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If there’s anything about today’s automotive world that I know it is that it moves fast. What was new and exciting yesterday has been outpaced by some new model. What I write today will be surpassed by what I test tomorrow.
Case in point is the VW Atlas. I tested a 2018 model just about a year ago. My opinion then was that it was a good choice. This week I tested a 2019 model and my opinion hasn’t changed but the competition has.
There is a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine available but I doubt too many purchasers opt for it. Most versions of the Atlas will be equipped with the 3.6-liter VR6, a narrow angle V6. The test vehicle had this engine and was also AWD although FWD is the basic configuration.
The 3.6 produces 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. It is also rated at 23 mpg highway and 17 mpg city with AWD. Decent but not spectacular power and fuel economy.
I’d say the Atlas is exactly like I wrote last year – a very nice SUV. The problem is that others have, and will leap-frog it. The last SUV I tested, the 2020 Kia Telluride was every bit the equal of the Atlas for less money. The 2020 Ford Explorer, although much pricier is available with up to 400 hp from its 3.0-liter, V6 EcoBoost.
All three are very similar in size as are others. I haven’t driven a 2020 Explorer or similar SUVs from General Motors or Dodge. But even after I have, assuming I will, I don’t do back-to-back comparison tests. I leave that to others. So my impressions are based on what I drive at the present time.
Right now I’d say that I’m at a loss to choose a clearly superior SUV. I tend to favor the Telluride but it is close. When I get a week in the new Explorer, hopefully a 400 hp ST (I don’t get to choose what I test), my opinion my change. After all I’m a sucker for performance. We will see.
If this sounds like faint praise of the Atlas it isn’t. I like it and I would recommend it for consideration if you are in the market for a SUV of this size. The Atlas starts at $30,895; as tested it was $48,395.
And while I’m pondering what will come next maybe it’s time for more voice control for vehicles. No not the “Change the radio station” stuff but voice control/recognition like you have at home. You can walk up to your front door and tell it to unlock so why not the same for a vehicle? You walk up to your car, your hands are full and you need the hatch/trunk opened. Sure on some cars you can wave your foot under the rear bumper but why not be able to say “Open the trunk”?
After visiting Volkswagen's Innovation and Engineering Center California I’m willing to bet someone is already working on it.