2024 Volkswagen Atlas SEL 4Motion
Class: Midsize Crossover
Color: Opal White
Miles driven: 140
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||269-horsepower 2.0-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbocharged Four|
Observed fuel economy: 21.3 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/26/22 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Snow Performance: N/A
Base price: $48,445 (not including $1350 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Special paint ($395)
Price as tested: $50,190
The great: Spacious and premium-feeling cabin, excellent road manners
The good: Reasonably easy on the gas, plenty of power
The not so good: Slow and glitchy digital interface, too much engine noise
If you found the last episode of “Better Call Saul” frustrating, then you likely appreciate my feelings regarding the updated for 2024 Volkswagen Atlas. Much as “Saul” was an excellent TV show, the newly freshened midsize Atlas crossover is a standout vehicle in many ways, though it is far from perfect. And, it’s sort of that last episode that gets you.
For 2024 the Atlas underwent minor cosmetic surgery, all for the better we’d argue, and had its two-drivetrain bill of fare trimmed to a single offering. The most significant update however, comes inside the Atlas. The cabin has been retrimmed as part of a luxury-themed makeover, and the new Atlas comes off as legitimately premium, especially for the price.
The best news is that Atlas remains one of the roomiest and most space-efficient offerings in the midsize crossover class. It is also among the most rewarding of its peers to drive. Score one for traditional VW sportiness, a thing we oldtimers began to worry was lost.
For 2024 Atlas is offered in four trim levels, base SE ($37,725), SE with Technology ($41,665), SEL ($48,445), and SEL Premium R-Line ($52,466). Also available is the mechanically similar fastback-bodied Atlas Cross Spot which we will review shortly.
Consumer Guide recently spent a week behind the wheel of a 2024 Volkswagen Atlas SEL with no options in extra-cost Opal White. And, as noted above, we were generally impressed, though there are two sticking points, both of which we’ll address presently.
Let’s start with the good news: The Atlas cabin is nothing short of fabulous. The cool, classy, and modern Atlas cabin is both airy and spacious, and lined with high-end material and accented with premium-looking wood accents. We would not be disappointed to find décor of this grade in a vehicle listing for half again as much money.
Entering and exiting the front two seating rows is easy, as all four doors open wide, and Atlas’s ride height accommodates simple ingress. The third row, too, is relatively easy to access, especially for the young and lithe folk likely to be headed to back that way.
Our sole cabin complaint centers on the infotainment system, and the baffling and largely ineffective touchscreen interface. Not only is the system slow to respond to touch inputs, its layout and menu system is stunning counterintuitive and strangely out of sync with the systems found in other vehicles in this class—or any class. What passes for a home screen is confusingly segmented into multiple elements, some of which—for no apparently reason—to not serve as links to a deeper menu.
But, worst of all—at least for this author–is that the media screen cannot be reached directly, but must be accessed via a secondary screen which—for no good reason—always displays every song loaded onto the connected device in alphabetical order. As I have 12,000 songs on my phone, this screen serves me no value. After a delay of several minutes—often the length of two songs—a more-or-less typical media screen does appear, but the information displayed is generally for the wrong song, and album-cover image displayed are from a track heard several pieces ago. For someone who often spends time in the car just to listen to music, this infotainment system is a dealbreaker.
All of this musical heartbreak is made more frustrating by the fact that the standard Atlas SEL 6-speaker audio systems is quite good.
Also, and is this just strange, the console volume control takes the form of a rheostatic strip located under the touchscreen. The interface isn’t especially responsive to touch, and is difficult to use with any precision. Also, it isn’t backlit, so it cannot be located or used at night. Luckily the steering-wheel audio control works just fine.
On the road the Atlas generally shines. Possibly to the chagrin of some returning Atlas shoppers, the super-smooth 3.6-liter V6 has been retired for 2024, replaced in all models by an up-power 2.0-turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant, the “EVO4.”
Volkswagen code EA888, the new 4-cylinder engine produces a reported 269 horsepower, that’s substantially more than the previous generation four (235), and just shy of the retired V6 (276). And, per VW, the new engine cranks out more torque than either of the old engines.
On the road the new engine proves itself stout, but power delivery is a bit raucous. And, on this point we remind shoppers why test drives are so important when choosing a vehicle.
This author found the new engine well matched to the Atlas’s 8-speed automatic transmission, providing excellent throttle response from any speed. The engine is not quiet, however, serving up a sporty roar when pushed to deliver anything more than routine-drive power. The term “sporty” is subjective, however, and other tester found the engine noise to crude, and inappropriate for a vehicle in this class. The consensus opinion is that the V6 engine was better suited to the core Atlas mission than is the new 4-cylinder, which per one evaluator, just sounds overworked.
There is no quibble about how the Atlas performs on the road, however. The big Volkswagen ranks among the best-handling midsize crossovers, with surprisingly firm and communicative steering, and great road feel. Ride quality is also excellent, even over broken road surfaces. Shoppers looking for long-trip family comfort will find the Atlas worthy of consideration.
Like the last episode of Better Call Saul, the updated for 2024 Atlas disappoints in the end. And, like the Saul ending, the Atlas’s infotainment system and coarse-sounding engine louse up what is otherwise excellent stuff. But, if you don’t mind the touchscreen setup, and you find the engine sound sporty—rather than crude—when pushed, by all means take a close look at this classy, refined, and reasonably priced crossover. And, fingers crossed, maybe there’s a software update on the way for the digital stuff.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Gallery
Click below for enlarged images