2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Test Drive Review: Fewer Seats, More Personality

by Ian Wright

The standard seven-seater Atlas joined the Volkswagen lineup as its largest crossover and slid its way neatly and successfully into the three-row midsize SUV segment. The Cross Sport model dispenses with the third row of seating, allowing Volkswagen to lower the roofline and give the already handsome Atlas a sportier and more aggressive look. That also opens up extra legroom for the rear passengers and uncomplicates rear storage. Interior space is the most obvious of the Atlas Cross Sport's benefits, along with a well put together interior and smooth ride quality. However, using the word Sport in the name doesn't necessarily mean it's particularly sporty to drive.

Standard under the hood of the Atlas Cross Sport is a purposeful turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. An optional turbocharged V6 ups the output to 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Both are strong, but neither are spectacular engines and the V6 option is thirsty. However, it is smoother, more responsive, and delivers its torque lower in the RPM range than the four-cylinder lump. With fewer seats, the Atlas Cross Sport takes on rivals like the Honda Passport, but still faces three-row competition from the likes of the Mazda CX-9.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Atlas Cross Sport?

The Atlas Cross Sport is an all-new addition to the Volkswagen stable. Based on the seven-seat Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport seats just five and also has sportier styling, with a coupe-like profile at the back. The SUV is offered with either a 276-horsepower V6 or a 235-hp turbocharged four-pot, with available 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Among the standard features are 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, and a Wi-Fi hotspot, while advanced optional technologies include traffic jam assist, dynamic road sign display, and an adaptive front-light system. Several trims are available, starting with the base S at just over $30,000 and going all the way up to the SEL Premium R-Line with the V6, at just below $50,000.

Pros and Cons

  • Sportier styling than regular Atlas
  • Capacious interior
  • Variety of trims offers something for everyone
  • Neat, sensible cabin design
  • Smooth ride
  • Ample cargo capacity
  • Not as sporty as it looks
  • Only average acceleration
  • Some rivals offer a superior warranty
  • Rather disappointing fuel economy numbers

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0T S
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$30,545
2.0T SE
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$33,945
2.0T SE with Technology
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$35,945
V6 SE with Technology
3.6-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,345
2.0T SE with Technology R-Line
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,345

Atlas Cross Sport Exterior

The regular Atlas is an inoffensive but rather bland three-row SUV, but the Atlas Cross Sport lives up to its name by showing off far more adventurous lines. Along with the coupe-like roofline, it also has shorter overhangs, contributing to a 2.8-inch reduction in length compared with the regular Atlas. From certain angles, the Atlas Cross Sport resembles an Audi Q8, a quality that will please VW fans and annoy Audi drivers. The base model has features like silver roof rails, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Higher up in the range, the R-Line versions have unique bumpers and badging, while some trims get an adaptive front-lighting system, a hands-free liftgate, and 21-inch wheels.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Front View CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Rear View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

Lower and shorter than the Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport is still one of Volkswagen's largest SUVs. Along with a 117.3-inch wheelbase, the Cross Sport has a width of 78.4 inches, a height of 67.8 inches, and a length of 195.5 inches. The ground clearance works out to eight inches. Curb weight begins at 4,103 pounds for the four-cylinder equipped with front-wheel drive, increasing to 4,411 lbs for models equipped with all-wheel drive and the V6 engine option - the equivalent Atlas is over 100 lbs heavier.

  • Wheelbase 117.3 in

Exterior Colors

The Atlas Cross Sport's color palette contains eight shades. Pure White, Pure Gray ($395), and Deep Black Pearl are the simpler shades, followed by several metallics: Aurora Red Chroma ($395), Pacific Blue, Tourmaline Blue, Platinum Gray, and Pyrite Silver. Color availability differs by trim; for instance, the base S can only be had in a choice of five colors, with Pure Gray, Aurora Red, and Pacific Blue not available on this model. Our tester was equipped with the Platinum Gray, a hue that subtly accents the strong character lines of the body without being too overt.

