Volkswagen had a hit on its hands with the great-looking VW Atlas, a three-row SUV designed specifically for America. It’s applied the same winning formula to its smaller and sleeker Atlas Cross Sport, a crossover that ditches the third row and seats five. Like its bigger sibling, the Cross Sport comes in eight trims (because apparently VW thinks we need a lot of choices). My test model is the V6 SE with Technology - which slots third in the lineup.
I’m a big fan of the Atlas Cross Sport’s attractive looks - with its more coupe-like appearance than the boxy VW Atlas due to a more sloped roofline. Its Tourmaline Blue Metallic color, three-bar chrome front grille and sharp-looking 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels give it a modern, sophisticated presence along with strong chrome accents across the front and rear bumpers. All Cross Sport trims are equipped with full LED lighting, which is really great, with LEDs for headlights (high and low beams), daytime running lights and tail lights. (The two top trims add Adaptive Front Lighting.) Heated side mirrors offer integrated turn signals. Standard silver roof rails on top look great, too, along with a slim chrome bar with the Atlas badge across the tail end. A panoramic sunroof (not on this model) is optional.
The Atlas Cross Sport’s Dark Beige and Titan Black colored cabin is roomy with a clean, minimalist design that closely mimics the higher-priced Atlas. There’s a nice mix of multi-toned materials and nice stitching in here with a soft-touch dash and areas on the door panels. Overall, though I didn’t find the Atlas Sport as comfortable as its bigger sibling, which isn’t surprising given the Atlas Premium SEL I reviewed recently is more than $10,000 higher as tested. It lacks a bit of softness for me. The main culprit was the Cross Sport’s leatherette seating which, to me, gave the seats and steering wheel a firmer feel than I typically enjoy. I did enjoy the longer seat cushion on the 10-way power with lumbar support driver’s seat. The passenger’s seat is 6-way manually adjustable. Both front seats are heated.
The center console area houses a heavily-stitched gear shift knob as well as a push button start, two cup holders, a storage area, an electric parking brake and park assist. The center console bin is nicely sized.
The roomy second row offers passengers 2nd row air vents and a center armrest with storage along with two USB charging ports. 60/40 split folding rear seats recline 14-degrees.
The SE w/Technology grade is equipped with an Easy Open Power Liftgate with a kick sensor. The illuminated cargo area offers 40.3 cu-ft of space behind the second row seats along with tie down hooks and a 12V.
Tech looks a bit dated in this trim since it misses out on VW’s nice new digital cockpit. You get a medium-sized color digital driver display in between two analog dials.
The SE w/Technology comes with VW’s latest-gen MIB3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen with nice graphics. It’s very responsive with swipe as well as pinch and zoom functionality. Wireless App-Connect is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The backup camera with gridlines offers terrific quality. VW falls a bit short for me in terms of voice recognition. I find it more cumbersome and less intuitive to use than some other systems. This trim features a basic 6-speaker sound system, upper trims upgrade to a 12-speaker premium Fender system.
There are plenty of USB chargers in here, but no wireless charger.
The Cross Sport lineup offers two engines: a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and this model’s optional 3.5-liter V6. It delivers 276-horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. VW’s stop start is one of the more pronounced systems I’ve experienced, but can be disabled. I’m a huge fan of remote engine start, standard on this trim and above. All-wheel drive is available but this model is forward-wheel drive.
Ride and Drive
The Atlas Cross Sport offers a similarly smooth, comfortable and quiet ride as its bigger sibling. I noted a bit more of what I’d describe as a truck-like ride feel in the Atlas Cross Sport as opposed to the Atlas. The steering is on the loose side with a great turning radius so it’s easy to maneuver. Acceleration from the V6 feels great and braking is confident.
The Atlas Cross Sport SE/with Tech is equipped with great driver assist features like forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitor and rear traffic alert along with adaptive cruise control. However it’s missing some features you get on the upper trims like Lane Assist, and new for 2021 on upper trims, Travel Assist (partially-automated hands-on driving) as well as Emergency Assist which VW says brings the vehicle to a stop if the driver becomes incapaciated.
The VW Atlas Cross Sport is a stylish crossover that’s comfortable to drive with some great features, however for more comfort (leather seating and 2nd-row heated seats), VW’s digital cockpit and the newest safety features I’d step up to the SEL Premium.
2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport V6 SE w/Technology
- What I liked most: Exterior looks, V6 powertrain.
- What I would change: Enhanced comfort of the leatherette seating.
- MSRP: Base price $38,840, as equipped $38,840.
- Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined.
- Official Color: Tourmaline Blue Metallic / Dark Beige Leatherette Interior
- Odometer reading when tested: 972 miles.
- FWD, RWD or AWD: Forward Wheel Drive. 4Motion AWD is available.
- Weight: 4,279 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Unknown.
- Length-Width-Height: 195.5” long/78.4” wide/68.3” high.
- Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds with SE Tech V6 4Motion AWD and factory installed trailer hitch.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 19.5 gallons with fuel filler on the passenger side.
- 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport in a few words: A stylish, modern and roomy SUV with an enjoyable ride and drive.
- Final Assembly Location: Chattanooga, TN
- Manufacturers website: Volkswagen
- Warranty: 4-year, 50,000 miles New Vehicle Limited Warranty; 7-year, 100,000 miles Corrosion Perforation Warranty, 2-year, 20,000 miles Carefree Maintenance Program.