By Sue Mead
I went to camp! It was a perfect summer retreat to attend Volkswagen’s “Camp Atlas,” which was designed to showcase these updated midsize SUVs in VW’s lineup. Instead of a tent or cabin, my lodging was a luxury Airstream trailer at AutoCamp, which is nestled into the forests of the Catskills near Woodstock, New York. Of course, there was an evening camp fire and even s’mores.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport
During my two-day camp stay, my job was to drive the two redesigned versions of the “adventure-ready” 2023 VW Atlas along a collection of roadways that snaked by streams and through the mountains of upstate New York.
Atlas is important to VW. It is the first modern-day Volkswagen designed, engineered, and manufactured specifically for American buyers, evolving from the CrossBlue concept that was revealed in October 2016. Atlas was first seen in 2017; joining its bigger 3-row sibling, the 2-row Atlas Cross Sport came to market in 2020. Today, these sport utility vehicles are Volkswagen of America’s top-selling and most-profitable nameplates, with sales of more than 500,000 to date. Of note, 83 percent of VW’s sales today are SUVs, whereas 91 percent were cars in 2013.
The starting MSRP for the 2023 Atlas is $37,725, and $36,715 for the Atlas Cross Sport; both come in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations.
Atlas is available in four trim levels, plus two versions of the new, special-edition, Peak trim. Atlas Cross Sport comes in five trim levels.
Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Atlas duo is expected to be on sale in the fall of 2023. These midsizers represent six percent of the U.S. market share for sport utes, and compete with the Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, among others.
What’s new? Jim Burch, product manager for the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, says that VW’s intent was to “continue to build on the successful blend of spaciousness, practicality and stylish design with an elegant new interior, eye-catching exterior changes, and a new-generation turbocharged engine.”
Significant interior upgrades refresh the cabin with more premium materials, new technology, and more comfort and convenience features. The upscale cockpit design is punctuated by a floating infotainment screen, a redesigned center console, standard three-zone climate control, and an available Fender-brand premium audio system. There are appealing soft-touch surfaces and available quilted leather seats with a classy diamond pattern. Plus, the interior can be accented with 30-color ambient lighting and a backlit dash. Standard cabin features include a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, leather seating surfaces, and voice control. Heated rear seats are available.
Bumping up the technology experience are new screens on every trim level, with a 12-inch center display as well as a 10.25-inch fully configurable instrument panel. Available are head-up display, wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a dash cam. Owners will also enjoy a bevy of USB-C ports.
Exterior changes include a move to LED headlights, adaptive front lighting, front and rear light bars, and available illuminated front logos.
front and light bars, with LED rear lighting that has a new light strip design and a rear diffuser along with 18-inch wheels.
Also new is a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine rated at 269 horsepower; it’s mated it to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Both the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are EPA rated at a combined 23 mpg. Atlas’s available 3.6-liter V6 has been dropped for 2024.
On the road, both the Atlas and Cross Sport benefit from the new engine’s low-end torque, though there’s ample power available across a broad range of driving conditions.
The Cross Sport feels slightly more maneuverable than the larger Atlas–it is somewhat lighter–but both steer with accuracy and handle twisty roads with a degree of sportiness. Strong, firm-feeling brakes add to the athleticism.
Of note: buyers can fit three car seats across the second row of the Atlas and keep them in place with a tumble-forward feature to access the third row with good accessibility.
The standard safety-equipment list is comprehensive. Volkswagen’s IQ.Drive driver-assistance suite includes all the expected gear, including lane-keep assist, rear-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control the works in stop-and-go traffic.
The special-edition Atlas Peak model has more rugged styling elements than lesser trim levels, and derives its general look from the Atlas Base Camp concept revealed in 2019.
Standard on the Peak is AWD, 18-inch black alloy wheels with aggressive all-terrain tires, black and silver body cladding, and black-out exterior details. Colors available exclusively on the Peak are Avocado Green and Pure Grey. The Peak starts at $46,555.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)