2024 Volkswagen Atlas Review: Can We Get the Golf Back Now?

I’ve loved almost every Volkswagen I’ve owned or driven. But not this one.

byNico DeMattia|
Nico DeMattia
Nico DeMattia.


I climbed into the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas for the first time full of optimism. My wife and I own a 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan and we love it. It’s a great little family car with some of the best steering and balance I’ve ever felt in a crossover. It’s my wife’s daily driver but I’m happy whenever I get to drive it. So when it came time to drive the Atlas, I was pretty confident I would like it. Right up until I turned the steering wheel and made a face like I just smelled moldy garbage. 

For 2024, Volkswagen gave the Atlas a heavy refresh. It isn’t a whole new model, just heavily revised. Not only does it have a new face and new taillights, but it also has a drastically different interior. Rather than the pre-refresh Atlas, which had an interior very similar to my wife’s Tiguan, the 2024 mode has a cabin similar to those in the Mk8 GTI and all-electric ID.4. And it’s a massive downgrade. 

But it wasn’t just the cabin that disappointed me. The Atlas is probably the least interesting, least enjoyable Volkswagen I’ve ever driven, which is so frustrating because, as a package, it has so much potential. Making matters worse, there are some excellent new SUVs in its segment that outshine the VeeDub in almost every way. I really thought I was going to love the Atlas since I’ve loved nearly every Volkswagen I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving or owning, and there’s so much going for it as a full-sized family SUV. But it just misses the mark in too many ways to earn my love.

The Basics

For 2024, Volkswagen gave the Atlas new styling, inside and out, and revised its powertrain options. Instead of the two engine options VW used to offer—a 2.0-liter turbo-four and a naturally aspirated V6—the Atlas is now four-pot or bust. It also gets new tech, Volkswagen’s much-maligned touchscreen infotainment system, and some new standard equipment.

While the new-look VW Atlas is still instantly recognizable as an Atlas, it’s changed quite a lot. The entire front fascia is new, with completely different headlights, a larger grille, and a revised front bumper, all of which make it look bigger and wider but not necessarily better. The new taillight bar out back looks nice enough and gives you something more to look at than the simple taillights of its predecessor but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it. The new Atlas is a handsome thing but with more interesting-looking competitors on the market—like the Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Toyota Grand Highlander—the VW blends into the background. 

VW drastically changed the Atlas’ interior for 2024 and it’s a step or two down from what it once was. To be fair, it looks pretty good, with an open, airy design, loads of premium-looking wood trim, and a simple, uncluttered center console. However, VW replaced its old, incredibly easy-to-use touchscreen system with the same one found in the current Golf and ID.4 and it might be the most frustrating, least intuitive infotainment system I’ve ever used. Doing almost anything requires swiping or digging through maddening submenus. And the redundant physical controls are touch-sensitive, so you don’t even get buttons or knobs for things like volume or temperature control. That’d be fine if they worked well but they rarely responded to input, making each usage an expletive-filled fiasco. Adding insult to injury, some climate controls, like the rear defroster, are inexplicably by your left knee, under the headlight buttons. It took me three days to find them. 

After a week in the Atlas, I genuinely can’t believe any team of interior designers could sign off on this setup. It’d be laughable if it wasn’t so aggravating. What’s even more frustrating is how near-perfect the previous “Mk7” generation of VW interiors was.

Thankfully, Volkswagen didn’t forget how to make a good powertrain. You might be disappointed to hear of the V6’s demise, as that was always the more enjoyable Atlas engine, but the four-pot gained a power bump for 2024. Instead of making 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, it now makes 269 hp and 273 lb-ft. It’s still paired with an eight-speed automatic and powers either just the front wheels or all four. With its newfound power, the 2.0-liter is quite the overachiever, hauling the big, heavy Atlas from zero to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds. Never once did I think it was underpowered, nor did it ever feel coarse or unrefined. Shifts from the eight-speed auto are good, too. However, if there is a complaint, it’s with the hilariously fake engine sound in Sport mode. It’s so overly aggressive that it’s almost insulting—does VW think anyone is really going to believe that four-pot can really sound like some sort of rally-bred V6? The first time I heard it, I actually laughed out loud at the audacity of it.

