What's it like?
Volkswagen has done its homework this time. Firstly, the Atlas is big enough for the American ‘mid-sized’ SUV segment; at 5,036mm in length, it’s 241mm longer and 49mm wider than the Touareg as well as being 49mm wider.
A long wheelbase translates that size into lots of usable space. The middle-row seats flip forward to ease access to a third row that can seat two adults in comfort - although you’ll struggle to fit all seven passengers’ luggage in, too.
The Execline model that we're testing here tops the range in Canada, and it's roughly the equivalent of SEL Pemium in the US.
Its fake-wood door trims do nothing to establish a premium feel, but the interior is well equipped. There’s an excellent 12-speaker Fender/Panasonic stereo, a clear, fully reconfigurable digital instrument cluster and an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen with high-resolution sat-nav graphics and Apple/Android smartphone mirroring.
The seats could be a little wider and ‘bucket’ is an inappropriate description for the two second-row ‘captain’s chairs’ fitted as an option in place of the standard bench in our test car. The lack of height adjustment for the middle-row seatbelts isn't ideal, either.
The more powerful of the Atlas's two engine options, as driven here, is Volkswagen's long-serving, narrow-angle V6, sending drive to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Numerous drive modes help to keep you out of trouble on and off-road.
The 276bhp 3.6-litre engine is smooth, quiet and has enough in reserve for a quick merge onto a crowded highway, but a fuel economy figure of 23mpg combined is short of the 26mpg claimed for the Pilot's newer motor. For life in the suburbs, the Atlas's front-wheel-drive-only, 235bhp, 2.0-litre TSI option might make more sense.