The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport arrive as moderately refreshed SUVs at the Chicago Auto Show. A tweaked exterior design joins a thoroughly overhauled interior. Plus, VW does some powertrain shuffling.
For starters, VW is updating the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and making it the only engine option. That means the upgrade of a V6 is no longer available, and it also means the end of the VR6 engine in the U.S. for VW. The beefed-up four-cylinder now cranks out 269 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, additions of 34 and 15, respectively. It still lags the outgoing V6 in horsepower, but now surpasses it in torque. VW says to expect the 0-60 mph acceleration to be about half a second better than before, all while returning improved fuel economy, too — official EPA estimates will need to wait until the Atlas is closer to launch. Maximum towing capacity stays the same at 5,000 pounds, and VW keeps the same eight-speed automatic transmission to shift gears. FWD stays on as standard, while all-wheel drive remains an option.
Exterior changes are made most obvious in the dark. The new daytime running lights span the front of the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, dominating the design. This new light and the light-up VW badge seen in photos are standard on all but the base trims of both Atlas models — those models have an unlit front fascia and a traditional VW badge. The front fascia of each is updated with revised side air intakes, and the coupe-ified Cross Sport uniquely gains gloss-black trim details to set it apart. Both Atlas models get larger rear spoilers and full-width rear taillights — again, base models are left out of the full-width lighting. New wheel designs are available across the board and range from 18-inch to 21-inch options, the latter of which come exclusively with the R-Line appearance models. Lastly, the Cross Sport adds a special rear diffuser to give it a sportier look than its more traditionally shaped sibling.
On the inside, Volkswagen adds its newest suite of tech to the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. This means the Atlas gets VW’s Digital Cockpit Pro infotainment system that plays on a 12-inch touchscreen display. Plus, it gets VW’s Climatronic touch controls for temperature adjustment. We’ve been deeply disappointed in this new control stack in testing of the GTI and Golf R, and it looks like we’ll be in for a similar experience in the new Atlas. That said, VW says it’s bringing software updates to the system in the Atlas that should improve the experience versus the GTI/Golf R. Standing alongside the new infotainment is a new, configurable 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that comes standard. Wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto and wireless phone charging are all along for the ride, but you can plug in to any of the eight available USB-C ports scattered throughout the interior, too.
Since VW’s new infotainment/climate control system is an all-inclusive setup, the whole interior needed a redesign to fit it. You’ll notice the Atlas features a totally new center stack, dash and door panel design. The new shifter is the same nub-style shifter seen in automatic GTIs or Golf Rs. An intriguing light-up dash displays the specific model’s name in front of the passenger, and ambient lighting is now simply everywhere you look. It’s all very clean and minimalistic, but we’ll see how usable the new Atlas interior may be for folks once we get our hands on one.
Other notable upgrades include a new leatherette dash, leatherette center console for more soft-touch surfaces. VW also offers available quilted leather seats in the top model, all in an effort to amp up the niceness of the Atlas’ interior. More features are made standard equipment, including desirables like ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel (with shift paddles) and a height adjustable passenger seat. A HUD, previously unavailable on Atlas, joins the party on the top-trim Atlas, too. On the tech side, VW adds its IQ driver assistance suite as standard equipment, which means every Atlas will have VW’s lane-centering system, alongside others like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and front and rear emergency braking. Travel Assist can be added as an option.
Volkswagen isn’t talking price for the 2024 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport yet, but expect those details to be made public closer to the third quarter of 2023 when both models will go on sale.