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2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport Review: Should You Put This Sporty SUV On Your List?

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2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport
In Our Opinion:
The 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport is a more athletic and stylish version of the current Atlas. Abundant cargo space and available all-wheel drive are among the high points. While overall driveability is good, the Atlas Cross Sport can feel top-heavy at times, making it harder to maneuver around tighter corners. While we are generally pleased with the Atlas Cross Sport, there are many SUVs and crossovers on the market to choose from. It's best to always shop around before making a decision.
Exterior Styling
85
Interior Layout
75
Driving Dynamics
77
Safety & Tech Features
81
Everyday Functionality
80
Pros
Cargo Space
Usable 3rd Row
Cons
Fuel Mileage
Feels Top-Heavy Sometimes
80

The VW Atlas debuted in 2018 and it’s getting a few changes already, including a new version in the 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport. It’s not that unusual, as most automakers give their models a refresh, or introduce new offerings, after a few years on the market.

The Atlas Cross Sport is available in eight trim levels: S, SE, SE with Technology, SE with Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line. This week, we drove the SE with Technology R-Line to see just how it differs from the “normal” Atlas.  

Before we dive into our review, let’s take a moment to look at the differences between the VW Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport.

VW Atlas & Atlas Cross Sport: Quick Comparison

The Atlas is VW’s first swing at a three-row, seven-seater SUV. By comparison, the Atlas Cross Sport has two-rows and seats five, although it is more athletic and sporty in appearance. The VW Atlas Cross Sport is 2.8 inches shorter and 2.3 inches lower than the regular Atlas, despite having the same 117.3-inch wheelbase.

Additional References

Quicker: Pricing and trim levels for the 2021 VW Atlas are available here.
Comprehensive: A more detailed overview of the 2021 VW Atlas.

Quicker: How the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport is equipped and what to expect.
Comprehensive: Pricing and trim levels for the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport are available here.

Atlas & Atlas Cross Sport: Styling Differences

Standard Features: Tech & Convenience

Our 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport tester (SE with Technology R-Line) came standard with LED headlights, 60/40-split second-row bench, and a 50/50-split third-row bench. Connectivity features included the eight-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, voice controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging pad, and VW’s Car-Net app services.

As for other convenience features, our VW Atlas Cross Sport tester came with keyless entry and ignition, three-zone automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and V-tex leatherette seats. Rear passengers receive their own USB ports and window sunshades.

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport: Safety Features

Safety features on our tester included forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. Standard on every 2020 Atlas Cross Sport is VW’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking and Intelligent Crash Response systems. The first applies the brakes during a collision to prevent further impacts, while the other shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights.  

Our test vehicle was equipped with adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors as well.

Optional Features: Some Nice Extras!

The SE with Technology R-Line comes standard with the larger V6 engine. It also adds dark gray 20-inch wheels, restyled bumpers and lower door trim, and more sporty interior accents. Our Atlas Cross Sport came with a hands-free tailgate, remote start, and a power outlet for good measure.

As a further bonus, our Atlas Cross Sport tester included a panoramic sunroof ($1,200) and a Towing package with a 5,000 lbs. capacity ($550). Total MSRP, including destination, for our 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport: $41,515.

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport.
2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport.

Interior Highlights: Plenty of Space

The first thing we noticed as we stepped into the Atlas Cross Sport was the abundant space. There is extra room up front for taller drivers, and the second row is wide enough for three adults to sit on longer trips. With the driver’s 10-way power seat and telescoping steering wheel, it’s easy for any size family member to find the right adjustment. Every Atlas Cross Sport model offers the ability to customize up to four driver settings.

The Atlas Cross Sport comes with a reclining second-row seat, a center armrest, and rear air vents giving riders extra comfort in the back. If you do need to haul average-size adults in the third row, they will be comfortable for short distances.

Cargo volume behind the second row is 40.3 cubic feet, which is a good deal more than the new Chevy Blazer at 30.5 cubic feet of space. The Ford Edge has 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which is closer, but not enough to surpass the Atlas Cross Sport.

Interior Highlights: Some Mixed Reactions

Although there’s still enough soft-touch materials to give an up-class feeling, the overall quality lags behind the competition. In the back, there’s more hard plastic, but that might be okay for some. With kids (or adults!) spilling things, it offers easier cleanup on the go.

One thing we really don’t like is the infotainment system interface. The eight-inch touchscreen is distracting, and it’s hard to use while keeping your eyes on the road.

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport: Engine & Powertrain

The Atlas Cross Sport is offered with a choice of two engines: a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6. Both units feature start/stop technology to increase fuel economy. SE w/Technology and higher trims are available with the 3.6-liter V6 engine. 

Our tester came with the optional V6, generating 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. of torque. By comparison, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque on premium fuel.

With either engine, power is sent through an eight-speed automatic. This particular Atlas came with front-wheel drive, but VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive ($1,800) is an option for V6 models.

Gas Mileage of The 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport Fuel Economy
Engine & Drivetrain City Highway Combined
2.0T FWD 21 24 22
2.0T AWD 18 23 20
V6 FWD 17 23 19
V6 AWD 16 22 19

Driving Dynamics

While the raw numbers of the optional V6 would suggest the Atlas Cross Sport would be underpowered, we found it had enough grunt for most situations. When pushed uphill in the mountains near Denver, we had no issues, and the eight-speed automatic always seemed to find the right gear. However, the V6 isn’t as frugal by today’s fuel-efficiency standards as some of the competition, even without all-wheel drive.

Overall, the 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport has a composed attitude with smooth acceleration. Even with the optional R-Line 20-inch wheels, our rear passengers this week commented on the ride. At times, however, the Atlas Cross Sport feels top-heavy with considerable body lean around tighter corners.

There’s some road noise, and the large mirrors generate wind noise at highway speeds. Still, it’s nothing the optional Fender audio system can’t conceal. The V6 engine thankfully makes a pleasant noise when you rev it out too!

Conclusion: Not Too Bad

The 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport is stylish and has a roomy cabin for those on the go. Although fuel economy is not the best, the V6 engine has enough power for most daily driving situations. If you have the Atlas Cross Sport on your shopping list and live in a colder climate, we recommend going for VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

Photos: Volkswagen of America, Inc.



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Exterior Styling
Interior Layout
Driving Dynamics
Safety & Tech Features
Everyday Functionality
Final Score

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