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2021 Volkswagen Atlas First Look: Expanded AWD Availability, New Schnoz

Buyers can now pair 4Motion all-wheel drive with the base four-cylinder engine.

© Motor Trend Staff

From Motor Trend

It's been just three years since the Volkswagen Atlas burst onto the full-figured three-row crossover SUV scene, but it's getting a thorough face-lift anyway. VW claims this is the first instance of its new policy of shortening its standard four-year renewal cadence, but this rhinoplasty isn't purely in service of vanity. It also brings pedestrian-protection enhancements to the bumper structure that add about 3 inches to the overall length.


Naturally, as with seemingly all such redos, the new look—especially in the sporty R-Line trim shown—strives for a more aggressive mien than before, with black-accented outboard fascia vents and a faux front skidplate that appears prepared to push-start Bonneville speed-record racers (it's only prepared to gently push pedestrians). The side cladding and rear bumper are also revised and macho-fied to match the new wheel designs, which continue to measure 18, 20, or 21 inches in diameter.


Inside there's a new steering wheel emblazoned with Volkswagen's new logo, and it includes infotainment and driver assist buttons. Lovely new double-stitched leather upholstery is available in some new color combinations. A new 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the base S model, and wireless smartphone charging is now offered. An updated Car-Net mobile app now includes five years of no-charge services, and VW offers a variety of 4G LTE data connection plans for feeding the onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. In terms of driver assist systems, the new Atlas adds available traffic jam assist and dynamic road sign detection to its arsenal.


The only news on the powertrain front is that 4Motion all-wheel drive can now be paired with the 235-hp, 258-lb-ft 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, in addition to the V-6. Considering that its output only trails that of the 3.6-liter V-6 by 41 hp and 8 lb-ft, we reckon this combo has only been restricted heretofore as a means of "richening" the mix of pricier V-6 Atlases. Unchanged for 2021 is VW's class-leading four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and two-year complimentary maintenance.


Along with its new shorter two-row Atlas Cross Sport platform-mate and Tiguan sibling, SUVs now account for 53 percent of VW sales—up from just 9.4 percent in 2016. Look for that percentage to rise even further when VW introduces an all-electric compact based on the ID Crozz concept next year and a fifth new sub-Tiguan compact gasoline SUV in summer 2021 that's sized and priced to compete with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. The new compact gasser will be built in Puebla, Mexico, and the EV will be built in Chattanooga beginning in 2022 (our first examples will come from Europe).


Look for the refreshed Atlas to go on sale starting in May or June 2020.

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Autos Magazine: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas First Look: Expanded AWD Availability, New Schnoz
2021 Volkswagen Atlas First Look: Expanded AWD Availability, New Schnoz
Buyers can now pair 4Motion all-wheel drive with the base four-cylinder engine.
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