When Volkswagen (VW) agreed to lend us a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL for a few months, we were thrilled. This rugged two-row crossover, based on the already popular three-row Atlas, had caught our attention. However, after driving it for thousands of miles, comparing it with other models, and going on road trips, we have mixed feelings about its value for money.
The specific model we tested was the V6 SEL Premium trim with all-wheel drive, starting at $48,095. With added features like the Aurora red metallic paint ($395), rubber floor mats ($105), crossbars ($365), and a $1,020 destination charge, the MSRP totaled $49,980. While it came packed with impressive features like the 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, heated/ventilated front seats, surround-view camera, and wireless charging, we believe that a lower-spec model with the standard four-cylinder engine would have sufficed. The higher trim model’s price just didn’t justify the additional cost.
During our time with the Cross Sport, we appreciated its spaciousness. Although it ditched the third-row seating of the traditional Atlas, it retained the same wheelbase, resulting in ample space for passengers and cargo. The back seats and trunk offer a 40.3 cubic feet capacity, allowing us to comfortably accommodate suitcases, groceries, and more. Folding down the second row provided even more space, with a total of 77.8 cubic feet. Additionally, the second row stood out with its 40.4 inches of legroom, rear seat heating function, and panoramic roof.
In terms of its exterior design, the Cross Sport’s rugged appearance appealed to us. It exuded a sporty vibe, especially when equipped with the factory crossbars. However, we must admit that the interior was a letdown. The cabin felt cheap, with hard plastics abound and a lack of premium materials. Even the seats didn’t offer the desired support and comfort, making them more suited for sitting on rather than in.
As for performance, the V6 engine didn’t impress us enough to justify its higher price tag. While it boasts 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, the standard four-cylinder engine, offering 235 hp and 258 lb-ft, would have sufficed. Opting for the larger engine added an extra $9,000 to the cost, without a significant improvement in performance. Moreover, the driving experience fell short of our expectations. While we don’t expect a crossover to be a race car, VW is known for creating vehicles with exceptional driving dynamics. Unfortunately, the Cross Sport didn’t deliver in that aspect. The overboosted steering made it difficult to find the right amount of input, and though the suspension handled rough roads well, we would have preferred a more engaging driving experience similar to the Honda Passport.
Ultimately, the VW Atlas Cross Sport is a decent crossover, but its price tag doesn’t seem justified. A lower-spec model with the standard four-cylinder engine, which starts at $41,445, seems like a better value proposition. Despite its flaws, the Cross Sport offers ample cargo space and comfortable seating, but the subpar interior materials and unremarkable driving experience were disappointing. Considering the competition in the market, alternatives like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer better interior quality at a similar price point.