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2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Progress and setbacks

Image Source: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock

The manufacturer has given the three-row Atlas and two-row Atlas Cross Sport an update that elevates both models with improved materials, a stellar new engine, and retained the spacious interior. These enhancements have raised the Atlas’ TCC Rating from 5.8 to a competitive 6.7 for 2024. However, despite Volkswagen’s efforts in enhancing the Atlas, they were unable to address the troublesome infotainment system and touch-based controls that the updated Atlas inherited due to being too far along in the product planning stage.

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport after spending a week chauffeuring kids around town and completing errands in the manufacturer’s larger crossover SUV.

Every Atlas Cross Sport (and Atlas) is now equipped with a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine producing 296 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. In comparison to the previous 6-cylinder engine, this new turbo-4 has slightly lower horsepower but increased torque. The new engine delivers impressive performance. Although some turbo lag is noticeable in Comfort mode, switching to Sport mode results in quicker shifts by the 8-speed automatic transmission to keep the boost consistent. The sound produced by the new turbo-4 is artificially amplified within the cabin, reminiscent of a mix between a Porsche flat-6 and the old VR6 engine. Closing your eyes might make you feel like you’re back in your friend’s old mid-90s GLI VR6 from high school, bringing back nostalgic memories.

Despite the new turbo-4 engine, the Atlas Cross Sport’s EPA fuel economy ratings haven’t shown significant improvement. With all-wheel drive, the EPA ratings for my Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line model were 19 mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 combined. However, these figures appear overly optimistic. During 282 miles of diverse suburban driving, I achieved an average of 18 mpg, comparable to V-6 models such as the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, Passport, or Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Both the three-row and two-row Atlas lineup have undergone significant interior improvements with better quality materials. The previous hard, inexpensive plastics have been replaced. The dashboard now features soft-touch materials, the center console is enveloped in a leather-like finish, and my SEL Premium R-Line model boasted Vienna leather seats with a diamond-pattern stitch accented with blue details. The overall interior quality feels more upscale compared to the previous Atlas model, surpassing the mundane interiors of the Honda Pilot and Passport.

Every Atlas model now includes a 12.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a user interface similar to the ID.4 electric car, which proves to be a drawback. Several functions require multiple screen taps, such as needing at least three taps to access the vehicle’s trip computer function. Checking the current radio station becomes a cumbersome task. The physical knobs and buttons for the climate controls from the previous model have been replaced by touch-based sliders for adjusting radio volume and cabin temperature. These sliders lack backlighting and can cause erratic adjustments to temperature or radio volume, especially while driving on rough terrain. My family did not appreciate the sudden increase in radio volume. The entire infotainment system and control interface represent a significant regression, except for the presence of actual buttons on the steering wheel. Volkswagen should consider reintroducing physical buttons and knobs or rectifying this issue by adding backlighting for easier nighttime operation.

The Atlas Cross Sport is an excellent choice for families of four planning road trips. The second row might offer the best seating option due to its generous legroom. The front seats are supportive and well-padded, ensuring comfort. The second-row bench easily accommodates three passengers with ample space. There is over 40 inches of legroom, providing sufficient comfort for two passengers. With a cargo area of 40.3 cubic feet, there is ample space to transport soccer equipment, a large cooler, and additional items, leaving plenty of room for luggage.

Previous concepts previewing the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport showcased electrified models, including a plug-in hybrid model. However, Volkswagen chose not to offer any hybrid or plug-in hybrid versions in the production models. This decision is a missed opportunity, especially with the existence of potential hybrid models like the Telluride and the array of Toyota Highlander hybrids available. Although there are plans for an electrified version in the next-gen Atlas, it remains years away.

With improved materials, a potent modern engine, and generous interior space, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport possesses many appealing features. However, potential buyers should evaluate the usability of the infotainment system before making a final decision, especially regarding nighttime operation.

Image Source: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock

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