2024 Volkswagen Atlas Review and Test Drive
Fresh styling and improved technology update this roomy three-row SUV.
Like many other car companies, Volkswagen has transitioned to a lineup heavily focused on SUVs. However, VW didn't offer truly competitive crossovers until 2018, when it redesigned the compact Tiguan and debuted the midsize, three-row Atlas. Today, the two models account for the majority of Volkswagen sales in the U.S.
To help ensure the automaker's continued momentum, the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas gets a significant refresh while maintaining the qualities that make it an appealing family hauler. Styling changes update the looks, but it's still easy to identify the distinctive Atlas at a glance. In addition, the Atlas gets an updated interior with improved storage space, a premium vibe, and a new, larger infotainment display. Volkswagen also simplifies the 2024 Atlas lineup by dropping the previous V6 engine in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas comes in SE, SE with Technology, SEL, and SEL Premium R-Line trim levels, in addition to the new Peak Edition SE with Technology and Peak Edition SEL. Base prices range from the high $37,000s to the mid-$52,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Chattanooga, Tennessee factory that builds it, to your local dealership.
For this Atlas review, Volkswagen invited me to Catskill, New York, to drive an Atlas SEL Premium R-Line. It came with Aurora Red Metallic paint, Titan Black leather with Silver underlay, and second-row dual captain's chairs, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $54,895, including the $1,350 destination charge. Volkswagen paid for my travel, food, and lodging during the evaluation period.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas Review: The Design
I wouldn't say that the Atlas was starting to look old, but the updated styling for 2024 is a nice change. The grille is new, with four cross bars overlaying a decorative design. Flanking the grille are new LED headlights with signature LED running lights. This updated look gives the Atlas a wide stance, further enhanced by the LED light bar that connects the headlights across the top of the grille. The illuminated VW logo in the middle is a nice touch.
A larger rear spoiler above the rear hatch has the effect of extending the roofline, providing a sleeker look for this big SUV. Updated taillights feature a design that mimics the lights up front, with a similar light bar and illuminated VW logo. Every Atlas trim gets new wheels ranging in size from 18 to 21 inches in diameter.
For 2024, the Atlas gets an updated interior with an upscale look, premium materials, and soft-touch surfaces. The dashboard features leatherette material with contrast stitching and wraps into the door panels for a cohesive appearance. Thirty colors of interior ambient lighting are available, and the selected color becomes the primary color theme for the infotainment system.
At the dashboard's center is the new 12.0-inch floating infotainment display, underlined with touch-sensing controls for the climate system and stereo volume. Contributing to the cabin's overall clean design, there are virtually no physical controls to be found, except for four buttons on the lower dashboard that serve as shortcuts to the parking-assist system menu, driving modes, climate system, and advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS). While Volkswagen's approach does create a nice-looking cabin, physical climate and audio controls would make it much easier to operate the Atlas.
With the updated interior design, Atlas provides a great deal of storage in the cabin as well as multiple USB ports. The shift-by-wire gear selector requires less space than a conventional shifter, so VW was able to redesign the center console with ample storage space underneath. The center armrest/covered bin between the front seats provides additional storage, and there is more space around the cupholders for keeping smaller items. Volkswagen also includes a wireless charger and dual USB ports, as well as a USB port by the rearview mirror, ideal for powering a dash cam.
In keeping with the premium-styled interior, the front seats are quite stylish, especially with the new diamond-pattern leather trim with contrasting underlay colors. With good bolsters and nice padding, seats are rather comfortable, even after an extended drive.
Second-row seating is available as a split-folding bench seat (for seven-passenger seating) or dual captain's chairs. With either seating option, legroom and headroom are plentiful, creating a comfortable space for two adults. The middle location of the standard bench seat is not as thickly padded as the outboard seats, and the center console jutting into the rear seat space compromises legroom for this occupant. But the console does provide additional USB ports and rear-seat climate controls.
Access to the third row of seats is relatively easy, with a second row that folds and slides out of the way. Once in, those relegated to the back of the bus will likely be pleasantly surprised by the amount of room. Two adults can fit comfortably, and those in the second row can slide forward to add third-row legroom. Cupholders, storage bins, and dual USB ports add convenience for third-row passengers.
With 20.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row, the cargo area can handle a few smaller bags. The area can expand to 55.5 cu-ft with the third row folded, a task that's easily performed with the tug of a strap. The second-row seats fold flat to handle extra-large cargo and create a sizable 96.6 cu-ft of cargo space.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas Review: The Technology
For the 2024 model year, Volkswagen equips all variants of the Atlas with a new 12.0-inch infotainment display. It features clear, easy-to-read icons and provides quick response time to inputs. The background color and theme changes to match the ambient lighting, which can provide a unique look to the cabin.
A static home button remains on the left side of the display, even when Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are running, providing quick access to the main menu. Below the home button are the current temperature readout and seat heating/ventilation settings.
