When I picked up the Volkswagen Atlas for a week’s test drive I did a big Whoa! The thing looked like it came off a GM assembly line. VW’s new super-sized SUV is excessively manly looking, with an aggressive bit of body sculpting from the side view that seems cribbed from a pickup truck. It also came in I Am Curious Yellow- a weird colour you only see on hotdogs at Fenway Park in Boston. Just the front view, with the VW badge and linear design of the front grille, placed it firmly in the Volkswagen family tree.
The Atlas I tested was $52, 540. It was the top of the line model, entry level will cost you $35,690. Moving up in the Atlas pecking order gets you a bigger engine, the 3.6 litre V6, all wheel-drive, panoramic sunroof, and a 360-degree camera view with park assist, among other upgrades.
You might be getting the idea that I didn’t like it, but I did. Despite its big footprint, it was pleasurable to drive, and nicely appointed.
The press fleet pick up for VW is in Pickering, so the drive back to Hamilton provides highway driving, stop and go congestion, and ample opportunity for road rage if you are inclined that way.
The Atlas, has enough heft and body armour to insulate occupants from perceived threats from other vehicles. The V6 puts out 276 horsepower, which might seem conservative for such a big vehicle, but it’s plenty. The 8-speed automatic transmission works seamlessly, and with smooth driving one might hope to achieve the official fuel consumption rating of 12.1 in combined driving.
In the sort of annoying driving one has to do on the 401, it’s a wonderful gift if the car is equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function. The Atlas was, and it worked beautifully. Set a speed and the vehicle speeds, up, slows down and brakes as needed. It doesn’t mean you are free to check the racing form for Woodbine. but it does an impressive job of monitoring what is going on in front of the vehicle. I always keep my foot ready to brake, but it does it very smoothly.
The Atlas has three rows of seat, which is in demand in certain circles. The third row historically has been for transporting people you don’t like or kids, which you might not like either. While the seats are proper adult size, and placed at a decent height so the views are good, getting into that third row will be a challenge for some. That includes old people, and people with after market joints.
To fully appreciate a vehicle I like to make a run down to Lake Erie. In the fall no one is there. So I meandered in the Atlas, taking pictures next to farm fields, checking out golf courses, and old houses in Port Dover. At the Dover beach I sat and watched a little kid running in the sand without a care in the world. Don’t we all miss that.
From Port Dover I like to hug the shoreline of the lake and poke along toward Port Colborne. On this trip I discovered the intriguing Nanticoke Union Cemetery with graves from the early 1800’s. Lakeshore road was deserted and a joy to drive at a leisurely pace. In some areas you are close to the level of the lake, and other spots, higher up, looking down at the choppy waves. If you’re lucky, and I was, there will be good bird watching. On this windy day I got very close to about 15 vultures soaring, than landing on a cliff overlooking the lake.
The Atlas, with its vast interior would be good for antiquing. The seats basically can be made to disappear and one could load up on spinning wheels and milking stools to the hearts content. If you wanted to add a player piano to the inventory, the Atlas can tow 2,273 kilograms. It also negotiates variable road conditions with drive mode settings from off-road to sport.
The interior is high quality, with well-designed seats, an easy to operate centre command console and a digital cockpit with 12.3” screen. That screen can be configured to display the driving information suited to your trip.
I did find that the large side mirrors were in my line of vision when turning at sharp angles. Parking the big lug however is made simple with the 360-degree view camera that provides a sweeping view of the SUV’s position.
Overall the Atlas was an impressive ride, quiet, and smooth, with plenty of storage space and useable technology features. If you can get beyond the heavy metal looks, than you might be saying “At last the Atlas.”