The company’s most obviously North American-focused vehicle marks a “new chapter” in its history there, as it seeks to make a clean break from the diesel emissions saga.
The full-size crossover will be made exclusively in Chattanooga, Tennessee alongside the US-market Passat. Volkswagen invested 900 million euros in re-fitting the site for the Atlas, which was previewed years ago by the CrossBlue concept.
The flared arches, squat proportions and bold grille flanked by LED headlights give the VW Atlas very ‘American’ lines. The character lines and kinked rear window give it some extra panache.
The Atlas is based on the company’s ubiquitous Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture, a collection of components that also underpins the Tiguan, Golf and Passat (and a multitude of other Group cars such as the Skoda Kodiaq).
It’s 5037mm long, 1979mm wide and 1768mm tall, making it about the same size as a Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger. Volkswagen says it has ample space for three rows of seats, the latter two rows of which have newly developed folding mechanisms.
Standard features include a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, plus a Fender audio system with 480W amplifier. Depending on spec, you get the Audi-style Virtual Cockpit TFT instruments, radar cruise control, autonomous brakes and blind-spot warning.
The Volkswagen Atlas arrives with a choice of two powertrains: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder TSI turbo-petrol with 175 kW and a 3.6-litre VR6 engine with 206kW. Both engines route power through an eight-speed transmission. No diesel, naturally.
It can be configured either as front-wheel-drive or with 4Motion all-wheel-drive in combination with the VR6 engine.
The Atlas will compete with the huge-selling Toyota Highlander (Kluger here) and CX-9 in the US, both of which are very popular in Australia. Ergo, VW’s local arm is keen to import it, but is unlikely to get its wish. This is a car for an American audience.
“We have to acknowledge that right-hand-drive is a remote contingency in Atlas,” said Volkswagen Australia product marketing manager Jeff Shafer.
“That said, there’s no doubt that Atlas would fit naturally into Volkswagen Australia’s SUV roll-out. It would slide in below the new Touareg – which remains our halo vehicle and technology showcase – and above the long-wheelbase Tiguan.
“There would be more room in the Atlas’s rear seats than the seven-seat Tiguan because it’s the next segment up.”
The aforementioned seven-seat Tiguan XL is due to arrive in Australia in 2017, giving the company at least a small-ish presence in the booming family SUV market. VW Group fans in Australia can also look forward to the 2017 Skoda Kodiaq seven-seater.