New 2017 VW Atlas: giant SUV could be set for Europe

Volkswagen's five-meter long seven-seater Atlas SUV could add to VW’s increasing SUV line-up in Europe but UK sales are still unlikely

VW’s recently revealed Atlas SUV could yet be coming to Europe, in spite of it being designed with the US and China in mind. 

The five-meter long, three-row SUV will be built at VW’s US plant in Chattanooga, but VW execs have revealed to Auto Express that spare capacity at the factory means it’s now looking at bringing the car to Europe.

“We have capacity for an extra 20,000 cars in Chattanooga,” said Dr Elmar-Marius Licharz. “We’re unclear about opening it up for Europe so we’re asking the question and checking out whether it would work.”

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Dr Licharz also told us that VW’s 188bhp 2.0-litre diesel would work in the car, but they’d decided not to offer that engine in the US given American customer’s views on diesels following the VW emissions scandal. However, the Atlas with that engine could come to Europe and VW is asking potential customers about the car.

However, the car’s size could well be the major issue – at over 5 meters long, it’s longer than a Range Rover or a Mercedes GLS and according to Licharz it would have trouble fitting into many German garages. 

It’s even less likely that the Atlas would find its way to the UK, though. The extra cost of converting the car to right-hand drive would make it uneconomical to sell the car in the UK.

Volkswagen Atlas 2016 LA Motor Show launch

Volkswagen revealed its first ever seven-seat SUV ahead of its spring 2017 US launch. The Atlas shoulders the mighty task of restoring the brand's reputation for North American customers after the damaging emissions scandal. It went on show at the 2016 LA Motor Show - the perfect place to show it off to American consumers to try and rebuild interest in the Volkswagen name.

Aimed straight for “the heart of the American market”, the Atlas SUV is the largest vehicle ever built by VW in America. It’s 5,037mm long and 1,979mm wide, making it the biggest VW passenger car on sale. It’s also almost 340mm longer and 100mm wider than sister brand Skoda’s new Kodiaq.

Unlike the Kodiaq, the Atlas was created for release in the US but Chairman of Volkswagen, America Hinrich J. Woebcken confirmed to Auto Express that the Altas will be exported to the Middle East and Russia in due course.

VW Atlas: design 

Heavily inspired by the Crossblue concept of 2013, the production Atlas sits on the VW Group’s familiar MQB platform. The exterior look is said to create “a sense of timelessness and precision”; there’s a bluff front-end and squared-off bonnet, with VW’s recognisable two-bar chrome front grille and square LED headlamps.

Side-on the Atlas has traditional chunky SUV stance and rugged lower body cladding, while a single styling crease follows the curvature of the wheelarches all the way along the length of the car. There’s a hint of Bentley Bentayga in the overall profile, too, although the bulky rear overhang is a symptom of the extra row of rear seats. The rear is similar in shape to the smaller Volkswagen Tiguan, albeit with twin exhausts integrated into the lower bumper.

Volkswagen Atlas: interior

Inside, VW claims there is space for seven adults and their luggage. The rearmost seats are accessed by a clever folding mechanism in the second row that, apparently, works even when child seats are in place. The rest of the simple and minimalist cabin will be familiar to any current Volkswagen owners.

The centre console features the brand’s latest Car Net system, with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink tech. Options include VW’s Digital Cockpit configurable instruments and 12-speaker Fender audio system. 

Volkswagen Atlas: engines and safety

The Atlas is said to be the only SUV in its class to get Automatic Post-Collision Braking as standard, while the available suite of active safety tech includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, ‘Front Assist’ autonomous braking, rear-cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and self-park assist. 

At launch two powertrains will be offered on the Atlas. There’s a 2.0 litre direct-injection TSI turbo petrol with 234bhp or VW’s 3.6 litre naturally aspirated six-cylinder ‘VR6’ with 275bhp. Both units are mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with either front or four-wheel drive. No fuel economy or performance figures have been released yet. 

The original Crossblue concept debuted with an ultra-efficient diesel-electric hybrid powertrain, but given recent events have severely tainted the image of diesel in the US it's understandable that it didn't make production. However, bosses have confirmed they are looking into the possibility of developing a conventional hybrid power unit for the Atlas.

Prices are yet to be announced, too, but Volkswagen claims the range will kick off “at a price designed to draw customers attention in the family SUV segment”. Expect that to be roughly in line with rivals such as the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

Tell us your thoughts on the Volkswagen Atlas in the comments section below...

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