The Volkswagen Atlas is a mid-size crossover SUV that was initially unveiled at the 2016 LA Auto Show and was launched the following year. The Atlas is based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform that underpins a variety of cars and SUVs. The Atlas is one of the most expensive Volkswagens on the market and is packed with plenty of features that help it keep up with the competition.
For 2021, the Atlas received a comprehensive facelift including a redesigned front and rear, increase in length by 3 inches, revised headlights with LED elements, redesigned three-bar grille, and more. The R-line trim levels get a lot more updates including special badges, a body kit, bigger 20 or 21-inch rims, and more.
The interiors also received a refresh with a new steering wheel, improved upholstery, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment in the lower trims, and VW’s Car-Net smartphone app connectivity. The Atlas now gets VW’s new logo both inside and out, including on the new steering wheel. For those living in snowy areas, all-wheel-drive is now available with all trim levels including the 4-cylinder models.
The smaller 2-row Atlas Sport model has always been a looker, but with all these styling updates, the regular Atlas looks as good if not better than the sport model. Unfortunately, the increase in dimensions does not translate to improved interior space, as it is taken up by the redesigned front and rear bumpers.
The addition of VW’s Car-Net app brings along a lot of features, allowing owners to remotely lock/unlock the car, activate the horn, track the vehicle’s location, and even remote start the SUV directly from a smartphone.
Volkswagen also added more driver-assist features like traffic jam assist and road sign display as optional extras.
Trims and Pricing
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is available with a choice of 7 trim levels: S, SE, SE R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line.
The base S model starts at $32,565 and gets features like automatic LED headlights and taillights, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and 18-inch alloy wheels on the outside, while the interiors get dual-zone climate control with vents for all three rows, color MID, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with easy entry, 50/50 split-folding third-row seats, and comfortable cloth seats. The front wheels are powered with a 2.0L turbocharged engine paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Next rung up the ladders is the most popular SE trim, which starts at $35,915. For around $2000 more, the SE model can be bought with the more powerful V6 engine and technology package which adds a lot more features.
As standard, the SE trim gets 3-zone climate control, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, leatherette upholstery, powered liftgate, wireless phone charger, keyless entry, and an improved 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite radio. Opting for the Technology package adds remote start, easy-open tailgate, 20-inch alloy wheels, and the optional panoramic sunroof for an extra $2000.
The SE R-Line trim starts at $40,715 and gets the 3.6L V6 engine along with a lot of styling elements like the R-Line front bumper and badging.
The SEL trim starts at $43,315 and gets Volkswagen’s digital cockpit, and a navigation system, while the SEL Premium trim gets leather seats, front-seat ventilation, and a lot more driver-assist features for an extra $5,000.
Both the SEL and SEL Premium trim can be bought with the R-Line package which adds sportier styling elements and 21-inch two-tone alloy wheels for an extra $3,000.
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas will be available with two engine options. The S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trims get a 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 engine that produces 235 hp and is paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Both the SEL and SEL Premium trim gets the more powerful 3.6L V6 engine that produces 276 hp as an option, while the SE R-Line, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line trims get the 3.6L V6 engine as standard.
The base 2.0L engine-equipped models will hit 60 MPH in just 7.6 seconds, while the more powerful 3.6 L engine beats it by 0.4 seconds.
The SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line trim get 4Motion all-wheel-drive as standard, while the rest of the models get it as an option for $1,900.
With the redesigned front and rear, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas looks a lot better than before and can now be compared to the smaller Sport models. The improved bumper design has added 3-inches to the overall length and gets revised headlights with LED elements. The Grille has also been updated and now gets a three-bar design, improving the overall look.
The R-Line models have also received several upgrades starting with a body kit, special badges, and improved 20 or 21-inch rims.
One of the biggest USPs of the Volkswagen Atlas is the practicality on offer. There is plenty of space for 7 passengers, with enough space for adults even in the third row. The interiors are well designed with the good build quality and ergonomically placed switchgear. All three rows get air vents with heating and ventilation on the higher trims. Base variants get cloth seats, while the higher trims get full leather seats.
The Atlas can be bought with captain seats in the middle row for an extra $695 for added comfort. All three rows can be folded flat, increasing the cargo capacity to a minivan rivaling 96.8 cubic feet.
For 2021, the Atlas gets a new steering wheel, improved upholstery, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment on the lower trims, and VW’s new Car-Net smartphone app.
Volkswagen continues to offer plenty of safety features as standard with the Atlas. For 2021, the Atlas gets traffic jam assist and road sign display as optional extras. The Atlas passed both the NHTSA and IIHS safety tests with flying colors, receiving a full 5-star and ‘good’ overall rating respectively. Unfortunately, it still didn’t receive the ‘Top Safety Pick’ award unlike some of its rivals.
All models of the Atlas come with an array of airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, rearview camera, and tire pressure monitoring as standard. Volkswagen also includes driver assistance features like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitor, and rear traffic alert as standard.
Higher trim levels also get adaptive cruise control, park distance control, manoeuver braking, high beam assist, lane keep assist, road sign display, and traffic jam assist.
Volkswagen has improved the 2021 Atlas significantly, helping it keep up with the competition. It does not offer a lot more value and is a better package overall if you’re looking for a comfortable and spacious crossover SUV to haul the family around.