The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is a pure SUV, through and through. It’s one of the biggest mid-size crossovers on the market today. The Atlas is distinguished by three rows of seating that are actually spacious. It’s also loaded with the latest technology features. Throw in several standard driver assistance features and impressive handling (even while off-roading), and you’ve got a winning vehicle on your hands. Here’s a closer look inside the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas.
The appearance of the 2021 Atlas is best described as “boxy.” The outward appearance is one of a sturdy and practical SUV. The words “sleek” and “angular” do not really apply. The designers in Germany have redesigned the 2021 Atlas with a new front and rear fascia. Those changes increase the vehicle’s overall length by almost three inches. A more attractive three-bar grille graces the front end, as do revised headlights that feature standard LED bulbs. Models with the R-Line option come with special badging, a body kit, and 21-inch rims. While it’s not sexy in a conventional sense, the 2021 Atlas is nevertheless a rugged, attractive SUV.
Engine and Performance
The Atlas comes with one of two engines. There the standard 235-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 276-horsepower V6. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The V6 seems to be preferred by most critics, who claim it feels and sounds refined.
The acceleration of each engine has been called “ordinary” in reviews. That’s not a negative, though. The engine performs as expected — nothing more and nothing less. The Atlas might not be as fun to drive as the peppy Mazda CX-9. However, the Atlas still manages to blend responsive steering and precise handling. Overall, the 2021 Atlas is smooth and responsive ride.
Trimlines and Prices
The 2021 Atlas comes in multiple trimlines. It actually gets a bit confusing. There are four basic trims — the S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. Beyond that, each trim can be outfitted with VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive option. Now we’re up to eight different models. Add in the optional V6 engine for the top three trims, plus an available technology package and an R-Line feature, and VW’s website actually lists 15 slightly different versions of the 2021 Atlas available for sale.
The standard S model starts at $31,545. It comes with the 2.0L four-cylinder engine, as the V6 is not available on this version. This base Atlas comes with LED headlights and a couple of driver assist features — blind spot monitoring and front assist. You can upgrade it to AWD by upping the price to $33,445.
We would suggest you skip the S model and start your shopping here, with the SE trim. There are many configurations in this category, so let’s break it down. The starting price is $34,895, but you’ll pay almost $2,000 more than that for the 4MOTION version. For the extra money, you’ll get five USB charging ports, three-zone climate control, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
If you opt for the SE Technology model, you’ll add remote start, parking distance control, and a hands-free lift gate. This model sells for $36,895. Want all-wheel drive? The SE Technology with 4MOTION is $38,795. If you don’t care about AWD but want the V6 engine, the SE Technology with the larger engine is $38,295.
Do you want more? There’s the V6 SE with Technology and R-Line package for $39,695. It adds the cosmestic badging to the previously mentioned features. Finally in this section, there’s the V6 SE with Technology and 4MOTION for $40,195 and the all-inclusive V6 SE with Technology R-Line and 4MOTION. That highest end SE model runs from $41,595. You can add optional features like a panoramic sunroof, second-row captain’s chairs, or a towing package to most SE models too. For a fee, of course.
The models get a bit more simple at this range. There are only three SEL models. There’s a 4MOTION version for each engine option ($42,395 for the 2.0L and $44,195 for the 3.6L V6), plus a standard SEL V6 for $42,295. This trim adds the panoramic sunroof as standard, VW’s patented digital cockpit, and traffic jam assist.
Finally, there are two more SEL Premium versions of the Atlas. They both come with AWD as standard. Also added are leather seats, parking assist, and an overhead camera view. The 2.0L version starts at $47,195 and the highest end V6 Atlas will set you back at least $48,995.
The 2021 Atlas is distinguished by a roomy family-friendly interior. As mentioned, the Atlas contains three rows of seats. They are each quite comfortable and offer plenty of legroom. There is also a straightforward control layout inside the Atlas and an abundance of cupholders. The interior design of the Atlas can best be described as uncomplicated and functional, which is perfect for families with kids to shuttle around. The engineers at VW have included plenty of carefully placed storage nooks too. The Atlas can fit four carry-on suitcases behind the third row and 38 behind the first row, if needed.
All trimlines of the Atlas come well-connected. The touchscreen interface is intuitive and responsive. The base S models features a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a WiFi hotspot, and a USB port. Upgrade to the SE or SEL models and the infotainment display grows to eight-inches, plus additional USB ports and SiriusXM satellite radio.
As far as safety features go, the 2021 Atlas has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the 2021 Atlas does come with some standard driver-assistance technologies, including forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology.
Volkswagen provides an above-average limited warranty on the Atlas. There’s also some complimentary scheduled maintenance. The 2021 Atlas comes with a limited warranty of four years or 50,000 miles. The powertrain warranty is also for four years or 50,000 miles. Finally, VW will provide complimentary scheduled maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles.
The 2021 Atlas’s fuel-economy ratings are not great. But what do you expect from a mid-sized SUV. The V6 engine has been rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 19 miles per gallon of combined city and highway driving. The four-cylinder Atlas delivered 22 MPG on average.
- Three rows of seating that are comfortable and can fit adults.
- Loads of standard technology included in all trimlines.
- Decent warranty and complimentary maintenance included.
- Exterior appearance is boxy and conventional.
- Interior design is functional but bland.
- Engine options have been described as “ordinary.”
The Last Word
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is an SUV for anyone who wants a big, roomy, and comfortable people hauler. It’s a vehicle built and designed for carrying kids and cargo. Volkswagen has clearly targeted families with the new Atlas, considering the multiple versions (and price points) that are available. To that end, the vehicle comes with plenty of entertainment and safety features designed to appeal to parents. However, if you’re wanting a “sexier” crossover, you should probably look elsewhere. However, if you value function over form — and have a small army of children and pets to accommodate — you will love the 2021 Atlas.