  • Pure Gray
  • Aurora Red Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl
  • Pure White
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Pyrite Silver Metallic
  • Tourmaline Blue Metallic
  • Pacific Blue Metallic, Build Out: 07/24/2020

Atlas Cross Sport Performance

A choice of two engines is available for the Atlas Cross Sport, starting with a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and highlighted by a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. In both cases, an eight-speed automatic transmission is used, while the standard front-wheel-drive setup (on most trims) can be upgraded to all-wheel drive. According to independent tests, the Atlas Cross Sport V6 will get to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds, which is useful rather than genuinely brisk. For example, the Honda Passport V6 is quite a bit quicker and can complete the benchmark sprint in around six seconds. That said, the Atlas Cross Sport can't be called slow, and even the 2.0-liter feels like it has sufficient power, if lacking the V6's responsiveness. The V6 is the much better option for towing, too, as it can haul up to 5,000 lbs, as opposed to the four-cylinder's much more ordinary 2,000 lbs.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Front-End View CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Rim CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

A pair of engines are available for the Atlas Cross Sport. For more efficient motoring, there is a 2.0-liter turbo-four with outputs of 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. More powerful is the 3.6-liter V6 which produces 276 hp and 266 lb-ft. Front-wheel drive is standard on the majority of trims and all-wheel drive is optionally available, but in all cases, an eight-speed automatic transmission is used.

There is not a massive difference between the two engines in terms of performance. Both are able to get the Atlas Cross Sport up to speed in a fuss-free manner, although neither does enough to make progress particularly exciting. The V6 is certainly smoother, though, and this aspect - together with its increased towing capacity - is the main reason to choose it over the smaller turbo-four. The transmission is generally up to scratch, although in the four-cylinder, expect downshifts to happen with more regularity on inclines.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.6-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Atlas Cross Sport takes to the road with assured Germanic confidence, and with a smooth ride despite firm suspension keeping it flatter than a heavy crossover should be when tackling a twisty road. While the suspension mostly delivers an excellent ride as a whole, small sharp bumps can be jarring.

Despite its sporty aesthetic pretensions, the Cross Sport is mostly a sensible vehicle to drive through well-weighted steering and smooth throttle response from the V6 engine. Switching into Sport mode, surprisingly little seemingly happens except the engine becoming a little sharper in responding to throttle inputs. Unfortunately, outright acceleration in either standard or sport mode is disappointing for enthusiastic driving. However, it is respectable for everyday driving.

Around town, everything is fine with the Atlas Cross Sport's handling, but try and push it towards any sporting potential, and you soon realize weight is its problem. As a result of not being significantly lighter than the standard Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport doesn't feature dramatically better driving dynamics, and through a twisty mountain pass, a three-row Mazda CX-9 will still feel significantly more fun.

Atlas Cross Sport Gas Mileage

The Atlas Cross Sport won't win any awards for fuel-efficiency. The 2.0-liter in front-wheel-drive guise is best, though, with EPA-rated figures of 21/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined - these figures are about the same as numerous V6-engined competitors which boast more power. The heaviest drinker is the V6 4Motion, which returns 16/22/19 mpg. Considering that the Atlas Cross Sport has an 18.6-gallon gas tank, it'll manage between 353 and 409 miles on a full tank. More fuel-efficient rivals include the Mazda CX-9 (up to 24 mpg combined) and the Kia Sorento (up to 25 mpg). Our V6 powered test model came in just over the 18 mpg mark after a week of combined driving.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.6 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 21/24 mpg
* 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T S FWD

