When it first arrived for the 2018 model year, the VW Atlas easily met expectations for what buyers were looking for in the three-row SUV segment. It’s a big box with plenty of room inside and enough family-friendly features to keep both kids and parents satisfied. But the arrival of the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade just a few years later reset the bar, helping the same family realize they could get a much better interior and more features for the same money. For 2024, VW is giving the Atlas another refresh—it already has another for 2021—and this latest update is clearly focused on upping the SUV’s interior game to play catch-up with the Koreans.
Internal change is effective based on first impressions. The materials are much nicer than before, with less hard plastic and more stitched leather and soft-touch materials on the dashboard. VW also adds quilted leather upholstery on top trim levels, and there are multiple trim options available such as wood, brushed metal and carbon fiber-look materials that add some much-needed texture to the door panels. And the Atlas remains one of the most spacious three-row SUVs you can buy, with an oversized second row available with either a three-person bench or captain’s chair and a two-seat third row that’s livable for adults.
Unfortunately, the cabin redux also means Volkswagen’s disappointing touch-sensitive controls and overly complex infotainment system have made their way into the Atlas. This makes the remote’s interface less intuitive and removes many of the physical controls—like previous models’ touch HVAC knobs and buttons—in favor of menus buried deep inside the touchscreen. Even the sunroof is controlled by touch sliders, and while Volkswagen touts its expanded voice commands and gesture controls, we didn’t find those options a satisfying alternative. The screen itself is large—a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 12.0-inch central touchscreen are standard—but we’re not fans of this approach. As in other models like the GTI and Golf R, VW’s software is decidedly not user-friendly.
Another notable change for the 2024 Atlas is the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that is now the only engine option. The old 3.6-liter VR6 is gone, and the new engine is more powerful than the outgoing base turbo four thanks to a larger turbocharger and revised tuning. Its 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque are adequate if not class-leading, and it retains its 5000-pound towing capacity and offers better EPA-estimated fuel economy of between 20 mpg and 23 mpg combined, depending on trim level and whether you choose front or all wheel drive.
VW also claims a 0.8-second improvement in 60-mph acceleration over the old VR6 AWD model, but that doesn’t mean much considering we measured the previous Atlas VR6 at 7.8 seconds behind in that metric. The previous 2.0-liter turbo, which only had 235 horsepower, was much quicker in front-wheel-drive form when we tested it in 2018, hitting 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, so we expect the new engine to deliver similar if slightly better results. performance than that. VW also seems to have improved throttle response, and the eight-speed automatic transmission downshifts immediately to help the new powertrain feel more lively than before.
Not much has changed with the SUV’s chassis—one aspect of the Atlas that doesn’t need much improvement. The VW rides well, with good body control and enough compliance to soak up bumpy sections of road with minimal harshness. The steering is vague, and you feel the Atlas’s power if you push it around corners, but it’s as comfortable and quiet as you’d want a family bus to be. As long as you don’t expect a GTI for a three-row SUV, the tuning is completely fine for this type of vehicle.
For a starting price of just under $40,000, the base 2024 Atlas SE offers a more affordable set of standard features than ever before. Ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel are now included in the base trim, as are all driver assistance systems. There is also a new Peak Edition off-road trim with all-terrain tires and additional cladding, as is de rigueur for any SUV in this segment. New headlights and taillights modernize the exterior somewhat, but it’s still slab-sided, boxy without much design flair.
VW’s consistent upgrades to the Atlas throughout its model year have kept it reasonably competitive in the crowded three-row SUV segment, but it still doesn’t stand out. While the new interior is far prettier than before, VW’s insistence on touch-sensitive controls means the cabin now places form over function. Generous amounts of space for cargo and people remain the Atlas’ top selling point, but overall the 2024 update does little to change this big VW’s status as a middle-of-the-road player among family SUVs.
Volkswagen Atlas 2024
Vehicle Type: front engine, front or all wheel drive, 6 or 7 passenger, 4 door wagon
Base: SE, $39,075; SE 4Motion, $40,975; SE Technology, $43,015; SE Technology 4Motion, $44,915; SE Technology 4Motion Top Edition, $47,905; SEL 4Motion, $49,795; SEL 4Motion Top Edition, $51,785; SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion, $53,805
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 in31984 sm3
Power: 269 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Wheelbase: 117.3 in
Length: 200.7 inches
Width: 78.3 inches
Height: 70.4 inches
Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 61/53/39 feet3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/M/R: 97/56/21 ft3
Curb weight (C/D estimate): 4600–4800 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 6.9–7.1 seconds
1/4-Mile: 15.3–15.5 seconds
Top Speed: 120 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 20–23/18–20/24–27 mpg
Despite growing up on a steady diet of Honda and Toyota base models—or maybe because of it—Joey Capparella cultivated an obsession for the automotive industry throughout his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. He found a way to write about cars for the school newspaper during his college years at Rice University, which eventually led him to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for his first professional auto-writing gig at Automobile Magazine. He has been a part of Car and Driver team since 2016 and currently resides in New York City.