2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
Last year Volkswagen began selling the 5-seat Atlas Cross Sport, which shares the same 117.3-inch wheelbase with the 7-seat Atlas SUV, although the Cross Sport is 2.8 inches shorter in overall length and sits 2.3 inches lower in height. The rear pillar and rear glass are more steeply raked on the Atlas Cross Sport for a sleekier and — dare we say — sportier look. Despite this stylish nip/tuck, the Cross Sport still provides nearly as much interior room as Atlas, the latter possessing a more traditional SUV look thanks to its squared-off roofline.
We previously tested the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium R-Line, and this year had the opportunity to compare the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T SEL Premium powered by the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. Our test vehicle was finished in Tourmaline Blue Metallic with a Cinnamon Brown and Black leather interior and no additional options beyond the nicely equipped 2.0T SEL Premium. The MSRP — including destination charge — is $47,720.
Even though the connection to Atlas is abundantly clear, the Atlas Cross Sport has its own distinguishing design elements with a bold front-end appearance and sleek rear roofline. Up front, Atlas Cross Sport features a three-bar chrome grille, a new bumper and sculpted hood for an aggressive look, with new headlights to further distinguish the Cross Sport from its sibling. At the rear, a sloped roofline, a new bumper and taillights differentiate the Cross Sport, which also adds chrome accents at the windows, lower body sides and rear bumper. The SEL Premium includes 20-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires.
Inside, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium receives an updated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats and a Fender premium audio system with 12 speakers including a center speaker and subwoofer. The top-level 2.0T SEL Premium includes Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit, which can be configured to display different information based on driver preferences.
Offered exclusively in 2-row, 5-seat configuration, the Atlas Cross Sport eschews the original Atlas’s third row to provide a generous amount of room for rear-seat passengers, including more than 40 inches of legroom. The Cross Sport also has ample room for cargo with more than 40 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seat, which expands to 77.8 cubic feet when the second row gets folded flat.
Under the Hood
The test car we drove featured Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1600 rpm. The 2.0T gets combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. The Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T receives U.S. EPA ratings of 20 mpg city / 24 mpg highway / 22 mpg combined.
Volkswagen’s IQ.DRIVE driver-assist technologies include Travel Assist semi-automated driving assistance; Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and go tech; Lane Assist lane-keeping system; Emergency Assist semi-automated vehicle assistance in a medical emergency; Front Assist with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring; and Active Side Assist with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
On the Road
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is a big SUV with a comfortable interior and room for five, yet it feels surprisingly nimble on the road. The sporty feeling begins with a steering wheel of near-perfect thickness — similar to the wheel of a GTI. Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine powers many of the German automaker’s sportiest models; given the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, the engine often dances at the limits of adequate power. With maximum torque at low rpm, the 2.0 liter performs admirably once the Cross Sport is underway, but accelerating onto the freeway can make a driver long for the extra oomph of the available 276-horsepower V6.
The Atlas Cross Sport has responsive steering and a sport-tuned suspension, making it feel like a much smaller vehicle. In addition, Sport mode offers a more aggressive shift map and manual shifting. We simply didn’t expect to enjoy the Cross Sport as much as we did, given its relative heft. This SUV is fun to drive and surprisingly responsive — words that don’t describe most vehicles in its category.
The interior design of the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport has a straightforward, logical layout including volume and tuning knobs and physical controls for the automatic climate control system. The infotainment screen integrates with the center stack rather than the current fashion of a tablet-like screen jutting out above the dash. Also, the audio system allows users to scroll through SiriusXM station lists to discover what is currently playing on other stations while remaining on the current station until users select a new option.
Whether up front or in back, the Atlas Cross Sport offers comfortable room for five. Rear-seat legroom is most impressive and a great bonus for sacrificing the third-row seat. The center console layout offers a decent amount of storage space behind the shifter. The Cinnamon and Black two-tone leather combination in the test car complements the Tourmaline Blue exterior and adds an upscale vibe.
For families who don’t need the third-row seat of the original Atlas, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport offers plenty of room for five and a surprisingly sporty driving experience in a vehicle of its size. The bold front grille and sloped roofline give the SUV a more dynamic look than its sibling, underscored by a fun driving demeanor. We recommend choosing the V6 option, even though fuel economy will suffer by a couple mpg.