Today, we got a look at the updated 2021 Volkswagen Atlas at a small event at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum. We can't show you what we saw, as photography was off-limits. We've got these pretty accurate sketches from VW, however, and we can tell you about what we witnessed and learned. And what we saw, we liked.
Volkswagen is happy about the performance of its Atlas, and SUVs in general. SUVs now account for 53% of Volkswagen sales here in the States. The Atlas was up 48% this November over the same month last year. So, to tap into this market even matter, VW is introducing the slightly smaller Atlas Cross Sport, and refreshing the regular Atlas alongside it.
For 2021, the Atlas gets even bigger, at least on the outside, with an increase of three inches in overall length. Volkswagen told us those three inches go into the updated front bumper, which has more cushioning foam to improve pedestrian safety. It integrates into the look well, as VW took the opportunity to refresh the entire front fascia, including the grille and LED headlights in addition to that updated bumper. It looks great in person, at least on the R-Line version of the Atlas we saw in person (more on that in a bit). It has a bit more personality. Tougher, more aggressive. The rear bumper and lighting get refreshed to match, too.
Inside, the Atlas gets a new steering wheel, which looked sporty in leather and with a flat bottom in the version we saw. All but the base version now get the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen. There’s more stitching in the interior, with available double stitched seats. In the R-Line we saw, the interior looks a bit more refined, without any glaring cheap spots or notably awkward trim pieces staring out at us. 2021 also introduces available wireless phone charging in the center stack storage cubby.
The 2021 Atlas gets a couple driving tech updates as well. It now offers Dynamic Road Sign Detection, as well as Traffic Jam Assist, which uses the adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist to help drive the car in stop-and-go traffic at speeds under 40 miles per hour. That includes helping steering, but you'll get a warning if you take your hands off the wheel for more than eight seconds.
The aforementioned new R-Line package adds some more design flair to the Atlas, both inside and out. It has that more aggressive bumper we liked, along with black vent accents, some side cladding and available 21-inch wheels, which are big, to be sure, but look appropriately proportional to the overall size of the Atlas.
The powertrains remain the same for the 2021 Atlas. That includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor good for 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.6-liter V6 producing 276 hp and 266 lb-ft. Now, though, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system will also be available on the four-cylinder in addition to the V6.
We can expect to see the 2021 VW Atlas debut at the 2020 Chicago Auto show, with sales as early as May of next year.
At the event, Volkswagen talked a little bit more about its SUV strategy going forward. There was no mention of the full-size segment, and the midsize segment will be covered by the three-row Atlas (which does a pretty good impression of a full-size as it is) and the two-row Atlas Cross Sport, the latter coming to market as early as this March.
As for the compact SUV segment, Volkswagen already has the Tiguan crossover. In 2021, VW will add another compact, slotting below the Tiguan as an entry-level crossover. In terms of size, it’ll be bigger than tiny subcompacts like the Hyundai Kona, and somewhere between the likes of the Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson.
Of course, we’ll also see an all-electric offering, based on the ID Crozz concept and previewed even more recently by the ID.4, which we’ve seen teased by Volkswagen and caught in the crosshairs of our spy photographers. It will slot between the the new entry-level compact crossover and the Tiguan in terms of size, and will be near in size to the Honda CR-V, and slightly smaller than the Toyota RAV4. That’ll be built in the same Chattanooga factory as the Atlas family.
Speaking of EVs, Volkswagen is preparing the ID Buzz, but also reiterated that it would indeed be considering something for the American market based on the ID Space Vizzion concept wagon. Fingers crossed.