Atlas Cross Sport Interior

Get into the Atlas Cross Sport, and the sound of the door closing emits a pleasing, satisfying thunk that boosts the impression of quality. While many other materials feel robust, there are also some plasticky bits (such as the door window switches) and hard plastics that don't feel quite as Audi-like. Otherwise, the design is clean and functional, and there are traditional knobs for the frequently used climate controls. The base S variant has manual air conditioning, manually-adjustable seats, and a smaller version of the central touchscreen, while pricier trims have dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, and a larger touchscreen. Blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning are standard driver aids, with higher-spec versions enjoying adaptive cruise control and park distance control. Overall, it's a pleasing cabin highlighted by the sheer amount of space on offer.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Dashboard CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Front Chairs CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

Something the Atlas Cross Sport's interior delivers exceptionally well is room. With the rear seat gone, five people can be reasonably comfortable. For just two people in the back, there is plenty of room to relax with a generous 40.4 inches of legroom. That's just a shade less than the front's 41.6 inches of legroom, leaving plenty of space for cargo. The headroom is also excellent up front with 39.4 inches, while the back still has an acceptable 37.8 inches. For a clue how well-aimed the Atlas sport is for the US market, we found a total of 11 cupholders scattered throughout as well as plenty of storage space for non-beverage related items.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Rear Leg Room 40.4 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The cabin environment starts off with Titan Black cloth for the base model, with mid-range trims getting V-Tex leatherette in Titan Black or Dark Beige. Moving up in the range gets you leather upholstery in color combinations like Titan Black/Quartz, Cinnamon Brown/Titan Black, or Dark Burgundy/Titan Black. The two-tone combinations work well to lift an otherwise somber interior. Silver trim inlays also help in this regard.

Atlas Cross Sport Trunk and Cargo Space

Without needing to worry about accommodating a third row of seats, the Atlas Cross Sport provides a commodious 40.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row. This is more than enough for a family's paraphernalia or a few larger suitcases. The 60/40-split folding rear seat folds down to open up a total of 77.8 cubes. A power liftgate is standard on all models besides the base S, and from the SE with Technology trim and up, you get a hands-free easy-open liftgate.

Interior storage for small items is just as useful, with two large cupholders positioned between the driver and front passenger. The center console offers a decent amount of space, and the glovebox is well-sized, too. Deep door bins are offered and folding down the rear-seat armrest reveals another pair of cupholders, contributing towards the total of 11 slots for cups and bottles throughout the cabin.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Cargo Capacity CarBuzz
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trunk Space 1 CarBuzz

Atlas Cross Sport Infotainment and Features

Features

As a range, the Atlas Cross Sport is generously equipped, although the base S does miss out on the most desirable features. This model has manual air conditioning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, LED headlights, and several standard driver aids like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and rear traffic alert. Mid-range trims introduce items like dual-zone climate control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, park distance control, and a power liftgate. The most advanced features fitted to the range-topping models include an overhead-view camera, park assist, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and power-folding side mirrors. A power tilt/sliding panoramic sunroof is standard on the SEL trim and above.

Infotainment

Standard with the Atlas Cross Sport is a 6.5-inch color infotainment display with Bluetooth connectivity hooked to a six-speaker sound system and two USB ports. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are also consistent through the range. Further up the trim levels, we start to find features like SiriusXM satellite radio, on-board navigation, and Volkswagen's Car-Net app that allows you to control aspects of the vehicle remotely. Further still up the range, Volkswagen's excellent Digital Cockpit LCD gauge cluster also becomes available, as does an eight-inch touchscreen with enhanced functionality.

Atlas Cross Sport Problems and Reliability

As the Atlas Cross Sport is all-new this year, we'll have to wait a bit longer to accurately assess its reliability. Hopefully, it performs better than the Atlas three-row SUV, which was the subject of five recalls in 2019.

Volkswagen sells the Atlas Cross Sport with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty which also covers the powertrain, along with scheduled maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some rivals, such as Hyundai with its Palisade, offer much more extensive drivetrain warranties, though.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    7 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 20,000 Miles

Atlas Cross Sport Safety

The Atlas Cross Sport hasn't yet been evaluated by local authorities, although the closely related Atlas did achieve a spread of Good ratings from the IIHS for crashworthiness. The NHTSA also awarded the Atlas a full five-out-of-five stars for overall safety, which bodes well for the Cross Sport when it is eventually tested.

