Stylish Two-Row SUV
The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport debuted in 2020 as a smaller version to the Atlas, the largest SUV in the Volkswagen line-up. The subtle but noticeable design differences between the two earns the Cross Sport a nod for being one of the best looking midsize SUVs.
Available in eight trim levels, you can get into a nicely equipped base 2021 Atlas Cross Sport S for under $31,000. For discriminating consumers this well-built midsize SUV will exceed their expectations for performance, style and comfort.
Adding extra style to VW SUV functionality
Smooth V6 Power
Clean Fleet Report drove the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion. Outfitted with a 3.6-liter V6, the 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, the EPA rates the fuel economy at 17 mpg city/23 highway/19 combined. The fuel economy is marginally better if you were to opt for the base Atlas Cross Sport with the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that gets 21 mpg city/24 highway/22 combined.
Two choices under hood–V6 or turbo 4
In our real world use, over 272 miles driving through Southern California, we averaged 23 mpg. The best we could do over 110 of those miles, with the adaptive cruise control set to 65 mph and in Eco mode, was 29.6 mpg, just a touch below membership in the magic 30 MPG AWD Club.
Two technologies that have a positive effect on fuel economy are the respectable 0.34 coefficient of drag (Cd), which is a technical measure of how slippery the Atlas Cross Sport goes through the air, and the engine stop/start feature that turns-off the engine at a traffic light or stopped in rush hour traffic, then restarts when you release the brake pedal. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
Volkswagen’s 4Motion, a permanent all-wheel drive system, is engineered to eliminate wheel spin under almost all conditions. The system will automatically decouple the rear wheels when the driving load and conditions don’t require the additional traction, saving fuel. When necessary, in fractions of seconds, the 4Motion system engages the rear wheels for seamless and instant needed traction.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is balanced nicely. The 4Motion all-wheel drive provided a stable ride on its 21-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with Pirelli Scorpion 265/45 all-season tires. They gripped well, helping to pull 0-60 times of 7.8 seconds.
The 4Motion keeps the Atlas Cross Sport planted and flat, even when pushing tight corners. Bumps were smoothed out and interior road noise was low. The 21-inch tires made the ride a bit more aggressive than a family may like, so the 20-inch tires might make for a smoother, more comfortable experience.
Though weighing-in at 4,484 pounds, the Atlas Cross Sport never felt heavy or sluggish, but felt confident on the road. Volkswagens are known for making fine handling vehicles, and the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport continues that tradition.
The power-assisted vented front and rear discs and anti-lock brake system led to solid and straight stops. Large, heavy SUVs can tend to dip and even move side-to-side when stopping hard, but the electronic stability control, brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist led to controlled stops. With a braked trailer, the Atlas Cross Sport can tow up-to 5,000 pounds.
Bold with increasing sport
There are design cues that are unique to the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport from its larger Atlas sibling. If you know the SUVs offered by the Volkswagen Group, there is a bit of Audi Q8 in its design. A prominent black with chromed three-bar front grille, and the immediately recognizable VW logo badge, extends between the LED head and daytime running lights. A welcome safety feature is the adaptive headlights, which means they point up-to 15-degrees in the turning direction. This is very helpful when cornering in an unlit area. Below the body color bumper is a gloss black grille with functional air intakes.
The “R” badge on the grille indicates you are driving the R-Line model. The fog lights, which used to be stand-alone on the lower fascia, have now been integrated into the all-weather headlight system, lighting the night with 900 lumens. What’s a lumen? In LED lighting, lumens measure the brightness of a light, as opposed to watts, which measure the amount of energy in a light. Therefore, lumens measure the amount of light your LED headlights put out, the more the better. Just know the headlights on the Atlas Cross Sport Premium R-Line were very bright and rotate when turning.
At 195.5-inches in length, the Atlas Cross Sport is 5.2-inches shorter and 2.2-inches lower than the 2021 Atlas, which is the largest SUV in Volkswagen’s line-up. VW’s designers have taken the classic shape of the Atlas and lowered the roofline, and then angled the roof over the rear hatch. The Cross Sport side silhouette is a head-turner, and met with frequent compliments for its sleek design and the Aurora Red Metallic paint.
Tastefully placed chrome trim and accents are on the grille, roof rack rails, lower doors, window surrounds, the faux exhaust ports, and the eyebrow strip that runs the full length of the rear power lift gate between the LED tail lights. The Atlas Cross Sport design will hold up well for many years with its clean lines and distinctive European styling.