While there are no hard buttons or knobs in the Atlas, there are soft-touch controls at the base of the screen for adjusting the cabin temperature, as well as a slider volume control. Neither of these is ideal. Successfully adjusting the temperature is a hit-or-miss proposition, and the volume slider is challenging to adjust smoothly, even when the vehicle isn't moving. Additional climate or audio functions require delving into a submenu through the display screen. As the stereo and climate systems are two features among the most used in a car, access to and control of them shouldn't be this difficult.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard with a wireless connection. Connecting to my Samsung Galaxy S23+ took no time at all, and Android Auto started quickly with just a few prompts. Android Auto uses most of the screen (except for the static shortcuts described above) and loads quickly when the vehicle starts. An added benefit is the directions coming from Android Auto appear in the head-up display, just like the native navigation system.
The voice-control system, activated using a button on the steering wheel, works well for setting a destination, changing the temperature, selecting music, or making a phone call. However, when I asked the system for directions to a coffee shop, it could not assist without an internet connection, and I was out of cellular range.
Every version of the 2024 Atlas has a standard 10.3-inch Digital Cockpit Pro instrumentation panel. The configurable display offers multiple views, and you can choose to show information on the right and left sections of the screen. Alternatively, a full navigation screen can take over the display with the speedometer visible on top. Additional information appears via an available head-up display.
Volkswagen has made more advanced safety features standard on the 2024 Atlas, equipping all trim levels with IQ.Drive. IQ.Drive is the company's collection of ADAS, and it equips the Atlas with the now-expected list of safety systems as well as a semi-autonomous driving system called Travel Assist.
Volkswagen Travel Assist combines adaptive cruise control and lane-centering to maintain a set distance behind the car ahead and provide steering assistance to keep the Atlas centered in its lane. This is a hands-on driving assist system, and a capacitive steering wheel ensures that the system won't work if the driver's hands are not on the wheel.
The adaptive cruise control in the Atlas also works with the navigation system to predict tighter turns and slow the vehicle accordingly. I had the speed set to 50 mph on a country road, and as I approached a curve, the system displayed a note saying that the speed was changing to 40 mph. After reducing the speed for the corner, the Atlas returned to its original pace.
During my evaluation, both the lane-centering and the lane-keeping-assist systems felt overly aggressive in everyday driving. When using Travel Assist, the steering constantly corrected itself in a noticeable way. With Lane Assist, when exiting a highway where road crews had repaired the pavement by sealing cracks, the system read them as lane markers and incorrectly tried to steer the Atlas back onto the highway. Ultimately, I turned both systems off as they became annoying.
Unfortunately, when you're not using Travel Assist, the standard Emergency Assist technology is inactive because it relies on that system in order to function. If the driver becomes unresponsive due to sleep or a medical emergency, Emergency Assist can bring the Atlas to a safe stop with the hazard lights flashing.
The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas earns a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, in frontal-impact testing, the SUV earns a four-star rating for driver and front-passenger protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the updated Atlas for safety.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas Review: The Drive
All 2024 Atlas trim levels feature a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque using regular gas. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and with the new engine, the Atlas' maximum towing capacity remains at 5,000 pounds.
Official EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2024 VW Atlas are between 20 and 23 mpg, depending on the trim level and drivetrain. My Atlas SEL Premium R-Line test vehicle, which included Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel drive as standard equipment, returned a disappointing 16 mpg while driving in New York's Catskills region. That's 5 mpg less than the 21-mpg EPA rating for the model.
It may have more torque than before, but the Atlas still feels a bit slow off the line. Volkswagen claims that the big SUV will reach 60 mph in 7.5 seconds (with all-wheel drive), which is not great, but still quicker than the outgoing six-cylinder engine. After turning left across a busy two-lane road, the Atlas required more time than I expected to cross the road and get up to speed, providing a few stressful seconds.
The Atlas may feel slow from a standstill, but it feels much quicker once you're underway. Accelerate hard from 40 mph, and the powertrain delivers a quick downshift followed by good response, which is ideal for an easy pass around a slower vehicle.
When cruising slowly through town or at higher speeds on back roads, the Atlas is solid and quiet, with almost no road or wind noise entering the cabin. Suspension tuning is on the soft side, which makes for a comfortable, smooth ride. But the Atlas is not a small or light vehicle, so it tends to lean when taking curves and corners with too much enthusiasm. The brakes are strong and responsive, with a predictable, linear feel at the pedal.
It may not deliver a sporty ride, but the Atlas excels as a road-trip SUV.
Is the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas a Good SUV?
Since its debut in 2018, the Atlas has proven appealing to consumers and a sales success for Volkswagen. Thanks to the significant updates for the 2024 model year, the Atlas will likely continue attracting customers and positively contributing to VW's bottom line.
However, there are a few missteps here. Some people may find the turbocharged four-cylinder engine lacking, especially compared with rivals using similar powerplants, such as the Ford Explorer. In addition, the odd climate and volume controls are challenging to use, and it is disappointing that access to commonly used climate and audio functions requires you to dig into the infotainment menu.
Otherwise, the updates to this SUV's exterior, interior, and technology should help Volkswagen maintain its position as a purveyor of a competitive three-row midsize SUV.