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  7. 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Jeffrey N. Ross | Aug 28, 2020

Image of Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport driving over desert terrain

Volkswagen may have taken its time entering the increasingly popular three-row crossover party. But it took no time at all for the family-sized Atlas to be converted into a stylish, two-row mid-size model. 

Following a similar trend of many German crossovers, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport sacrifices interior space and functionality in the name of style, and if you don't need a mid-size crossover with a third row, the Atlas Cross Sport is right up your alley. Both Atlas models are made in VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant, along with the VW Passat sedan.

For this review, I sampled the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport in the mid-range SE with Technology AWD trim level.


2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Exterior

Exterior image of 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Considering the Atlas competes in a segment full of competition, it garnered a surprising amount of attention during my week with it.

More than one person commented on how much the Cross Sport's style resembled a Range Rover, and while I personally don't see that similarity, it's a far more engaging look than the standard Atlas. The new front end design features a more cohesive look to the headlights and grille, which will be applied to the three-row Atlas for the 2021 model year. But the big difference is the lower roofline and raked D-pillar.

The Atlas Cross Sport rides on the same wheelbase as the three-row Atlas, yet its overall length is three inches shorter. The reduced rear overhang results in improved off-roading capabilities, as it increases the departure angle to almost 27 degrees. The best part about the design of both Atlas models is the wide, athletic stance delivered from the massive fender arches, and on the SE trim levels and higher, these are filled with 20-inch wheels. The Atlas Cross Sport also shows off Volkswagen's subtle, contemporary next-generation VW logo.

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Interior

View the interior detailing of the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Volkswagen did a lot more than just remove the rear row of the Atlas to create the Cross Sport. The sportier roofline results in marginally less headroom for all occupants, but the second row passengers do get more second-row legroom , as well as the ability to recline the seat backs. The shorter roof and reduced rear overhang also result in less cargo capacity, but there's still 40.3 cubic-feet of space available behind the rear seat, and 77.8 cubic-feet with the rear seat folded flat. Overall, unless you need the extra two seats of the Atlas, the five-passenger Atlas Cross Sport is plenty of crossover, and it offers more interior space than two-row, mid-size rivals like the Nissan Murano and Chevrolet Blazer.

As we've come to expect from modern Volkswagens, the interior design is pretty straightforward and functional, and the SE trim level does a good job of balancing equipment and value. The driver is rewarded with a leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel and there's a cool wood-grain-like accent trim on the passenger side of the dashboard. But other than that, there really isn't anything to get excited about in terms of flashiness. Opting for the SE trim brings VW's leatherette seat material that feels soft and durable, but if you want you want equipment such as adaptive cruise control and navigation, you'll have to step up to the SEL trim. This tester did have a panoramic sunroof - as a $1,200 option. As I learned after taking the Atlas Cross Sport on a family camping trip, my favorite thing about this tester is the rubberized, all-weather floor mat option, which included the heavy-duty cargo liner from WeatherTech. It did an excellent job of preventing dirt and debris from falling down between the seats, thanks to its molded, one-piece design.

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Powertrain

View of the engine block in a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

While a V-6 is available, the base 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder rated at 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Unless you really need the extra towing capacity, this engine does a great job of providing ample acceleration. Even with VW's smooth and sporty eight-speed automatic transmission, the Cross Sport's EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway aren't great for this class, and after a week of mixed driving, I only averaged 19.9 mpg. When properly equipped, the Cross Sport 2.0T can only tow 2,000 pounds versus up to 5,000 pounds with the optional V-6 engine.

Despite its SUV-like appearance, the Atlas Cross Sport has a surprisingly smooth ride whether it's driven on paved or unpaved roads, and the steering makes the mid-size crossover maneuver better than you'd expect. Thanks to the 4Motion all-wheel drive and four driving modes, the Cross Sport is ready for just about any adventure, which we learned after taking an unexpected off-road detour on the aforementioned camping trip. Roads covered in mud and wet sand proved to be little obstacle for this Atlas.

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Safety

View the safety equipment in the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

The all-new 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the three-row Atlas did get a full five-star overall crash rating. All Atlas Cross Sport models come with full LED exterior lighting, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert and VW's Car-Net with Wi-Fi capability.

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Overall

Exterior view of the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

To create the two-row, five-passenger 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, VW did far more than pop the third row out of its mid-size Atlas. This new model has a more athletic and dynamic appearance that was instantly obvious, and made for loads of questions and comments by complete strangers.

With a starting price of $30,545, the Cross Sport costs $1,000 less than the three-row Atlas, and this mid-level SE with Technology and 4Motion all-wheel drive carried an as-tested price of $40,300.

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, AWD

Engine/Transmission

2.0L I4, 235  hp, 258 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic

Mileage

18/23 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★


AutoNation Drive Test Drive Review: ★ ★ ★


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.