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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2019 VW Atlas R-Line

This week we are reviewing the VW Atlas in Execline with the R-Line package. Our vehicle was assembled at the Chattanooga plant in the United States and has an approximate MSRP of $54975 CAD.

Fun Factor: 6

Can it Family: 9

Fuel-Friendly: 7

HWY-warrior: 7

Karaoke Friendly: 7

Baby-friendly: 8

City Cruising: 6

Volkswagen's biggest offering currently in North America is the VW Atlas, a big 6-seater that offers enough space for the whole family. The fun factor is decent on the Atlas, nothing that will make you rave about when taking tight corners nor with the acceleration of it. This doesn't mean the Atlas doesn't have an acceptable acceleration, the 3.6L VR6 engine under the hood produces 276 hp. In our real-life test, we achieved a 0-100km/h in 8.95 seconds. VW announces a 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The mission of the Atlas is to bring your family on road trips or everyday errands with ease and comfort. Items we thought needed more refinement were the 8-speed automatic transmission while driving in the city, on several occasions the gear change felt abrupt and unrefined at low speeds. The Atlas' strong point is in the driving dynamics, off-road and on the road, we noted that the suspension is tuned in a way that makes it feel a lot smaller than it's size. The same goes for handling in tight spaces and while driving in the city.

Our Atlas was equipped with optional captain's chairs, giving the car seating capacity for 6. This gives you a future proof option to seat 4 adults comfortably when your kids grow up, and as an added bonus, you can seat 2 children in the 3rd row. In the regular version of the Atlas the seating capacity is for 7 passengers, giving you one more seating in the 2nd row, we will talk more about the specifications regarding car seats in the 2nd row in the baby-friendly section how the 7-seater Atlas may be more appropriate when having lots of kids in car seats. In case you don't need the additional seat, we strongly suggest the captain chairs option as it is more versatile and gives you easier access to the rear seats. In our test, we decided to pick up our kids from scout summer camp and even bring back one of our kids' friend. The layout we used was to install the car seat in the middle row, behind the front passenger seat. It turned out practical that this didn't condemn access to the rear seats as a lot of 3-row SUV's do when you install a car seat. You can simply push the whole seat forward to gain access to the rear, and even that is not always necessary as smaller passengers will be able to fiddle their way between the captain chairs. The rear seats, as mentioned above, are a little too small for the use of adults, kids will be fine. Although they are a little harder compared to other seats in the vehicle, we didn't hear them complain about any stiffness of the rear seats. Even with 6 passengers, the trunk was still usable, and if carrying more, there's space in the middle row for more cargo. When we picked up the kids, we were 2 adults, 1 toddler in his car seat and 3 tweens scouts, and we were able to fit all the kids' camping gear. We're talking about sleeping bags and mats, as well as 2 suitcases, one duffel bag and all other knick-knacks they were bringing home. The picture was taken before we were done loading the car; we also placed certain items in the middle row space. With all that, we were still able to stop for a few groceries and had space for 1 or 2 groceries bags.

Another thing that proved useful was the household plug in the 2nd row; it came in handy to carry a portable electric cooler to keep our picnic and fruit fresh when going strawberry picking. The 2nd-row passengers have amenities such as heated seats, climate controls and 2 USB outlets which we found to be placed a little too low on the floor. The front seats are very comfortable and offer cooled and heated seats, the passenger seat doesn't provide any lumbar support adjustments.

So how is the fuel consumption of the Atlas?

We observed on a day to day basis in our real-life test 14.1L per 100km in the city and 10.2L per 100km on the HWY with an average fuel consumption of 11.8L per 100km over a distance of 1000km. VW announces a consumption of 13.8L per 100km in the city and 10.2L on the HWY. We felt that the 8-speed automatic transmission seemed never to engage the right gear, hence increasing the fuel consumption more than it should. Our test results were achieved using 87 octane using the American system as this is the minimum suggested by VW. Surprisingly, the car also advises you the minimum octane in RON to be 91; this is the octane rating used outside North America where the car is not sold... under the Atlas name. Yes, the Atlas is available outside North America as the VW Teramont.

Where we enjoyed the Atlas the most was on the HWY, at lower speeds the Atlas felt it might need to up bump in power. On the flip side, while driving at HWY speeds while taking over, the engine and transmission combo felt a lot better programmed. The acceleration felt natural and came when needed, without any hesitation. The adaptive cruise control works as designed and can also be used in stop & go traffic. What we would like to see is for both autonomous emergency braking & pedestrians monitoring to come standard on all trims similar to competitors — no need to select the highest trim to get these features. Blindspot monitoring starts with the mid-trim called Comfortline, and in our version, Exceline you also get lane assist. We found that lane assist had a delayed reaction in certain instances, and it would take corners too late instead of turning proactively for a smooth cornering experience.

Like we said in our recent review of the Tiguan, hands down the Fender sound system sounded refined when playing acoustic or live recording. Other music styles also sound good. However, you realize that the engineers paid careful consideration and dedication to make this system work and sound crisp. Adjustments are possible to get more umpf using the Fender mixer found within the infotainment. Talking about the infotainment, we found that the gloss black around the touch screen gets full of fingerprints very quickly and will need to be cleaned regularly. The infotainment works quite well without any lag. Once getting used to the location of the submenus, items will be a lot easier to find. In our test, we found that we had to verify to make sure we chose the right menu to access our Apple Car Play or Android Auto.

Now how is the Atlas when it comes to car seats? The Atlas surprised us especially after testing several 7-8 seaters recently. The issue with several other 7-seater SUV's is that once you install a car seat, you can't fold the seat over anymore to access the back row and need to condemn one entrance or remove the car seat every time. In the Atlas, both the captain chairs and the bench can move with the car seats in place, so there's no difficulty accessing the rear seat even with the car seat installed in the middle. Something we really missed in other SUVs like the Telluride where this isn't possible. The ISOFIX ports, on the other hand, are hidden under the seat and are not that easy to install as you'll require some fiddling around and push the leather aside to get to the ports. The anchor ports are in the back of the seat and are simple to latch. Since the Atlas is wider than other SUV's in its category, it offers the possibility to install 3 car seats in the middle row if you opt-out on the captain's chairs. Toddlers will require help to open the door and will also need help getting into the car. For a family we found the versatility of the Atlas appealing, you'll be ok when children are in their car seats and as they grow older and need boosters, but start sports or other activities you'll have room for their equipment or teammates or as in our case, for their Cub pack.

In the city we found the Atlas a little slow to get away from a stillstand; however, this can be forgiven since it handles good and takes road imperfections & potholes almost like to the lines of a premium SUV. The fuel consumption of the VR6 is a little high for our taste and for people who wish to use this type of vehicle in the city it would be nice to see a Hybrid version or a Plug-in Hybrid, and this will most likely help with acceleration in the city. Our model also included the self-parking option called Park Assist, and the option is great for an SUV its size and some of its competition doesn't offer this. If you prefer to park your car yourself, our car was also equipped with a 360-degree camera giving you that reassurance we sometimes need to park in tight spots.

Why would we buy VW Atlas and what we liked: The fact that you can move the middle row even if car seats are installed, lots of space in the second row, lots of technology included, ease of driving for a large SUV, 2nd & 3rd row can be tucked away completely. It's all thought of in an efficient manner that will make hauling the family pleasant and convenient.

Why wouldn't we buy the VW Atlas and what we didn't like: High fuel consumption in the city, no hybrid version at this time, not as much fun to drive. A little too boxy for our taste.

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