2021 VW Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line

Seven-seater SUV refreshed for 2021
May 31, 2021 Updated: May 31, 2021

The base S model of the Volkswagen Atlas is equipped with a 2.0L engine, while SE and higher models are powered by a 3.6-liter DOHC narrow angle V6 engine. This V6 is coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, then the power is distributed through 4Motion AWD with Active Control driving mode selection.

The V6 motivates the Atlas forward with up to 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for a combined average of 18 mpg. However, my week of driving netted a solid 22 mpg.

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Looking from the back. (Courtesy of VW)

Engine start button gets you ready to roll quickly, while four-wheel independent suspension helps to smooth out the bumps on the way.

This large SUV is manufactured to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Toyota Highlander, Nissan Armada, Cadillac Escalade, and Kia Telluride. Atlas lands somewhere in the middle.

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The interior of the Atlas. (Courtesy of VW)

The SUV’s large size is well represented by the 154 cubic feet of total passenger volume, plus a cargo capacity of 20.6 cubic feet with all seats up.

The three-row seating layout offers space for up to seven adults. The 60/40-split second-row bench tilts and slides forward, even with child’s seat in place. The two-passenger third-row bench is 50/50 split. Both second- and third-row seats can fold flat.

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Cargo space behind the 50/50-split third-row. (Courtesy of VW)

Climatronic tri-zone automatic control features second-row rear zone controls and adjustable air vents to ensure all all three rows are cared for. The front seats are heated and ventilated, and the driver’s side also has 10-power power lumbar support with position memory.

The SEL Premium R-Line model has a heated, leather wrapped, 3-spoke R-Line steering wheel.

I felt the best interior feature was the Fender Premium Audio System, which envelopes the occupants with 12 speakers. It expresses the emotion of the musical performance for all to enjoy.

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Fender Premium Audio System. (Courtesy of VW)

The all-new MIB3 infotainment system brings USB-C ports, SiriusXM, Travel Assist, and Emergency Assist. Also featured are wireless App-Connect with multi-phone pairings that can switch between compatible devices, and enhanced voice recognition. Illuminated USB-C ports are standard and they can be found in the center stack.

This system centers around an 8-inch touchscreen. However, I would have preferred a much larger screen. Media playback on the MIB3 system is handled by either the Composition Media module in the SE tier, or Discover Media system with navigation module on higher models. A rearview camera is standard across the model line.

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Center touchscreen for the infotainment system. (Courtesy of VW)

The SEL model tier also receives the IQ-DRIVE assistance tech package treatment, which uses front and rear radars, a front camera, and several ultrasound sensors to detect potential harm. This system is implemented as Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping System, Travel Assist, and Emergency Assist.

Atlas rests on 21-inch alloy wheels wearing all season tires. Full LED suite of automatic headlights, daytime running lights, and tail lights illuminate your way while announcing your presence.

The panoramic sunroof has a power tilting and sliding front section and a fixed rear section. It opens up to the outside to let in sunlight, wind, fragrances, and sounds to mix with the pleasant, quiet cabin.

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Digital instrument cluster. (Courtesy of VW)

The R-Line bumpers, badging, and interior trim, plus silver roof rails accompany a trailer hitch that can pull up to 5,000 pounds.

Intelligent Crash Response System and Automatic Post Collision Braking System increase survivability should there ever be a crash.

Historically, one may think of Volkswagen as a brand for small economical vehicles that suits two folks just fine. However, for some time now we know that VW has morphed into a brand that helps fulfilling the needs of a diverse, intelligent, rapidly growing, and complex global society.

If you like roominess, top notch comfort, and safety technology, yet without sacrificing power of prestige, then you may want to take more than a fleeting glance at the VW Atlas.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price for the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line is $50,725.

Warranty Information
4 years/50,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty
7 years/100,000 miles Corrosive Perforation Warranty
2 years/36,000 miles Roadside Assistance

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or durhlcaussey@gmail.com.