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2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport: Classy looks, good tech and a solid performer

Written By | Jul 8, 2021

SEATTLE — When I first reviewed the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas earlier this year, it was the standard edition. Now we get to look at the Cross Sport 2.0T SEL Premium model that essentially only differs by losing the third row. This opens up a lot more available cargo room for those who don’t need that row and is one of the largest spaces you’ll find in this SUV segment.

We have the same bold exterior styling that’s been a hallmark for Atlas. It looks refined enough to take out for a night in the city and yet assertive enough for some mild off-road adventures. The classy-looking front grill stands out in a market segment where it seems most manufacturers have gone to large black grills that resemble a largemouth. The back-end wraps it all together and keeps those nice body lines with taillights that are rather elegant.


Under the hood, you have the same power options, either the turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder with 235 horsepower or a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 276 horsepower. Our test model had the 2.0-liter in it. You’ll find that its standard 8-speed automatic does a really good job of going through the gears and downshifts smoothly as well. Look for 0-60 times around the 7.1-second mark.

Its 4-motion all-wheel-drive is a tried-and-true system that’s been around for decades and you’ll find that it really does do a great job of instilling driver confidence. It will dynamically shift power between the front and rear as well as per tire, depending on the scenario, and helps make short-work of snowy mountain passes.

Unfortunately, in this large vehicle, the 2.0-liter often felt just a tad underpowered and still offers fuel economy that’s below that of what some of its competitors offer. The EPA gives a rating of only 20 miles per gallon in the city and up to 24 on the highway.

Lots of room in here:

Inside, we find a very clean-looking cabin space that doesn’t feel overly cluttered with bling. Sure it has some plastic surfaces but the overall layout appears to be a minimalist approach but has almost everything you’d want in terms of tech and ease of use of the Cross Sport’s features and functions.

Front seat comfort is rather good. However, like so many manufacturers today, it seems the front passenger is rather disregarded. The driver’s seat is a 10-way power seat with lumbar support, while the front passenger’s seat is only an 8-way. Both are heated and ventilated.

The rear bench seat does have heated outer seating surfaces and has easy-to-access charging ports with a 115-volt AC power port, a middle armrest with cup-holders, and window shades. There’s a good deal of room in the back row and that’s thanks mainly to the overall size of the Atlas. Two adults can easily sit there and be fine, even on long road trips.


The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers both Apple CarPay and Android Auto and is powered by Fender audio. Even though navigation is optional, this doesn’t seem to be much of an issue anymore as most folks use their smartphones for that functionality. Audio sources include AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio, USB, and Bluetooth audio. Additionally, there’s an integrated 4G LTW Wi-Fi hotpot for the folks inside the vehicle. A great addition for entertainment on long road trips.

Driver aids include what is widely standard in this SUV segment, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera with an overhead view feature, high-beam assist, both hold hill and hill descent control, front collision warning, and emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring.

Volkswagen also incorporates its digital cockpit display for the driver. This allows you to set up the information about the vehicle you wish to see while driving. It gives you some flexibility in making things more customized to your driving preferences.


On the road, you’ll find that the Cross Sport feels large. Its long hood gives you a constant reminder of its size. There’s good visibility, however, thanks to all of its windows and minimized blind spots. Steering is a bit lighter on its weightiness than I’d like, even in the sport driving mode but overall feels solid. There’s a modest body roll under hard cornering but that’s kind of to be expected.

The great thing is, you feel in command at all times. It never gets squirrelly on you or makes you feel as if you’re losing control.

My only real complaint here is that I’d love to have more available power to get all 4,000+ pounds of it moving. Additionally, there is a bit of turbo-lag when you first depress the accelerator pedal that we’d like to see improved upon. This 2.0-liter engine is a proven platform and a rugged workhorse. You’ll find that Audi also uses it in quite a number of its cars.

Priced as configured, we’re looking at $47,720, including destination charge and that puts it some tough competition from Hyundai, Ford, GM, Lexus and KIA to name a few.

If you’re in the market for a larger SUV that has tons of cargo, a clean-looking interior that is great on the road, and offers one of the most proven drivetrains in the automotive world, then test drive the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport soon.


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About the Author: Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.


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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.