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line interior has top notch fit and finish. There is nothing fancy, trendy or quirky to be found, and it reeks of the usual German simplicity. There is a good mix of soft and hard plastics, which were complimented by tasteful and brushed aluminum trim. Clean Fleet Report’s Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line had a 10-inch digital gauge display, with black faces and white numbers. The heft and grip of the heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel felt good in our hands, with the three spokes and a squared-off bottom both attractive and functional.
Everything in its place
Standard on the Atlas Cross Sport Premium is an 8.0-inch capacitive-touch color screen for navigation and the 12-speaker (with subwoofer) Fender premium audio system. Excellent sounds were generated for the AM/FM/HD radio with USB inputs, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM. Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI) rounded-out the audio offerings. The MDI lets you play your music from a personal external audio device through the audio system, with connections for players and storage devices that use a USB interface, including memory sticks and portable hard disk drives.
The top stitching on the door inserts, shifter boot, arm rest and seats was a nice touch, and the dash-top tray was handy for small items.
Clean Fleet Report appreciated knobs making it easy to operate the radio and the dual-zone climate control system. Mobile phone pairing, selecting channel presets and wireless phone charging were all simple, convenient and operator friendly. The ambient lighting, stainless steel pedal caps and the metal front door sill plates added visual appeal.
The second row is no penalty box
Our Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line had heated and ventilated front seats, covered in two-toned Titan Black and Quartzlite leather. The driver gets 10-way power adjustments with lumbar and memory, while the passenger gets eight-way power adjustments. The outbound second row seats are leather-covered and heated, with those passengers getting roll-up manual sunshades. The driver has a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, makes finding a comfortable position easy. Separating the front seats is a heavily padded center console offering ample storage and an USB charge-only port.
The second row seats recline and are 60/40 split-folding. Storage configurations abound, all depending on how many seats are folded. But if you are looking to tote an eight-foot kayak or surfboard, the Atlas Cross Sport can handle it.
Interior conveniences, standard or optional, include remote start, a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, remote and hands-free power lift gate, keyless access, multi-function steering wheel with audio and telephone controls, rain sensing wipers, second row HVAC vents with USB and 115V AC ports, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, front and rear reading lights and carpeted floor mats.
The beauty of the interior is the space efficiency, which is achieved by having near squared-off sides and a tall roof, resulting in expansive shoulder and leg room, which is good for even the tallest passengers. And that cargo space, with or without the second row laid flat, is spacious.
Safety and Convenience
Ready to swallow up your fun things
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport has standard or available safety features such as six airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, and the Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). In case of an accident, the ICRS turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and activates the hazard lights. But the real stand-out from Volkswagen is the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is pretty self-explanatory. Working in conjunction with the airbag sensors in a collision, the brakes are applied automatically after an accident so your car does not continue moving where it could strike another vehicle or object.
Additional safety features include VW’s Car-Net remote access system, hill hold, park assist, stability control, overhead view and rear view cameras, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, rear traffic alert, and forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.
The 2021 Atlas earned a Good rating by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, and a 5 Star Overall rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are the highest ratings by the IIHS and NHTSA.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2021 Atlas is available in eight trims, two engines, and in either FWD or AWD. Base prices, including the $1,195 destination charge, range from $32,050 to $51,220.
Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion had a MSRP, with $395 in options and the $1,995 destination charge, of $51,615.
The 2021 Atlas comes with these warranties:
New Vehicle – Four years/50,000 miles
Powertrain – Four years/50,000 miles
Corrosion Perforation – Seven years/100,000 miles
24 Hour Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles
Scheduled Maintenance – Two years/20,000 miles
Observations: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion
Just the right touches
Volkswagen says the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport is “Excessive where it matters.” Maybe, but our take is that any excesses are invisible and just built-into this excellent midsize SUV. What we found is plenty of personality with German styling that may only be topped by the Audi Q8.
With so many choices in the midsize SUV category, you won’t be disappointed owning an Atlas Cross Sport. The build quality on Volkswagens is second to none, and having a choice of two engines and front wheel or all-wheel drive gives options to fit your lifestyle.
The only way you will know is by going to your local Volkswagen dealer and check it out. Test drive both engines out on the open highway, around town and, if necessary for your intended use, off-road. You may feel the front-wheel-drive Atlas Cross Sport suits your commuting and around town needs, while the 4Motion satisfies your adventurous lifestyle just a bit better. You will also see if the two-row Atlas Cross Sport handles your needs over the three-row Atlas. Either way, you won’t go wrong.
Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Volkswagen.
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