First Drive: 2024 Volkswagen Atlas

The Atlas gains a number of updates for 2024, including the much more upscale interior it needed a long time ago
The Atlas gains a number of updates for 2024, including the much more upscale interior it needed a long time ago

by Nick Tragianis | July 15, 2023


CATSKILL, NEW YORK — These days, you can’t ride a shopping cart like a scooter through a Costco parking lot without smashing into some sort of big, three-row SUV. That’s precisely why there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of the freshened 2024 Volkswagen Atlas — not because it needs to hold up against dings and scuffs resulting from your questionable impulses, but because it’s going toe-to-toe against a number of other equally new and fresh heavyweights in one of the most fiercely contested segments. It’s really important that VW didn’t cock up the Atlas’ winning formula.

And cock it up, they didn’t.


Headlining the Atlas’ updates for 2024 is a makeover inside and out. Believe it or not, this is actually the second refresh since its debut in 2018; we kind of expected a total redesign at this point instead of a second refresh, but this latest round of updates does a convincing job at keeping the Atlas looking and feeling fresh.

Up front, the 2024 Atlas wears a restyled front bumper and stacked headlights linked together by an LED light bar and a light-up badge. The boxy side profile remains unchanged, and around back, a redesigned rear bumper and — you guessed it — another light bar and light-up badge finish off the look. We’re not the biggest fans of light-up badges, but VW pulls this off better than most, especially out back.



As far as powertrains go, we have some bad news: the VR6 is dead. Sorry, VW nerds, but it’s not all doom-and-gloom. Every Atlas now comes with one engine option: a tweaked version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder found in the GTI and Golf R. Putting out 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, the new four-popper is much better-suited to hauling the Atlas’ mass, especially with peak torque available from 1,600 rpm. An eight-speed automatic remains the only transmission available, and all Canadian-spec models come standard with all-wheel-drive. VW hasn’t dished details just yet on fuel economy, but towing capacity remains the same, at 5,000 pounds.

On the road, the refreshed Atlas comes together quite well. The new turbo-four is punchy, although we do miss the VR6’s soundtrack. The eight-speed automatic delivers snappy shifts when you floor it — though not as quick as VW’s dual-clutch automatics — and fades into the background when you ease off. The suspension and chassis tuning certainly favours comfort over canyon-carving, soaking up bumps and rough pavement better than the outgoing Atlas. Wind and road noise are fairly hushed, and steering is par for the course — light and numb, but responsive to your inputs.


The refreshed sheet metal and upgraded turbo-four is obviously big news, but the bigger news is inside. The 2024 Atlas gets a thoroughly updated interior — and it was sorely needed. This was handily our biggest knock against the outgoing Atlas; it was very roomy inside, but it just lacked the fit-and-finish you’d expect from something wearing a VW badge, even following the previous refresh.

That all changes for 2024, but we have some good and bad news. First, the good news: fit-and-finish is vastly improved, with more soft-touch surfaces and better-feeling materials throughout. VW also swapped out the conventional shift lever with the dinky electronic toggle switch setup we first saw on the GTI, opening up a massive storage pocket below the centre console. The seats and trim pieces are also new, with quilted seats and much more convincing (though still questionably authentic) wood trim on higher-spec models, as well as ambient lighting. It’s no Mazda CX-90 Signature, but it’s vastly better than before.


VW has also updated the Atlas’ infotainment and tech, now running the same software we’ve played with in the GTI, Golf R, and other newer VWs. There’s more screen real estate — all models now come standard with a 12-inch touchscreen for the main infotainment, plus a customizable 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. Both displays are sharp, boast crisp graphics, and the main infotainment is quick and fairly intuitive, once you get used to it.

And now, the bad news: gone is the physical switchgear from the outgoing Atlas, swapped out in favour for touch-sensitive panels. Like the infotainment, it’s identical to the setup we’ve used (and complained about) in the GTI and Golf R, where a touch panel with four shortcuts (five, if you count the hazards) pulls up various menus on the infotainment display to complete most adjustments. Additionally, you adjust the cabin temperature and volume via the same touch-sensitive (and un-lit) panel we’ve ranted about before. It was, and still is, an infuriating system to use, especially as a passenger. Mercifully, VW has kept the physical buttons on the steering wheel. Thank goodness.


What remains unchanged inside the 2024 Atlas is the spaciousness. The taller greenhouse and big windows lend to good visibility and an airy feel, especially with the optional panoramic sunroof. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom in the first and second rows. The third row isn’t totally uncomfortable, and ingress and egress doesn’t involve too much contorting. We don’t have figures for the 2024 model just yet, but cargo space for the 2023 Atlas punched in at 583 litres with the third row up, 1,571 with it stowed, and 2,741 with both rows flat.

Rounding out the updates to the 2024 Atlas is the addition of the Peak Edition. Essentially replacing the previous Trendline trim, the Peak  adds a more rugged, off-road-inspired look inside and out, but that’s about it. Aside from the all-terrain tires, there’s little else in the way of off-road-oriented mechanical enhancements; no skid plates, off-road drive modes, or anything else of that sort.



Price-wise, the 2024 Atlas kicks off at $49,995 for the base Comfortline. It’s on the pricier end of the three-row segment, but it makes up for that with a long list of standard bells and whistles, like adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, and much more — in addition to all the other enhancements for 2024. The priciest Atlas, the Execline R-Line, tops out at a hair under $60,000. The two-row Atlas Cross Sport, which also sees the same enhancements for 2024 as the three-row Atlas, starts at $48,895 and tops out at $58,895.

As most people these days seemingly have an aversion to anything with sliding rear doors, three-row SUVs have jobs to do. They need to transport families big and small in relative comfort, and swallowing all their junk in the trunk at the same time. Whether or not the finicky interior controls will turn buyers off remains to be seen, but this second round of enhancements keep the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas competitive in of the most hotly contested segments out there.

See Also

2023 Honda Pilot Black Edition

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

2022 Chevrolet Traverse RS

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About Nick Tragianis

Managing Editor

Nick has more than a decade of experience shooting and writing about cars, and as a journalism grad, he's a staunch believer of the Oxford Comma despite what the Canadian Press says. He’s a passionate photographer and loves exploring the open road in anything he gets his hands on.

Current Toys: '90 MX-5 Miata, '00 M5, '16 GTI Autobahn