Key Safety Features

Volkswagen has done well to equip the Atlas Cross Sport to a standard that will give parents peace of mind in terms of safety. All versions have six airbags (front and side airbags for those in front, and curtain airbags for front/rear occupants), along with electronic stability control, ABS/EBD brakes, and tire-pressure monitoring.

Standard and available driver-assist technologies are also good, with every model benefitting from a rearview camera, forward collision warning with emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. From the SE Technology and up, additions include adaptive cruise control, park distance control, and maneuver braking. The SEL adds high beam control, traffic jam assist, and traffic sign recognition, while the top two trims have a parking steering assistant and an overhead-view camera system.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport a good SUV?

Make no mistake; the Atlas Cross Sport puts the U in CUV with sheer space available inside. If you're looking for a vehicle that will swallow both people and freshly purchased goods, it should be on the list to cross-shop. Even on the higher-end trims, though, we found the interior well built and laid out, but lacking in the final touches. Volkswagen typically occupies the space between budget and premium, but brands known to be less expensive are doing what Volkswagen is trying to do here, and they're doing it better. Honda's Passport is a perfect example of what we would cross-shop against, as well as the Chevrolet Blazer and even Jeep's Grand Cherokee.

For those convinced this is the car for them, the Atlas Cross Sport is based on the now three-year-old Atlas, so we don't see an issue in picking up a first model year Atlas Cross Sport.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport?

The Atlas Cross Sport lineup begins with the 2.0T S in FWD guise at $30,545, followed by the SE at $33,945. The SE with Technology starts at $35,945 for the 2.0T and increases to $37,345 for the V6. The SE with Technology R-Line (later availability, according to Volkswagen) begins at $37,345 and goes up to $38,745 for the V6. The SEL carries an MSRP of $39,545 for the 2.0T and $41,345 for the V6, while the SEL R-Line (later availability) costs $41,245 and $43,045 for the 2.0T and V6, respectively. With the same engine choices, the SEL Premium is either $46,295 or $48,095, and the same goes for the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line at either $47,995 or $49,795. Limited availability applies to the 2.0T four-cylinder engine in SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line trims.

All models feature FWD by default, besides the SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line (later availability), which feature 4Motion AWD as standard. 4Motion is a $1,900 option on all other trims. All prices exclude a destination fee of $1,020, plus taxes, licensing, and registration costs.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Models

With eight trims (S, SE, SE with Technology, SE with Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line), two engine options, and either FWD or 4Motion AWD, there are 24 different configurations for the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, ensuring that customers are spoilt for choice. However, to most easily distinguish between each model, we'll focus on the eight different trims here, which differentiate each Cross Sport by features. The 2.0T four-cylinder engine is standard on all trims, and the 3.6-liter V6 is available, although it must be noted that the 2.0T is subject to late availability for certain trims. Some trims, too, will only be available later in the year.

The range begins with the S, outfitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Inside, cloth-upholstered seats feature manual adjustments, and there is also air conditioning, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, and driver-assist technologies like blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and forward collision warning.

Moving up to the SE adds a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. This variant also has leatherette seats, a 10-way power driver's seat, and a larger eight-inch touchscreen.

The SE with Technology gets 20-inch alloy wheels, hands-free liftgate opening, remote start, adaptive cruise control, and park distance control.

The SE with Technology R-Line has a sportier appearance by virtue of R-Line bumpers and badging and is the model to choose for more style-conscious shoppers.

Another step up is the SEL, with this variant adding LED performance headlights, an adaptive front lighting system, a driver's seat memory function, and navigation on an eight-inch touchscreen.

The SEL R-Line shares the SEL's specification, but gets R-Line bumpers and more aggressive 21-inch wheels.

