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VW thinks big with Atlas SUV

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

I lost count of the cup holders, but VW says there are 17. And although I couldn't find this many on the one I drove, some Atlas models offer 10 plug-in ports.

Overhead, a sunroof that runs almost the length of the Atlas brings lots of light into the back seats, and increases the sense of roominess. The rear windows also have individual sun screens, for a little extra privacy.

The Atlas drives big, too. The V-6 on the SEL Premium trim line -- the car can also be had with a 2-liter turbo engine -- pumps out 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, which is said to enable a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

The higher-end models are equipped with VW's 4Motion, a four-wheel-drive system that spreads the power around nicely.

On some models, such as the one I drove, the Atlas offers driving modes specializing in snow, rain, off-road and more.

The SEL Premium trim offers a very impressive suite of safety applications. I was happy I didn't have occasion to use them all, but was reassured to know that they included forward collision warning, pedestrian warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

 

I did have the opportunity to experiment a little with the Parking Steering Assistant, which, since I am a poor parallel parker, did a better job than I usually do.

Despite the powerful engine and four-wheel drive, the Atlas cannot be described as nimble. The steering felt too twitchy, and the suspension too soft and spongy, to inspire real driver confidence.

And it's still an SUV. Even when the Atlas was free of any cargo or passengers, it seemed top heavy and tippy in the turns.

And because of that powerful engine and the full-time four-wheel drive, the fuel economy suffers. VW claims the best you can hope for, driving judiciously, is 23 miles per gallon on the freeway. (Front-wheel drive models, fitted with the 2-liter turbo, get as much as 26 mpg.)

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