Road trips are great unless you are a kid wedged into the second row of a car alongside your siblings. The confined space of our family car was as unforgiving as the California heat, as I was forced to endure my brother’s sweaty body pressed against my side for hundreds of miles at a time. The lack of air conditioning just added to the misery. Rolled down windows and a face full of desert air was the norm for those long, summer trips.
Space can be an incredible luxury when it comes to a family vehicle. Just think about how much difference a few inches can make with an airline seat. When you have extra room, the trip suddenly becomes more enjoyable, and you are less likely to slug your brother in the arm because his sweaty armpit touched you.
Volkswagen has embraced the concept of roominess with its newest vehicle, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas2018 Volkswagen Atlas. It was designed with the modern family in mind, and I was thrilled to test drive this beast during a media preview in Texas.
The 2018 Atlas is the biggest, boldest Volkswagen ever assembled in America. It has flexible seating for up to seven adults, and that isn’t just marketing hype. Adults can comfortably sit in the third row, which was something I didn’t believe until I tried it myself.
The second row has enough space to fit three child seats side by side. But the real magic trick is how the second seat tilts and folds forward, even with the child seats in place. The feature makes it incredibly easy to get in and out of the vehicle, even if you are an adult climbing into the third-row seats.
I test drove a Volkswagen Atlas with a 3.6-liter VR6 engine, but you can also purchase a four-cylinder turbo model. The 276 hp engine had plenty of power to spare as I took a trip through parts of Texas, with a few obligatory stops for photos with curious cows.
Driving out to the middle of nowhere used to mean long stretches of highway without a radio signal. I remember losing even the AM radio stations as our family car reached the Arizona desert. But I was never at a loss for music during my test drive of the Volkswagen Atlas. I connected my iPhone using Apple CarPlay and blasted the Fender Premium Audio System. AC/DC shook the car for most of the trip, but the 12 speakers and 480 watts of amplifier power sounded equally as great when I played a few tracks of Diana Krall singing jazz standards. There are many things to like about the Atlas, but I would buy the vehicle just for the Fender Audio system. It was that good.
As you would expect with a family vehicle, the Atlas comes packed with safety features. It has front assist and autonomous emergency braking, with pedestrian monitoring. The side mirrors have a blind spot monitor, and there is a rear traffic alert system with braking. When you put the Atlas in reverse, the monitor on the dash shows an area view so you can see everything around the vehicle. The adaptive cruise control includes a stop and go feature. And there is a parking assist feature to help with parallel and perpendicular parking. Volkswagen even designed the vehicle to automatically apply the brakes in the event of a collision, which prevents the Atlas from rolling across the highway and into oncoming traffic.
I liked the power tailgate, which opens when you move your foot beneath the rear bumper. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that a parent’s hands are usually full and fumbling for a key fob can be a challenge. The power tailgate is a smart feature that can make a parent’s life easier.
I was also impressed with the high-tech interior which included Volkswagen’s digital cockpit. This feature comes with the top trim for the vehicle and turns your dash into a giant display screen. I used this to have a digital speedometer and to display the vehicle navigation directly in my line of sight. The digital cockpit is a brilliant feature that I hope will come to more Volkswagen vehicles in the future.
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is available in five trim levels, starting at $33,500, all of which are priced competitively for the SUV market. I think it is great that the Atlas is assembled in the USA at the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant.
Family road trips can be safe, comfortable, and fun with the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. It has room for everyone.