The SEL Premium has 20-inch alloys and gets leather seats, with the front chairs receiving cooling as well. Advanced driver-assist technologies in the form of an overhead camera system and a parking steering assistant make an appearance here, too.

Topping the range is the SEL Premium R-Line, which combines all of the SEL Premium's luxury features with the sporty styling of other R-Lines in the range.

See All 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With multiple trims on offer, Volkswagen doesn't offer an array of packages, so only a few standalone accessories are available to further customize the Atlas Cross Sport. On every model, there isn't anything much more interesting than a cargo privacy cover ($180) and a cargo box attachment kit for the roof ($499). It's a pity, because some customers may want to save by going for the base model, while choosing just one or two features from upper trims that appeals to them, but VW simply doesn't offer this flexibility for the Atlas Cross Sport. The SE with Technology can be specified with the Panoramic Sunroof Package for $1,200, though. But overall, for an SUV with such a focus on style, greater customization of features, colors, and aesthetics would have been appreciated.

🚗What Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Model Should I Buy?

The base Atlas Cross Sport S trim model should offer a durable and long-lasting family workhouse with plenty of Germanic style on the outside. However, the SE with Technology with its power liftgate and leatherette-trimmed seating is the more obvious entry point to us, and worth stretching a budget for.

In a world of navigation apps on phones and Apple Carplay and Android Auto available, on-board navigation is starting to feel redundant. That makes the SEL the option with the least value to us. Customers with the budget would find more value going straight to the top with the SEL Premium trim, where the driver-assist technologies come with the fancy lighting and more luxury features, as well as the upgraded eight-inch infotainment and Digital Cockpit system.

The aesthetic-only R-Line options don't make a lot of sense to us as the Atlas Cross Sport is not as sporty to drive as it looks in the first place. The tough call is between the engine options, and we believe it boils down to whether the Atlas Cross Sport will be used for towing.

Check out other Volkswagen Atlas Styles

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Comparisons

Volkswagen Atlas Volkswagen
Audi Q8
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport235 hp21/24 mpg$30,545
Volkswagen Atlas 235 hp22/26 mpg$31,545
Audi Q8 335 hp17/21 mpg$68,200

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs Volkswagen Atlas

The Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport both ride on the MQB platform, and they each share the 2.0T and 3.6L V6 engines. But while the Atlas Cross Sport is a more emotive five-seater, the Atlas boasts three-row seating and a much boxier profile. The two SUVs are hard to tell apart on the road, with both providing good, rather than excellent, performance, and a ride/handling balance that is pleasing, but not the most engaging in the segment. Of course, the Atlas wins with its ability to seat seven, and it offers even more cargo capacity with the rear seats folded. Starting at just $1,000 apart and with a similar selection of trims, the price differential isn't so big that it will play a factor in the final decision. If you don't need to seat seven, the Atlas Cross Sport is big enough for most needs and is the much more interesting SUV to look at. For these reasons, it's the one we'd choose.

See Volkswagen Atlas Review

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs Audi Q8

Although the Audi Q8 plays in a different league in terms of technology, power, and price (it starts at close to $70,000), it also features the coupe-SUV style that has become so popular. From the rear three-quarter angle, the similar design philosophies are evident, although the Audi is an even more aggressive sight when popping up in your rearview mirror. So, what does the extra $40,000 get you? Besides the more premium badge, the Q8 has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 335 hp, enabling a far quicker sprint to 60 mph in under six seconds. On the road, the Q8 is much more confidence-inspiring and engaging to drive, yet retains an air of calm and comfort when asked to. The Q8 also has a stunning and better-built cabin, but the Atlas Cross Sport has a larger trunk. A range-topping Atlas Cross Sport at around $50,000 comes with loads of goodies and will still save you nearly $20,000 compared with the Q8, but even so, it's pretty easy to see and feel where the extra money has been spent on the Q8.

See Audi Q8 Review

Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Popular Comparisons

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Video Reviews

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$30,545 - $49,795
Price Range (MSRP)
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport