2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Test Drive Review: Sensibly Cool

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is an interesting idea; take the three-row Atlas, cut out the third row, and add some sportier, coupe-like styling. This approach to creating a mid-size SUV isn't brand new, as Honda used it to create the Passport a year prior to the Cross Sport's arrival, although the Passport does without the coupe-like roofline. We must give Volkswagen credit for creating a handsome SUV that doesn't sacrifice on interior space or practicality. In many ways, the Atlas Cross Sport takes the idea spawned by the BMW X6, but with superior execution at a much lower price point.

The Atlas Cross Sport competes at the smaller end of the midsize SUV spectrum. Rivals include the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, GMC Acadia, aforementioned Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, and Nissan Murano. Though it's not the cheapest in this group, the Atlas Cross Sport provides an appealing combination of size, style, and features. CarBuzz spent a week driving the mid-level Atlas Cross Sport SE With Technology R-Line, and we found it to be a competent option in the midsize space.

Read in this review:

8.1
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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Atlas Cross Sport?

Now in its second model year in the USA, the sporty Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport gets an upgraded infotainment interface and new safety gear. The latest MIB3 infotainment system includes wireless App-Connect and is standard on the SE and above, while SEL trims and above are now equipped with additional safety equipment in the form of travel assist and emergency assist. Travel assist makes it possible to enjoy partially-automated hands-on driving at speeds of up to 95 mph, while emergency assist can automatically bring the SUV to a stop should the driver become incapacitated for any reason.

Pros and Cons

  • One of VW's more stylish SUVs
  • Spacious seating
  • Premium interior design
  • Big trunk
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Only average performance
  • VR6 engine feels unrefined
  • Fuel economy isn't great
  • Some hard interior surfaces
  • Gets pricey at the high end

Best Deals on 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0T S
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$30,855
2.0T SE
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,205
2.0T SE with Technology
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$36,245
V6 SE with Technology
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,645
V6 SE with Technology R-Line
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$39,045
See All 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trims and Specs

2021 Atlas Cross Sport Exterior

See All 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Exterior Photos

Dimensions

  • Length 195.5 in
  • Wheelbase 117.3 in
  • Height 67.8 in
  • Max Width 78.4 in
  • Front Width 67.0 in
  • Rear Width 67.6 in
  • Curb Weight 4,098.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Pure Gray +$395
  • Oryx White Pearl, Not orderable at this time +$395
  • Aurora Red Metallic +$395
  • Oryx White Pearl +$395
  • Pure White, Build Out: 12/25/2020
  • Pyrite Silver Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl
  • Tourmaline Blue Metallic
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Pacific Blue Metallic, Build Out: 10/30/2020
  • Pure White

2021 Atlas Cross Sport Performance

Engine and Transmission

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

Handling and Driving Impressions

From behind the wheel, it's tough to tell the Cross Sport apart from the standard Atlas. The steering is extremely light, as is characteristic of Volkswagen products, but the front wheels respond quickly to driver inputs. There's decent body control for such a large vehicle, but we wouldn't call it sporty. As for the ride, it's pretty forgiving, but certainly on the firm side compared to other options in this segment. Even with the larger VR6 engine, the Cross Sport isn't the quickest in its class, nor is it the best for towing. The VR6 engine sounds rough at higher rpms, so we'd think about getting the smaller four-cylinder engine. We have to compliment Volkswagen on the eight-speed automatic transmission, which is one of the smoothest in this segment.

When driving on paved roads, the Atlas Cross Sport offers four drive modes: Eco, Sport, Normal, and Custom. There isn't a massive difference between any of them, but the Sport mode does come with the added benefit of tightening up the steering feel to a sportier level. Along with the traditional drive modes, the Cross Sport adds a winter mode and two off-road modes should you ever find yourself on a dirt trail. The Atlas Cross Sport is not a thrill to drive, nor does it leave you yawning.

2021 Atlas Cross Sport Interior

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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.6 in
  • Front Head Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Leg Room 40.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.8 in

2021 Atlas Cross Sport Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Atlas Cross Sport Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

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

Starting with a traditional SUV and trying to make it into a sporty coupe doesn't always result in success, but we think the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport gets the formula right. By starting with the standard Atlas and eliminating the third row, the Cross Sport maintains its practicality while also achieving a sportier design. It's not the most exciting vehicle in its segment and its engine options are far from perfect, but we think the Atlas Cross Sport is an acceptable combination of style, size, and features.

There are no shortage of other options in the mid-size segment, some of which offer a third-row seating option. The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are each cheaper than the Cross Sport, and the former offers seating for six or seven. The Honda Passport is a bit more expensive, but it offers more power, superior off-road capabilities, and slightly more cargo space. Meanwhile, the three American options (the Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge, and Jeep Grand Cherokee) all have more potent engines. The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport may not stand out as the best vehicle in its class, but it's worth consideration.

Check out other Volkswagen Atlas Styles

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Comparisons

Volkswagen Atlas
Audi Q8 Audi
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport235 hp21/25 mpg$33,635
Volkswagen Atlas 235 hp21/25 mpg$34,335
Audi Q8 335 hp18/23 mpg$70,800

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs Volkswagen Atlas

If you occasionally need to carry extra passengers, the bigger but more conservative Atlas could be worth a look. It doesn't look as sporty as the Atlas Cross Sport, but it has a third row of seats to increase its seating capacity. The Atlas has more cargo space behind its second row, but the Atlas Cross Sport surprisingly wins when it comes to cargo space behind the first row. Both model ranges offer a similar driving experience as they have the same engine choices, as well as the option of either FWD or AWD. Similarly, there isn't a big difference between the equipment levels. The Atlas starts off at a slightly higher price point, but that's not surprising considering its extra seating. If you don't need to seat more than five people, the Atlas Cross Sport is the pick with its more appealing styling.

See Volkswagen Atlas Review

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs Audi Q8

Audis are often unfairly accused of being little more than overpriced Volkswagens, but while the Q8 starts at over double the price of the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, the only thing these two SUVs seem to share is their coupe-like SUV body styles. Even then, it's clear that the Audi is a more upscale product. To justify its much higher price, the Q8 comes with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 335 hp. It can accelerate to 60 mph in only 5.6 seconds; by comparison, the VW doesn't come close. The Q8 feels a world apart from the Atlas Cross Sport on the road, with superior handling and a more comfortable ride. It also comes with a panoramic sunroof and a digital cockpit as standard. The VW does have more cargo room, though. If nothing else, the Q8 gives you an idea of what to expect from a premium manufacturer, but you do pay for the privilege.

See Audi Q8 Review

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Popular Comparisons

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