The refreshed 2021 VW Atlas has arrived, and the 7-passenger SUV still starts at $32,000

2021 VW Atlas

  • VW has refreshed its Atlas SUV for 2021.
  • The seven-passenger, three-row SUV has been a big hit for VW in the US.
  • The refreshed Atlas has an upgraded exterior design and a wide range of interior options.
  • There are two engines available: a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder, making 235 horsepower; or a 3.6-liter V6, making 276 horsepower.
  • The base price is unchanged for the 2021 model year, at $31,545.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Volkswagen Atlas filled a big, big hole in the German automaker's lineup when it debuted for the 2018 model year. Finally, VW had a large SUV that could haul seven people.

Consumers in the US rewarded the company by purchasing over 81,500 of the vehicle last year.Advertisement

We were quite impressed with the Atlas when it first went on sale, naming it a Business Insider Car of the Year runner-up form 2017. In our review, we wrote that "embracing Americana is the smartest thing Volkswagen has done in a long time," adding that "[w]hile it hasn't completely shed its German heritage, the company finally delivered an off-roader with the power, space, and practicality which caters specifically to the largest and most lucrative SUV market in the world."

On Tuesday, VW announced the refreshed Atlas. The base price hasn't changed - $31,545. But in a statement, VW touted a "bolder design as well as interior upgrades, advanced connectivity, new available driver-assistance features, and broadened powertrain availability."

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The 2021 VW Atlas, like the launch model, is a big SUV. But VW has tweaked the design.

The 2021 VW Atlas, like the launch model, is a big SUV. But VW has tweaked the design.

The Atlas does indeed look snazzier. The original has a bulky, roomy look that signaled the abundant space within, but that was debatably attractive. The refresh achieves what refreshes are supposed to: make something good into something better.

According to VW, "a bold three-bar grille extends into the front light signature, creating a more sophisticated presence, while new headlight and taillight designs feature standard full-LED lighting, including low beams, high beams, turn signal indicators, Daytime Running Lights, and taillights."

According to VW, "a bold three-bar grille extends into the front light signature, creating a more sophisticated presence, while new headlight and taillight designs feature standard full-LED lighting, including low beams, high beams, turn signal indicators, Daytime Running Lights, and taillights."

The Atlas is built on VW's Modular Transverse Matrix platform, and it's the largest vehicle to use the architecture.

The SUV is actually a few inches longer than the previous iteration.

VW noted that "sportier R-Line trims add R-Line badging" and "unique front and rear bumpers—also restyled for 2021—that incorporate stylish air intakes at the front and a diffuser in glossy black paint at the rear, as well as side skirts, emphasizing the premium profile of the Atlas."

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Overall, the refreshed Atlas ought to continue to appeal to families in search of something with a tad more style than the usual SUV suspects, without sacrificing versatility.

Overall, the refreshed Atlas ought to continue to appeal to families in search of something with a tad more style than the usual SUV suspects, without sacrificing versatility.

Engines are a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6.

The four makes 235 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque, while the six delivers 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm. The power is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, and VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available.

Fuel economy is 21 mpg city/24 highway/22 combined for the four and 17 mpg city/23 highway/19 combined for the six. The numbers are slightly lower with AWD.

The six could two 5,000 lbs.; the fours can handle 2,000 lbs.

VW interiors trend to be fairly subdued, and 2021 Atlas' is no exception. "Clean and functional, with a premium feel," is how VW described the approach.

VW interiors trend to be fairly subdued, and 2021 Atlas' is no exception. "Clean and functional, with a premium feel," is how VW described the approach.
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"The 2021 model offers a high-end environment that belies its attainable starting price," VW said. Well, maybe. No one would conclude that the Atlas is a luxury SUV.

"The 2021 model offers a high-end environment that belies its attainable starting price," VW said. Well, maybe. No one would conclude that the Atlas is a luxury SUV.

There's a "cavernous 153.7 cubic feet of total passenger volume," VW said. You could choose from cloth, leatherette, or leather upholstery, depending on trim level.

There's a "cavernous 153.7 cubic feet of total passenger volume," VW said. You could choose from cloth, leatherette, or leather upholstery, depending on trim level.
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You could get second-row captain's chairs on the SE/Technology trim level. Otherwise, second-row bench seats are the order of the day.

You could get second-row captain's chairs on the SE/Technology trim level. Otherwise, second-row bench seats are the order of the day.

The Atlas has "a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cubic feet behind the front-row seats when all rear seats are folded down," VW said. "With just the third-row folded, cargo capacity is 55.5 cubic feet, and with all seats up, cargo capacity is 20.6 cubic feet."

The Atlas has "a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cubic feet behind the front-row seats when all rear seats are folded down," VW said. "With just the third-row folded, cargo capacity is 55.5 cubic feet, and with all seats up, cargo capacity is 20.6 cubic feet."
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The Atlas offers two levels of drive modes. The basics are Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. But VW said that [w]ithin the Onroad setting, additional options are offered: Normal, Sport, Comfort, and Individual."

The Atlas offers two levels of drive modes. The basics are Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. But VW said that [w]ithin the Onroad setting, additional options are offered: Normal, Sport, Comfort, and Individual."

Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit system is similar to stablemate Audi's Virtual Cockpit. "Standard on SEL trims and above," VW said, it "presents drivers with a fully-digital instrument cluster."

Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit system is similar to stablemate Audi's Virtual Cockpit. "Standard on SEL trims and above," VW said, it "presents drivers with a fully-digital instrument cluster."
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"Using a 10-inch TFT display, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit offers a customizable presentation of important vehicle information," VW added.

"Using a 10-inch TFT display, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit offers a customizable presentation of important vehicle information," VW added.

The MIB II Infotainment runs on an 8-inch touchscreen on the higher trim levels. and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available. The base trim has a 6.5-inch unit.

The MIB II Infotainment runs on an 8-inch touchscreen on the higher trim levels. and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available. The base trim has a 6.5-inch unit.
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A Fender premium audio system is available, with a 480-watt, 12-channel amplifier. This is a personal favorite system for listening to rock-n-roll.

A Fender premium audio system is available, with a 480-watt, 12-channel amplifier. This is a personal favorite system for listening to rock-n-roll.