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Space and Power: 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Test Drive Review

Testing vehicles in their natural habitat can be difficult. Hard-edged sports cars for instance, should be tested on a raceway, in the same manner that a purpose build 4×4 should be tested off-road. Sometimes however, circumstances dictate that we’re not able to test them in the exact way for which they were designed, which is why when it came to reviewing this 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL, I was thrilled to run it through the paces as a family hauler, long-distance transport, and a mild off-road machine.

Read on for the full 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion review, specs, pricing, and data.

Volkswagen Atlas

2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion Exterior

Making a full-size SUV stand out in the crowd is a daunting task. Optimizing space means crafting a stylish shape out of what amounts to a rolling rectangle. At times the designers get it right, but more often than not there is always something left on the table. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with the Atlas,  as it combines smart design with engineered mechanics to form a beautiful full-size SUV

The stylists at Volkswagen have the concept of “simplicity in motion” down cold. The body lines are simple yet elegant, the beltline is high without feeling bloated, and by utilizing contrasting materials and color tones, the Atlas, regardless of how you configure it, will be hard-pressed to look dated in the years to come. Sitting on a 117.3-inch wheelbase and riding on 20-inch triple five-spoke alloys all-season tires, the Atlas appears smaller than its overall length of 198.3-inches would suggest. The body lines are bold and masculine, which gives the Atlas a more truck-like demeanor, however, they’re not so overdone that one feels as though they need to be visiting the Grand Canyon weekly.

Our tester came to us in Terra Brown Metallic paint, which worked well. Fact is though, there’s a lot of real estate here, and thus, by applying a subtle use of brushed and polished surfaces on the front grille, roof rails, and rear tailgate lenses, VW was able to add a bit of elegance while at the same time, keeping up a bit of rugged imagery to perspective buyers.

Volkswagen Atlas

2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion Interior

Intuitiveness and simplicity – these are the first two items that I look for in any new car, and thankfully the 2019 Atlas delivers on both. While the Atlas does have some luxury amenities like heated and cooled V-Tex leather seats, heated leather-covered steering wheel, a fully configurable LCD dash, and a large 8.0-inch color infotainment touchscreen, the focus of the interior, above all else, is on family usability.

The real story, however, resides in just how large, and more importantly, useful the cabin is. The second and third-row seats fold completely flat allowing for over 96-cubic feet of storage space. 2nd-row occupants have their own climate controls along with best-in-class legroom. And where 3rd-row seating is generally reserved for those of smaller stature, consumers will be impressed that adults can be accommodated without issue. We spent a week with our tester hauling around four adults, and two teenagers and not once did the Atlas disappoint. Easy access to the 3rd row makes entering and exiting quite easy, and with 2nd-row seats that not only recline but traverse forward and back, those in the 3rd row are treated to quite a bit of legroom. The rear windows incorporate manually retractable sunshades, which proved to be a crowd favorite, as did the large panoramic sunroof.

A fully configurable LCD dash panel was excellent, but if we’re honest, we prefer the standard analog dials. It should be noted that interior wind noise at speed was also minimal, resulting in a tranquil cabin when underway. VW’s large eight-inch color infotainment touchscreen sits center dash and offers up access to media controls, phone and vehicle settings along with VW’s App-Connect interface. Easy to use HVAC controls find a place directly beneath, and are about as basic as basic gets, but in the best way possible. Multiple USB and charging ports are also found throughout the cabin.

Volkswagen Atlas

2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion Performance

Equipped with the optional (and recommended) 3.6-liter V6, our Atlas SE came to us with 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Power was fed through Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system via a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings come in at 17 mpg city, 23 highway and 19 mpg in combined driving, numbers we found to be pretty consistent during our 500-mile week with the Atlas (and that was with a full load). The Atlas comes equipped with four different drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, Custom), with each catering to your driving style. The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system also meant that we saw the addition of further all-terrain modes. We managed a brief off-road excursion onto the beach, and with six passengers, along with a fair amount of gear, the Atlas didn’t blink. Power delivery from the 3.6-liter V6 was smooth with the all-wheel-drive system making easy work of the deep sand we traversed.

Maximum towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds (when properly equipped) which means those with campers, toy haulers or small boats should be satisfied when it’s time for fun weekend activities. Brake tests were met with a firm pedal with low travel and provided confident stops time after time.

Volkswagen Atlas

2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion Safety

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL comes to us with such standard safety features as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, park distance control, electronic brake-pressure distribution, engine brake assist, airbags throughout the cabin, anti-slip regulation, a standard backup camera and more.

Additional safety features can be seen over at

Volkswagen Atlas

2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 4Motion Overall

The 2019 Atlas, regardless of the configuration, is an excellent full-size SUV. Not only does it provide ample room for families thanks to its third row, but the powerful V6 also means that you’re never left wanting for power. More importantly, the Atlas is easy to live daily as it drives more like a large sedan, than a sport utility vehicle. It’s also quiet, usable as a tow vehicle and thanks to great styling, comes to us as one of the most handsome vehicles in the segment.

Drop by your local AutoNation Volkswagen dealer today to check one out!

*Fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including, driving habits and vehicle condition.

**Vehicle MSRP of $49,390.00 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.

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