Wham! Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.

Slightly shorter than the three-row version, the Atlas Cross Sport offers ample room for five,
generous storage space, and robust towing capabilities.

Volkswagen was late to the game with utility vehicles, but this German automaker has made great strides in recent years with several new models. In 2018, Volkswagen rolled out the second-generation Tiguan, the same year it introduced the midsize Atlas. Along with the new Golf Alltrack, VW has subcompact, compact, and midsize utility vehicles serving the market.

One area, however, had remained unserved until now – the two-row midsize market. For years, the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge dominated the niche, but since then Buick, Chevrolet, Honda, and others jumped in. Beginning in 2020, Volkswagen’s Atlas Cross Sport rolls out, a roomy five-passenger model with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. This one rides on the same platform as the Atlas and shares many of its details.


2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Review


The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport comes in four main trims: S ($30,545), SE ($33,945), SEL ($41,445), and SEL R-Line ($44,945), plus $1,020 for the destination charge. There are also six sub-trims, which add all-wheel drive, technology, or various other packages.

There are two engine choices along with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to the wheels.


On the grounds of the Rockingham Speedway in NC.

Exterior

If it looks like a VW Atlas, then it is one, right? Well, yes. But there are some differences between the two, most noticeably the falling roofline of the new model along with its slightly tucked-in rear quarter. There are also some grille, badge, and trim embellishments that set the two apart, but other than that the Cross Sport is simply a derivative of the original.

Style-wise, the Cross Sport features a broad grille, a long hood, high beltline, and the usual chrome wheel choices. It doesn’t feature the design drama of the Murano or the edginess of the Blazer. But it does offer a more modern look than the Grand Cherokee.

The list of standard features includes LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights. Heated side mirrors, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels are included. Among the many upgrades are an adaptive front lighting system, a power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof, power-folding side mirrors, a power liftgate, and 20- and 21-inch wheel choices.


A quick drive-by of the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport taken on April 10, 2020, on the grounds of the Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina.


Interior

Eliminating the third row and pushing back the second-row split fold-down seat by a few inches works wonders for the Cross Sport. The legroom is quite good and there is ample side-by-side space for three. Even with the dropping roofline, there is sufficient headroom, at least in models without a sunroof.

The cargo capacity comes in at a robust 40.3 cubic feet or 77.8 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The standard space is more than capable of supplying room for holding a week’s worth of luggage. When dropped down, you’ll have little trouble hauling home your yard sale finds or garden center purchases.

The cabin is comfortable, reasonably quiet, and smartly laid out. It isn’t as sophisticated as some might prefer, but the front seats are supportive, the driver controls are easy to locate and decipher, and the look is clean. The latter is a big deal, especially in models where clutter is the overarching theme.

Volkswagen supplies the base model with full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, air conditioning, and cloth seats. Depending on the trim selected, the list of upgrades covers interior ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row outboard seats, a power driver’s seat with available lumbar support, and imitation leather or real hides for the seat surfaces.

Tech

Only the base model comes with a 6.5-inch touch-screen display. All other trims have an 8-inch touch-screen layout.
The standard audio package includes six speakers, two USB ports, Bluetooth, and an app suite. Buyers should take note of the many tech upgrades available, which are typically bundled in a package. These include remote start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, satellite radio, an overview (bird’s eye view) camera system, a 115-volt power outlet, and a Fender audio system.

A navigation system is included beginning with the SEL trim, but you won’t need it if you have smartphone compatibility.



Safety

Volkswagen gets things right in all matters of driver-assist safety technology. This means every trim comes with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Among the upgrades are adaptive cruise control (starting with the SE tech model), park distance control, high-beam control, traffic jam assist, and traffic sign detection. Some of these elements represent the basic features offered in upcoming autonomous drive vehicles.



Performance

Volkswagen offers two engine choices with the Atlas Cross Sport. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard. This one generates 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The second engine is a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine with 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is exclusive to this model.

We’re very familiar with both engines as we have driven various Volkswagen models equipped with them, including the Passat sedan, Atlas, and the Tiguan. In some ways the two engines are similar – they offer near-equal torque numbers, which become evident when passing. But step-off acceleration is better with the V6 as the turbo-four delivers a slight amount of turbo lag before spooling up. We found the turbocharged engine whiny at times, while the V6 delivers the expected guttural hum.

The Cross Sport offers excellent forward visibility and sensible rearward views. The steering is light to the touch and this SUV tracks well. We admire the VW’s tight turning radius. The ride is quite comfortable – this SUV absorbs most bumps with ease. Only very little wind noise intrudes, making this SUV one of the quieter ones available.

This model is rated to pull 2,000 pounds. However, if you choose the V6 and add the towing package, the Atlas Cross Sport has a 5,000-pound tow rating. That’s within the range of competing models.



Competitive Set

Besides the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport competes with the Chevrolet Blazer, Buick Envision, and the Honda Passport. We’d be remiss if we left out the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Other two-row models include traditional SUVs with four-wheel drive. These are the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner.


Our Recommendation


We prefer models powered by the V6 engine over the turbo-four. If you plan to tow, add all-wheel drive for additional stability. We think the V6 SE with Technology with 4MOTION is the ideal choice, costing about $40,000 before discounting.

As of this writing, Volkswagen is offering a 180-day deferral on the first payment and 0-percent financing for 72 months. This special deal is the automaker’s response to the pandemic COVID-19 crisis. That said, shoppers should strike their best deal before considering in-house financing.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas
Cross Sport Specifications

  • Sticker price from $30,500 to $48,490
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • Engine No. 1: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 gas
  • 235 horsepower @ 4,500 RPM
  • 258 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,600 RPM
  • Engine No. 2: 3.6-liter V-6 gas
  • 276 horsepower @ 6,200 RPM
  • 266 foot-pounds of torque @ 2,750 RPM
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 117.3 inches
  • Length: 195.5 inches
  • Width: 78.4 inches
  • Height: 67.8 inches
  • Passenger volume: 112 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 40.3/77.8 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 2,000 to 5,000 pounds
  • EPA: 21/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined (FWD I4)
  • Regular gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18.6 gallons (gas)
  • Curb weight: From 4,103 to 4,411 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 6 years/72,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 6 years/72,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Chattanooga, Tennessee


See AlsoBehind the Wheel: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Exterior photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. Interior shots copyright VW. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.