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.
However, the heavy-duty drivetrain provides the Atlas with another prerequisite for Stateside success: a decent towing capacity. Its figure of 2,270kg is on a par with what the Pilot and Explorer have to offer, and a tow hitch is standard.
Ride comfort is a mixed bag. In true North American style, the Atlas feels softly sprung and less aggressively damped than would be the case for a European model, and it takes a couple of bounces to settle after big primary inputs such as undulations in the road.
However, it also thumps over sharper, secondary stuff like potholes or exposed manhole covers with less sophistication than you’d hope. The extra mass and shorter sidewalls of the Execline’s 20in alloys (18ins are standard elsewhere) likely does the Atlas no favours here.
Body roll and pitch are well suppressed, though, as is road noise. The electric steering is light (less so in Sport mode) and devoid of feel, but still precise.