For 2020 Volkswagen adds the 5-seat Atlas Cross Sport, which shares the same 117.3-inch wheelbase with the 7-seat Atlas, although 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, sportier look while still providing nearly as much interior room as the initial Atlas.
For testing Volkswagen provided a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium R-Line finished in Pyrite Silver; the SUV also has a Titan Black interior with seats finished in a combination of Titan Black and Quartzite leather. The top trim level for Atlas Cross Sport, the SEL Premium R-Line is offered exclusively with the 3.6-liter V6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel drive. Starting MSRP for the SEL Premium R-Line is $49,795, and the MSRP for this test vehicle including a heavy-duty trunk liner, VW CarGo Blocks, Monster Mats and destination charge is $51,050.
While the connection to Atlas is clear, the Cross Sport has its own design elements to distinguish it from the original. Up front, Atlas Cross Sport features a 3-bar chrome grille, a new bumper and sculpted hood for a bold, aggressive look; new headlights further distinguish Cross Sport from its sibling. At the rear, a sleek roofline, bumper and taillights are also differentiators. Cross Sport also adds chrome accents on the windows, lower body sides and rear bumper. The R-Line differentiates the Cross Sport from the regular Atlas even further with a revised front bumper, chrome and piano-black trim, and 21-inch wheels.
Inside, Atlas Cross Sport receives an updated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats and a Fender premium audio system with 12 speakers. The top-level SEL Premium R-Line includes Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit, which can be configured to display different information based on driver preferences.
Offered exclusively in 5-seat configuration, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport provides a generous amount of room for rear-seat passengers thanks to more than 40 inches of legroom. Cross Sport also possesses ample cargo room with more than 40 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seat, which expands to a capacious 77.8 cubic feet when the second-row, flat-folding seatback goes down.
The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is also offered with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine for other trim levels; as mentioned previously, the SEL Premium R-Line is offered exclusively with the 3.6-liter V6 engine producing 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This higher displacement engine gets matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. The powertrain receives U.S. EPA fuel-economy ratings of 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway / 19 mpg combined.
The Atlas Cross Sport is a big SUV that seats five comfortably, yet it feels surprisingly nimble and sporty on the road. The sporty feeling starts with a steering wheel of near perfect thickness; it feels almost as if the driver is seated in a Volkswagen GTI. The 3.6-liter provides decent power for a vehicle of the Cross Sport’s size, which adds to the SUV’s overall sportiness. Acceleration also is decent, and the transmission does a fine job of staying in the right gear. Sport mode offers a more aggressive shift map; manual shifting is available.
The Atlas Cross Sport has responsive steering and the suspension is tuned for spirited driving, making the SUV feel like a much smaller vehicle on the road. Given its size, Cross Sport will likely surprise drivers with its nimble demeanor. This SUV is fun to drive and responsive — attributes not applicable to many vehicles in this category.
The interior design of 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. In addition, the audio system lets users scroll through the SiriusXM station list to discover what is currently playing on other stations while remaining on the current one until the user selects a new option.
Whether in front seats or rear, occupants will appreciate the Atlas Cross Sport’s comfortable environment with room for five. Rear-seat legroom is impressive and a great bonus for sacrificing a third row. In front, a well-designed console offers a decent amount of storage space in front of the shifter.
For families who don’t need a third row of seats, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport offers great room and a surprisingly sporty driving experience for a vehicle of its size. The bold front grille and sloping roofline give the SUV a more sporty look than its siblings, bolstered by a decidedly fun-to-drive demeanor.
R-Line adds 21-inch wheels
Large cargo area
Fender premium audio system includes sub-woofer