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VW thinks big with Atlas SUV

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

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.

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