2024 Volkswagen Atlas – Updated Thoroughly


For consumers, it is not easy to choose the right SUV, simply because there are too many different options. It is important to remember that every brand has at least 4-5 types of SUVs and Crossovers in their model lineup, in different sizes and shapes. In the 3-row SUV world, Volkswagen jumped the bandwagon with the Atlas quite late back in 2018 but they have updated it twice to keep it competitive in a very competitive market with strong contenders like the KIA Telluride, Honda Pilot and the Hyundai Palisade.

We do not see a lot of offerings with more than one facelift during its lifespan, but Atlas is one of the few entries that has been updated two times since it was first released in 2018. It was first updated at the end of 2021, and recently updated the second time. Even though it still carries the same stretched gen 3 MQB platform, the updates are much more serious including the updated looks.

The Looks – Exterior and Interior

The updated Atlas comes with a completely new front fascia, including a much bigger front grille, bigger front headlights and a unique light bar that connects both headlights and makes it look like one big piece. The VW logo is also illuminated just like the latest Volkswagen models. Our tester was the top Execline trim with R line package, which offers an extra sportier look with a blacked-out front grille and front bumper.

From the side, the differences are much more minimal, but the R line comes with the large 21″ rims that give the Atlas a sportier look. It still carries the boxy silhouette which helps with the overall interior space. It is one of the bigger 3-row SUVs in the market, and that’s very noticeable from all angles. The rear door profile is also quite vertical, so accessing the third row is one of the easiest in this segment.

Compared to the front end, the updates in the rear are much more conservative. The biggest and most noticeable difference is the updated taillights with the light bar located right in the middle, and the illuminated VW logo which gave the Atlas a more modern look. For the brand, getting rid of the fake exhaust vents would have been the right move when they updated it, so it is a missed opportunity and probably the only complaint that I have.

The updates in the interior is even more radical compared to the exterior. Volkswagen updated the whole dashboard and ditched physical buttons just like the 8th generation Golf, and the electric ID.4. So for people looking for physical buttons or knobs, this might be a little bit overwhelming. On the positive side, the diversity in the interior is excellent, Volkswagen listened to the criticisms, and updated the interior the right way, in terms of material choice and build quality.

Speaking of build quality, the new Atlas is one step closer to having an “Audi-like” feeling, even if it still carries the VW logo. The only gripe I had was the excessive use of glossy black plastics in the center console, but it offers more usable interior space as it offers more cubbies and a huge storage space under the shifter. The diamond-stitched seats look very upscale, and the seats are comfortable in general. It comes with a 10-way adjustable front seat for the driver with a memory feature, and an 8-way adjustable for the front passenger. The front seats are surprisingly well side-bolstered and all Atlas trims come standard with the heated and ventilated front seats.

The updated Atlas comes with a lot more screens compared to the outgoing model. All trims come with a 12-inch infotainment system that offers a lot of features due to the lack of physical controls, but it is easy to use with minimal lag when you go through the menus. It comes with wireless smartphone integration for both Apple and Android users, and USB-C ports everywhere in the interior. Another important update is the new 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster standard for all trims. The digital cluster offers tons of adjustments and customizable options based on your liking, including the navigation screen exclusively for the top two trims.

No matter which seat you choose, you will have no issues with the interior space even for taller adults. However, if you are looking for a bench seat in the second row, Atlas is one of the few entries that offer the flexibility to choose a 7-seat or 6-seat configuration even for the top trim. Our tester had the captain’s chairs so you can access the third row relatively easily.

If you choose the bench seat configuration, you don’t have to remove your front-facing child seat to access the third row. The second-row seats can move forward with the front-facing child seat, so you can access the third row much easier. This feature itself makes the Atlas one of the most family-friendly options available. Rear-seat passengers will also get nice creature comforts like sunshades, USB-C ports, power outlets for electronic devices and heated seats.

Speaking of the third row, Atlas is one of the wider entries in this segment, but it only offers a 2-seat configuration in the third row. The bottom cushions are placed relatively high, and you get plenty of rear legroom and headroom due to the boxy profile, getting in and out is not painful, unlike most entries in the segment. The third-row passengers will also get cupholders and 2 USB-C ports, which makes the third row a livable place for longer trips, even for taller adults.

Just like the interior space in general, the trunk space is very generous mainly due to the overall size and boxy profile. The Atlas offers 20.6 cubic feet (583 litres) of cargo space behind the third row that can go up to 55.5 cubic feet (1572 litres) when the third-row seats are down. If you want the maximum cargo capacity, it can take up to 96.8 cubic feet (2741 litres) of cargo space and all rear seats can fold down flat for larger items.

The Drive – Powertrain & Experience

The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas only comes with one engine and transmission option with a standard 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged EA888 engine is the only engine choice available no matter which trim you choose, meaning that we no longer get the good old VR6 engine. It is important to remember that the updated EA888 engine is used not just by Volkswagen, you will find it in many Audi and Porsche models, which shows the importance of this platform for the VW AG group.

The updated engine pushes 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, which is adequate for the size of this vehicle. It pairs with an Aisin torque-converted 8-speed automatic transmission and standard AWD for the Canadian market. Despite not having the larger V-6 engine, it still comes with the same maximum towing capacity of 5000 pounds with the new 2.0-litre engine. The outgoing model with the V-6 engine offered slightly more horsepower, but the way that it delivers the peak power is completely different.

Even though the new 4-cylinder turbo engine doesn’t sound as good, it is much more punchier in the mid-range, and lighter than the larger V-6 engine – as a result it feels quicker and has better 0-100 times. Without a doubt, the EA888 engine has been one the smoothest 4-cylinder engines available which is a great match with the overall character of this platform. However, we couldn’t see significantly better fuel economy numbers which makes us question the fuel economy testing methodologies.

Behind the steering wheel, the Atlas feels and rides very smoothly. Even though the top trim comes with the R-line trim with sportier looks and bigger wheels, it still prioritizes comfort over driving engagement. The softly sprung suspension and smooth throttle mapping offer an exceptionally refined driving experience. The steering wheel feels light, but responsive with the right amount of on-center feel. The 8-speed transmission focuses on fuel economy and upshifts quite early, but it operates very smoothly in general.

If you are looking for the driving excitement, there are better options available. With the departure of the legendary VR6 engine, it feels a lot different as the 4-cylinder turbo engine does not have the same character. However, the new engine accelerates effortlessly and offers more usable power at lower RPMs without the drama of the outgoing V-6 engine. The Atlas also offers the lowest noise, vibration and harshness levels in this segment, which helps with the overall premium feeling.

The Verdict

The Atlas continues to offer the same formula with the updated packaging. It is still the biggest Volkswagen available that checks all the boxes for the traditional 3-row SUV buyer. It is a good-looking SUV that offers a comfortable, refined driving experience, with a roomy cabin that provides adult-size seating in all three rows, with updated looks and much better interior design. Touch-sensitive controls are not for everyone and it is not very user-friendly in general, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it offers one of the best value propositions, especially with the standard features offered in lower trims.

Engine2.0 litre turbocharged inline-4
Transmission & Drivetrain8-speed automatic & 4MOTION all-wheel-drive
Max power269 hp @ 5500 rpm
Max torque273 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
0-100 km/h7.5 sec
Curb Weight4630 lbs – 2100 kg
Fuel Economy (observed)20 MPG – 12.8 L/100 km
MSRP (as tested)$62,678 CAD

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