Seating for seven, a base inline four with an option of a V6, and car-like manners on the road – sounds like a great recipe for a minivan, right? Wrong – enter the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Execline. Although most consider the Atlas to be the spiritual successor to the Touareg for the North American market, the Atlas proves to feel closer to the sedans on which it shares a platform with. Designed specifically for this market, the Atlas seems to fill the need for those that want a SUV that doesn’t drive like a truck and provides the space of a minivan.
The Atlas still sports the styling from the late 2020 refresh, and it still looks very sharp. The aggressive L-shaped LED daytime running lights, paired with large grill openings and piano black and chrome accenting as a part of this R Design package really give the Atlas a sporty modern look. This package also reduces the amount of black body cladding to just over the wheel wells, which are filled with a massive set of 21-inch two-tone machine face wheels. Our tester in Aurora Red Chroma truly has looks that could rival much more expensive SUVs in the luxury segment.
Unfortunately, the interior does not carry on the theme of high-end styling and upscale materials. In many ways it feels like an entirely different vehicle than the sleek exterior styling would have you believe. The interior of the Atlas doesn’t feature any swooping lines or hidden storage spaces which some may find dull, however the upright design language offers a lot of storage space. There is also integrated wireless charging – although we could not get it to work on our tester, and a cavernous centre armrest.
We were also pleased at the lack of glossy piano black plastic trim in the cabin and the dedicated HVAC controls. One button that we wish was fitted is one for the birds-eye camera or Area View 360 as VW calls it. The system itself works very well but it’s so difficult to get to we didn’t even find it until the last day of our test. It would be nice to have this feature more easily accessible as when you are parking the bulky Atlas, the cameras would be useful.
Something we found to be most peculiar is Volkswagen’s decision to use lots of hard plastics on the interior surfaces of the Atlas. Many of the common touch points are quite rough and it makes the cabin of the Atlas fall short of what customers have come to expect from the automaker. In stark contrast are the supportive and luxurious feeling seats and smart looking leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Generally, we feel that even though there are some nice components on the interior of the Atlas, the flow of the interior feels a bit disjointed with the hodgepodge of low quality and premium materials. We think the Atlas needs a bit of work to come to the standards of the others in the category such as the Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride.
Interior tech was one place the Atlas feels modern and upscale. The infotainment screen in the center of the dash is a crisp eight-inch affair, and handily many of the key pages you want to get to quickly are featured as buttons on either side of the display. The interface is fairly easy to use, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are on tap with wireless connectivity, and we found the system to be quite snappy. In top-of-the-line Execline form, the Atlas is loaded with many features that buyers want such as the ventilated front seats, panoramic roof, a fully digital 10.25-inch gauge cluster known as Digital Cockpit Pro.
The Digital Cockpit Pro is a fully customizable driver info center which can be configured to have the navigation display on the dash as well and audio and trip data. We found the display to be a good quality high-resolution unit and when configured right, helps reduce distractions. Unfortunately, while using CarPlay, the navigation info does not get patched through to the dash. Overall, we still feel that this is one of the better digital dash implementations on the market today.
One of the biggest advantages to the Atlas basically being a minivan on stilts is the absolutely vast interior. This VW feels like it’s built to handle family road trips with ease. The third row is not just a showpiece, it genuinely has enough space even for adults, albeit not for long periods and getting in and out is very easy. The cozy second-row captain’s chairs fitted on this model provide excellent leg and headroom.
Cargo volume is close to class leading at 766 liters behind the second row, coming second to only the Chevrolet Traverse. Total cargo volume is quoted at 2,741 liters by Volkswagen, which is excellent especially when you compare against the Palisade at 2,447 liters. Even with the third row up, the cargo area is still a very usable 583 liters, more than the Traverse. The interior space further blurs the gap between minivan and SUV, making it so buyers will not have to compromise on space while at the same time being able to drive a vehicle that doesn’t handle like a truck.
Speaking of handling, the Atlas does that well. We found that body lean and unnecessary motions are kept to a minimum, although at speed it does still struggle with larger dipped areas in the road, where at times the Atlas would continue to oscillate like a boat. Around town, the Atlas conquers large potholes and uneven pavement with ease, with its car-like handling, the Atlas will surely please most buyers.
The Atlas is available with two engine choices, a base 2.0-liter turbo four, producing a meagre 235 horsepower or a 3.6-liter V6, which is what our top-spec Execline came equipped with. It should be noted that the V6 is the only engine available on this trim, while the other three flavours of Atlas let you choose your noisemaker. No matter what engine you choose, power will come through a responsive eight-speed traditional automatic transmission and will be sent to all four wheels through the Haldex-based 4MOTION system.
The V6 engine in our test car was silky smooth and rewarded us with a satisfying growl when pushed a little bit, which is good as the tame 276 horsepower it produces combined with the 4,502-pound curb weight don’t exactly make a recipe for speed. The V6 is good to tow up to 5,000 pounds, however the base turbo four is only good for 2,000 pounds. The only complaint with the driveline is in stop and go traffic where the automatic transmission paired with the start/stop system in the car results in an annoying jerkiness. Turning off the system seemed to help a bit, but at the expense of fuel economy.
Volkswagen Canada rates the fuel economy at 13.8L/100km city and 10.2L/100km highway. In our real world testing we saw 11.7L/100km in a mixed commute, and thankfully the Atlas does take regular 87-octane fuel.
Our mega spec Execline comes equipped with a whole plethora of safety equipment such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, frontal collision warning and brake assist and the radar cruise. The Atlas actually comes standard with autonomous emergency braking, and blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, however the Travel Assist Suite which includes adaptive cruise, lane and emergency assist are on the Execline only.
The Atlas comes in just a hair under the Hyundai Palisade’s starting price at $41,095 vs the Hyundai’s $41,499. Our Execline tester is $57,195 with an optional $700 Captain’s Chair package for a grand total of $57,895. A similarly decked-out 2022 Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy will come in at around $55,329, and although subjectively not as good looking as the Atlas, the interior quality, and unique features such as the heads-up display, and in-car intercom make the German offering feel like a sacrifice.
Overall, the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Execline seems to be a good offering for those that need the large interior space for a family and value the style and presence of a VW. The Atlas when ordered with the R Design package is a handsome vehicle, and although the interior is a little plain, the easy-to-use layout and comfortable seating still make the Atlas an attractive option. Bottom line, if you’re looking for an easy to drive vehicle with great interior space, add the Atlas to the short list.
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