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2024 VW Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport First Drive Review: Sibling SUVs See Significant Changes

We headed to New England to get some seat time in the 2024 VW Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. What we found was a sporty and impressively upgraded SUV worthy of consideration.

2024 VW Atlas(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)
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While the VW brand may still conjure up visions of air-cooled Beetles, hippie vans, or perhaps sporty Golf hatchbacks, these days 83% of the company’s American models are SUVs. That includes one model made specifically for the American market, and manufactured in Chattanooga, Tenn.: Atlas.

This seven-seat SUV debuted in 2018 (the five-passenger Atlas Cross Sport variant came 2 years later). But, for 2024, both versions get significant updates to the engine and interior in hopes of wooing the seemingly never-ending mass of SUV buyers in the U.S.

I went to Saugerties, N.Y., and drove the Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport along the twisty, curvy roads of the scenic Catskill Mountains. I specifically put in time behind the wheel of the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SEL R-Line models at this media first drive event.

In short: The fraternal VW twins, the three-row Atlas and two-row Atlas Cross Sport, get more features, a redesigned interior, and a new turbo four-cylinder in hopes of keeping up in the hyper-competitive SUV markets.

2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport & Atlas


  • Engine 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder
  • HP 269
  • Torque 273 lb.-ft.
  • Mileage 20/27 (FWD), 19/26 (AWD) 19/25 (R-Line AWD), 18/24 (Peak Edition, AWD)
  • Cargo Atlas – 20.6" behind third row, 55.5" behind second row, 96.6" all folded; Atlas Cross Sport – 40.3" behind second row, 77.6" all folded
  • Towing 5,000 lbs.


  • Comfortable, roomy interior
  • Above-average driving dynamics
  • Admirable towing capacity
  • Lots of standard equipment


  • Frustrating touch-screen ICE and HVAC controls
  • No 12V outlet up front
  • Overactive lane keeping

2024 VW Atlas Review: One Model, Two Variants

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The VW Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are nearly identical. However, Atlas is a three-row seven-seat SUV with a squared-off tailgate while Atlas Cross Sport is a five-seat model with a larger cargo area and a more fastback-shaped tailgate. Otherwise, these vehicles are mechanically identical and can be had with front-wheel-drive or Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

There’s also a new trim line called Peak Edition that includes a more rugged, off-road look with smaller wheels and beefier all-terrain tires.

2024 VW Atlas: Single Engine Offering

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Previous Atlas engine offerings included either a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6L VR6 six-pot. VW has ditched the V-6 in favor of one powertrain, the EVO4 turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder TSI EA888 engine.

This mill produces 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The new 2.0L makes 34 more horsepower and 15 pound-feet more torque than the outgoing 2.0L and is a detuned version of the engine found in the athletic VW Golf R.

2024 Atlas & Atlas Cross Sport Get Big Interior Refresh

2024 VW Atlas

The other big story with the 2024 Atlas family is the new interior. VW has upgraded and modernized the SUV’s roomy, comfortable digs with more soft-touch parts, diamond-quilted leatherette upholstery, additional tech, and increased comfort, and wrapped it all in a clean design aesthetic.

The Atlas twins (fraternal, clearly) also now come with more standard content including ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, as well as the IQ.DRIVE driver assistance features.

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The most outwardly noticeable interior change comes with the center stack and how it works. The 12-inch center screen is similar to the buttonless touchscreen on the VW ID.4 EV.

While the system looks sleek, it can be hard to use, especially while driving. There’s undoubtedly a learning curve to its operation. Even basic functions, like adjusting the HVAC fan speed, can be found buried within a couple of menus, making quick adjustments complicated.

Additionally, map lights and moon roof functions are also done with a tap or swipe. While this makes sense on a tablet or smartphone, it doesn’t always work well in a car where touch and feel can be important when keeping your eyes on the road.

I should note that VW now offers a 400W 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system on SEL and R-line VWs. This replaces the Fender-branded audio on previous Atlas models.

A fully configurable 10.25-inch gauge cluster is easy to read and works well. Gauges are straightforward and will adapt automatically to the different driving modes. For example, comfort mode has blue instrumentation accents, but going to sport mode changes things to red. A simple, easy-to-read heads-up display is also available on SEL models.

2024 VW Atlas

Device Charging: Lots of USB-C

Like other manufacturers, VW is adding more USB ports and jettisoning 12V accessory plugs (cigarette-lighter-style plugs). The Atlas now has 45W fast charging and up to eight USB-C ports (six standard on Atlas, four standard on Cross Sport), including one conveniently placed for a dashcam.

