover class.
As expected, on the articulation hill the Cross Sport had very little wheel travel. With that being said, we were surprised at how easily it was able to crest the hill in every drive mode tested.
On the steep hill-climb the Atlas Cross Sport had no problem making the easy line in every mode tested. On the other hand, most crossovers without a low range transfer-case struggle up the hard line, and the Cross Sport was no exception. The Cross Sport was able to make it up the hard line and oddly enough we found that Sport mode worked the best.
Sport mode allows for more wheel spin before applying the brakes to the spinning wheels to transfer power. This allows the V6 to get higher into its power range before the power transfer happens. In off-road mode the system does a really good job of controlling wheel speed with very little slip. This also stops the engine from getting into higher RPM where is has power. The engine just doesn’t have enough low-end torque to transfer power and climb a steep hill at the same time when lifting a wheel off the ground and in off-road mode.
Cross Sport Pricing
The base price of the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium is $48,095. The SEL Premium trim includes the 4Motion AWD, 20-inch wheels, LED lighting, panoramic sunroom, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and every other item in this vehicle except one. You read that right, our test model had exactly one option, the Monster Mats floor mats and trunk liner for $235. Adding the $1,020 destination charge brings the total to $49,350. This puts the Cross Sport near the upper end of this class for pricing, but others can easily be optioned above $50k as well.
Overall, the Atlas Cross Sport is a comfortable crossover with lots of space. Despite its large size, it is easy to drive and park. The 4Motion AWD system works very well and should handle bad weather conditions with ease. If you want German styling at a low entry point the Cross Sport might just be the vehicle for you!
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.