First Look

2018 Volkswagen Atlas First Look Review: VW Finally Understands The US Market

The Touareg was never right for the US market, and VW is finally ready to succeed.

Volkswagen has been trying to do everything in its power to make American buyers fall back in love with the brand. It changed the Passat to be more like the Camry, but even that wasn't enough. The Volkswagen brand was still a bit too "German" to sell to Americans. Part of the weak link in the VW lineup was the SUVs. The Tiguan was too small, and the Touareg was too expensive. Volkswagen has finally revealed the perfect seven-seat SUV for America with the perfect name, the Atlas.

The Atlas differs greatly from VW's current SUVs because it was specifically designed with the American market in mind. SUVs in the US need to be tough, spacious, somewhat efficient, and off-road capable (even if the owner will never leave the mall parking lot). Volkswagen finally nailed what Americans want.

Taking a look at the Atlas, we see a little bit of Chevy Tahoe in the front, and a lot of Jeep Grand Cherokee in the rear. These are SUVs that have already won over the hearts of American consumers, so Volkswagen definitely nailed the styling. The Atlas looks tough, while still retaining its German design heritage.

On the inside is where you'll know that you're driving a quality German automobile. Volkswagen interiors never stand out in a stylistic way, but they are always functional and don't look dated in five years time. This is a gripe that we have with some American cars like Ford, which look outdated on the inside because of overly stylized features. Volkswagen gave the Atlas a classically styled interior that still manages to feel upscale. The Atlas borrows some features from Audi like the virtual cockpit which replaces traditional gauges with a customizable screen. It also comes with a 12-speaker Fender audio system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

One of the most important new features on the Atlas is a very simply one: third-row seats. This is the first seven-seat model in the Volkswagen line and it has been a much needed model for the company in the US. The Tiguan was fine for small families on a budget, but the Touareg never really clicked with American consumers. The Touareg starts at nearly $50,000, and for that price you would expect it to be a bit more luxurious or practical. We miss the days when you could get a Touareg with an incredible 5.0-liter V10 TDI engine, but these days it is rather mundane. Why spend almost $50,000 on an SUV that doesn't seat more people than the Tiguan that starts at half the price?

Unfortunately, we still don't know where the Atlas will slot in the lineup price wise. Volkswagen could leave the Touareg as its "luxurious" offering at the top of the range, and slot the Atlas between it and the Tiguan. The Atlas could just as easily be more expensive than the Touareg, but with five different trim levels and two available engines, we would guess that at least some Atlas models will be less expensive. The base Atlas will have a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 238 hp while the optional 3.6-liter V6 will have 280 hp. Both engines are perfectly adequate, and both should sell well in the US. We are excited to see if the Atlas is just what Volkswagen needed to turn around its US misfortunes.

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