However, there is no 12V plug up front. If you have something that needs this, like a dashcam or radar detector, you’re out of luck.

There is a 12V accessory plug in the vehicle’s cargo area. There is also standard wireless charging, so many phones will easily be able to be juiced up on the go.

The company’s Car-Net connectivity system continues on for the latest Atlas as well, ensuring that owners can connect to safety, remote access, and hotspot access on the go.

2024 VW Atlas
2024 VW Atlas; (photo/VW)

2024 VW Atlas Driving Review: A Well-Mannered Machine With Sporting Intentions

Volkswagen has long been associated with being a driver’s car. Much of this comes from its sporty GTI roots. The Atlas twins have some of that DNA with better-than-the-average-SUV driving dynamics, but you’re not going to mistake this for a bigger Golf R, despite the shared engine size.

Once you sit in the 10-way-adjustable driver’s seat (heated and cooled, mind you), you’re greeted by a chunky leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, cruise control, and audio adjustments. The center-console-mounted gear selector is also all now done by wire, which frees up space under the center console for stuff.

The 269-horsepower 2.0L powerplant revs freely and has good mid-range torque. While not blisteringly fast, the 4,343-pound (FWD) or 4,517-pound (AWD) SUV has no problem merging, passing, or cruising at freeway speeds. Power is sufficient but isn’t going to melt the tires or be class-leading. Volkswagen claims a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds — 0.8 seconds faster than the outgoing model.

While VW has said Auf Wiedersehen to the V-6, torque from the four-cylinder comes on earlier than previous models. Frankly, I don’t think the VR6 will be missed by many.

Shifts from the eight-speed automatic are quick and smooth. If opting to use the paddle shifters, gear changes happen quickly, but not as fast as VW’s DSG (dual-shift gearbox) versions found in GTI, for example.

2024 VW Atlas
2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport; (photo/VW)

Firm Ride, Multiple Drive Modes

Atlas rides firmly but isn’t punishing; handling is confident and almost gets into the sporty range for this vehicle type. The narrow New England roads were a great place to toss the Atlas around. Steering was nicely weighted and responsive, and the fully independent suspension did a good job soaking up imperfect pavement without protest.

Both the Atlas and Cross Sport I drove were R-Line models and were equipped with big 21-inch wheels and tires. Some models even have floating center caps that keep the iconic VW logo in the upright and locked position while the wheels spin — just like a Rolls Royce.

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

There are multiple drive modes on both cars. Take it from the comfort to the sport drive mode, and immediately the exhaust note changes. This sporty growl adds a racy tone that’s not overwhelming but adds to the spirited driving experience.

Sport mode also noticeably changes the shift points but doesn’t appear to affect the damping or steering input. There are other drive modes, such as eco, snow, custom, and offroad (AWD only).

The Atlas twins feel like well-mannered SUVs that err on the sporting side without being truly a kick in the pants. But if you appreciate driving dynamics and still want the versatility of an SUV, the Atlas or Atlas Cross Sport may appeal to you.

Impressive Towing Numbers

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Even with four-cylinder power, Atlas has a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds (with trailer brakes). In fact, VW even showcased an Atlas towing an Airstream trailer. So if you’ve got a small-to-mid-size camper trailer, the Atlas will take to towing.

2024 Atlas: Trims & Pricing

Buyers can opt from a host of different configurations and trim levels. Front-drive models are limited to SE and SE w/Tech packages. All-wheel-drive models can be had with SE, SE w/Tech, Peak Edition SE w/Tech, SEL, Peak Edition SEL, and SEL Premium R-Line. We expect you to have committed this to memory — kidding, of course.

Pricing starts at $37,725 for a front-drive SE to $52,455 for an AWD SEL Premium R-Line. All prices do not include the $1,350 destination charge.

2024 VW Atlas
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Fuel Economy

Most people aren’t buying a vehicle like this for hyper-efficiency. The Atlases have an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20/27/23 mpg (city/highway/combined) for front drivers.

For models equipped with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, the EPA-estimated fuel economy is a touch lower at 19/26/22 for SE and SE with Technology models, 19/25/21 for SEL and SEL Premium R-Line models, and 18/24/20 for Atlas Peak Edition models on all-terrain tires.

All models drink 87 octane fuel.

A Part of VW’s SUV Future

Volkswagen will continue to play in the hyper-competitive SUV segment in the U.S. and anticipates that Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are an important part of that destiny. While always roomy and comfortable, VW hopes the new engine and interior help get their names on Americans’ SUV-infatuated shopping lists.

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Andy Lilienthal

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