Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee and intended primarily for the US market, the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is the automaker's first three-row crossover SUV. But despite its muscular looks and family-friendly space, poor fuel economy and cheap-looking interior materials could hamper its coming-out party.

Best Value

Prices for the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas start at $31,425 (including a $950 destination charge) for the late-availability, front-drive S model equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. That expands to $50,040 for a 3.6-liter V6-powered SEL Premium model with all-wheel drive and the optional second-row captain's chairs.

We believe that the $39,815 V6-equipped, all-wheel-drive SE model with the Technology Package (adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, power liftgate, automatic climate control, remote start, auto-dimming rearview mirror) offers buyers the best bang for the buck. Headlining features for the SE Technology Package three-zone climate control, a power liftgate, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

  • Model:Atlas SE
  • Engine:3.6-liter V6
  • Output:276 hp / 266 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Eight-speed automatic
  • Exterior color:Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Interior color:Titan Black
  • Options:none
  • Base Price:$39,815
  • As Tested:$39,815

Performance Pros

Volkswagen Atlas
  • Fully-independent suspension does a nice job of absorbing most bumps and handles uneven road surfaces nicely.
  • Steering can be adjusted for more weight, while transmission downshifts can be programmed for better performance.
  • Factory package ups towing capability to a robust 5,000 pounds.

Performance Cons

  • Even with eight inches of ground clearance, the Atlas isn't designed for serious off-road jaunts.
  • All-wheel drive isn't available with the base 2.0-liter turbo engine.
  • Even in front-wheel drive guise, fuel economy from the 2.0-liter turbo (EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, and 24 combined) and the 3.6-liter V6 (EPA-estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway, and 20 combined) is at the low end of the class.

Interior Pros

  • Best in class second and third row room and ease of ingress and egress.
  • Front seats are especially comfortable with long cushions that offer plenty of leg support.
  • For extra convenience, a child seat can be left in the second row seats, even when they're tilted forward for third row access.

Interior Cons

Volkswagen Atlas
  • Only the top trim SEL comes with leather seating, and even then the grain is rather coarse.
  • The interior of the Atlas lacks the quality of materials found in class leaders like the Honda Pilot.
  • Road noise – primarily from the tires - is readily apparent in the second row.

Our Favorite Thing

Second- and third-row passenger space is class-leading.

Our Least Favorite Thing

Disappointing interior materials put the Atlas near the back of the class.

Right For

A smooth ride, plenty of interior room, and a third row that's actually comfortable for adults make the latest Atlas a good choice for families.

Wrong For

Volkswagen Atlas

Although advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning are standard on the SEL, they're part of a $2,100 Technology Package on the SE and not available at all on the base S trim.

The Bottom Line

Volkswagen finally gets a three-row crossover. But coming late to the party with a low-budget interior and poor fuel economy means the Atlas will be facing an uphill battle against more established brands competitors.