Volkswagen's Atlas was one of the darlings of last year's Los Angeles Auto Show. The German company was then in the midst of a scandal involving falsified emissions claims on its diesel engines. The Atlas seemed like a bright spot on the horizon.
Perhaps that was because it was so big. The Atlas, built to compete with mid-size crossovers such as the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer, is the largest Volkswagen ever assembled in the United States. With the exception of the discontinued Routan seven-seater, it's the biggest VW ever sold here.
The Atlas is finally available. The good news? It's still big! The bad news: See previous.
The new VW is a four-door, three-row sport utility vehicle that seats seven. Driven by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it sits high and wide and rolls down the road like a boss.
It's no Rabbit. The Atlas is 16.5 feet long and weighs more than 2 tons. Riding on 20-inch wheels, the Atlas feels more like a Navigator than an Explorer -- comfortable and confident on the freeway, restful for long-distance drives, and quiet as a bank vault even at high speeds.
Parallel parking is a challenge.
But all that size means it carries a lot. The rear cargo area is big enough to carry a mountain bike before you fold down the third-row seats, offering 55 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up and 96.8 cubic feet with the seats down. At that point, it's big enough to house a bike shop.
The second-row seats are roomy and wide, with loads of legroom and headroom. The rear passenger compartment contains device plug-in ports and its own climate control.
Those second-row seats, which tilt forward to allow access to the third row, lean back, too -- an uncommon but welcome feature for anyone planning a long road trip.
Ditto the heated and ventilated front seats.