2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport Review: Big and affordable
Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman
2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Review
What is it?
Volkswagen's Atlas Cross Sport, the stylish 'coupe' cousin of the Atlas SUV. Gone are the third-row seats, making this a less practical version, but also strikingly stylish and reminiscent of its expensive, luxury Audi brethren. I had an Atlas Cross Sport before, a loaded up SEL model that I frankly somewhat torched in my review by having junk quality for its $50,000 price tag. This sedated SE model still has all the essentials, yet it costs only $40,000, representing big value for such a big car.
If you’re looking dollar/cubic foot, the Atlas, both in normal and in Cross Sport configuration, deliver in Costco bulk-sized spades. Even as only a five-passenger vehicle, this is a gargantuan machine, with seemingly more interior space than a New York studio apartment. The front passenger can recline their seats, move it back, and an adult behind them will still have room to be comfortable. And yes, you could fit A LOT of things in the cargo area from your recent Trader Joe’s and Home Goods combo run (they do seem to always be next to each other conveniently). You will love just how huge this car really is. And for the price, I don’t think there is anything larger available besides maybe a Chevy Traverse.
Many find the Atlas Cross Sport an exceptionally stylish piece of kit. With its sloped back to give a ‘sporty’ appearance that deftly replicates that of an Audi Q8, it can be a wonderfully stylish fashion accessory despite its bargain price. You can get larger wheels if you’d like on a higher trim, but I wouldn’t want to get too glitzed out. Like seriously, how many ‘MKs’ does your Michael Kors bag really need?
On the road, the Atlas is comfortable with a cushioned ride quality to its suspension and is very easy to drive with its light controls. It’s quiet, too, and you can even adjust your seat super low in the car to avoid the ‘driving a bus’ feeling of other SUVs. If you decide you need to make up time on a twisty road, the Atlas Cross Sport has a surprisingly good balance to it, with natural progressions to understeer and even a little bit of lift-off oversteer if you want to be really aggressive. It isn’t too dissimilar from a VW Golf in handling characteristics, which is a good thing. You can get yours in all-wheel drive if you go to the snow, but the FWD version here drove plenty fine, with only front wheelspin from low speeds if you’re aggressive with the throttle.
What can be improved?
There are many reasons to buy or lease an Atlas Cross Sport, but there are also reasons why you might not want to. One of these chief reasons might be the standard Atlas. With an extra row of seats, it’s the more practical of the two. The boxier shape also means more storage space in the rear. You’re trading style for seats, so that might be a big factor in your choice.
While some drivers will find the easy and light steering to be a luxury, I do feel the steering is too boosted and rubbery in practice. Yes, you can drive it with literally your pinky finger – it’s that light, but it can also resemble a toy. I like heavier steering, but I do see the appeal to those who might like this style of driving, those who won’t notice the difference in other words.
The interior, for the price, is only fine, with hard plastics here and there and vinyl surfaces. The outright design of it is boring and outdated, too, lacking the quality and adventurous character of recent Hyundai offerings. One of the reasons I disliked the SEL option so much was because the interior simply did not match the price, being a spruced-up economy car for a luxury price. While this SE doesn't have a better interior in any tangible way over the SEL, it is better because it’s essentially the exact same as that pricey step-up, just for a lot less. Heck, the leatherette seats are pretty close to the real thing. Even then, it could still be improved and is due for an update against fresher rivals.
The Atlas can be had with either a turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6L V6. I have still not tried the four-cylinder variant, but this V6 is probably not a good choice for many for one ever-worryingly reason: gas mileage. The Atlas is not an economical car, but one can expect that given its dimensions. However, I didn’t think it’d be this bad. Highway mileage, when level and steady, showed 25 MPG, but the overall economy I achieved was only 19. With gas over $6.00/gallon now in most of California, that hurts. A 80-mile round trip to Sacramento and back for me would be a $24 proposition. Ouch. At least the 276 horsepowerV6 is smooth as glass even if it isn’t particularly quick, with 0-60 MPH needing 7.5 seconds.
If style and space is what you desire, the Atlas Cross Sport fits the bill while also being reasonably affordable. Do not get the higher trim levels as they disappoint in quality – stick to the SE trim as you get basically all the goodies you could need. If you’re spending more, I would steer you to a Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade instead. But, for those more concerned with style and appearance and want optimal space inside, the Atlas Cross Sport might deliver what you want.
2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport V6 SE
As-tested price: $40,480
Pros: Big and stylish
Cons: No third-row, thirsty
Verdict: Big on style and space for a not so big price