Driving the Volkswagen Atlas

In spite of the solid powertrain, nowhere did the Atlas disappoint me more than from behind the wheel. As mentioned, I love my wife’s Tiguan. It has Mk7 Golf-like steering, with perfect weighting, great on-center feel, and sharp responses. Its brakes feel great, it rides well enough (if a bit overly stiff), and it handles far better than most other crossovers. The Atlas, however, feels bloated and kinda sloppy. Its steering is feather-light and slow. There are Logitech gaming wheels with better feel. I know what some of you are thinking. “But it’s a big SUV, not a sports car.” And that’s true, but just because something is big and/or a family car doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The Toyota Grand Highlander, for example, isn’t sporty but is lovely to point through corners, to say nothing of genuinely entertaining similarly-sized fare like the Mazda CX-90. Seemingly, VW didn’t get the memo. 

Nico DeMattia

Thankfully, the Atlas makes up for it with a pillowy ride that never feels floaty. It’s as planted as you’d expect a German SUV to be but it also softens bumps with the best SUVs in its class. Its cabin is quiet, too. So, if all you care about is a comfy backside while you cruise around town, you’ll get along with the Atlas just fine. Still, other three-row SUVs, like the Grand Highlander and CX-90, prove you can have both—a comfy ride and nice steering. 

The Highs and Lows

That’s not to say the Atlas is all bad. There are, of course, some good things about it. Its three-row cabin is vast and full of cubbies, which makes it feel like a living room on wheels. Big tall glass means it has good outward visibility, which is a huge help in something this big. And Volkswagen’s automatic braking and rear cross-traffic systems work very well, as they prevented me from getting T-boned by a speeding driver reversing out of a spot. 

But I fear there are more negatives than positives. Aside from the aforementioned interior frustrations and sloppy steering, the digital gauges are both boring and messy, the base SE seats are too flat for long journeys, and the cupholder tabs are so strong that they squeeze any sort of can so hard that removing them requires force, which caused many spills. 

Volkswagen Atlas Features, Options, and Competition

For 2024, the Atlas starts at $39,420 and comes with some nice standard features like heated and ventilated front seats, three-zone climate control, leatherette seating, and the full 12-inch infotainment system. However, only front-wheel drive is standard, as VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive costs an extra $1,900. 

My tester was equipped with the Technology Package, which gave it 20-inch wheels, illuminated front and rear “VW” badges (which are lame), park distance control, a tow hitch, manual sunshades, and a remote start. That bumped my tester’s price to $43,015 but that still didn’t get me a sunroof, which was a bummer. 

In isolation, the Atlas is a satisfactory SUV. But when faced with its competition, it starts to fall down. Cars like the Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot, and, if you spend a few more bucks, the Toyota Grand Highlander not only have fresher designs but more standard features. Many of them, like the Toyota and the Grand Cherokee, are also available with more fuel-efficient hybrid powertrains. 

Fuel Economy

Despite having a small four-cylinder engine, the Atlas isn’t much more efficient than its V6-powered rivals, like the aforementioned Palisade and Pilot. Its 19 city mpg is the same but its 22 highway mpg, which helps it get 22 mpg combined, is just a single mpg better. In turn, the Grand Highlander beats the Atlas on the highway by 1 mpg, while having the same 19 city mpg, thus getting 23 mpg combined.


Value and Verdict

In terms of actual dollar value, the Volkswagen Atlas is right on the money. Its pricing, equipment, engine, and fuel economy are all within the same realm as its competitors. However, in terms of cabin technology and design, it feels a bit behind the times, which isn’t surprising given that the Atlas’ bones are among the oldest in the segment, having debuted in 2017. 

Ultimately, where the Atlas fails is in its execution. There are some good SUV bones here—it’s a big, comfy, three-row SUV with an airy cabin and a great powertrain. However, a horrific infotainment system, sloppy steering, and frustrating cabin ergonomics make the Atlas less enjoyable to use than many of its rivals. To make matters worse, there isn’t a standout feature here. There really isn’t anything I can think of that the Atlas does better than its competitors, which makes the Atlas one of the weaker entries in the segment.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas Specs
Base Price (SE Technology as tested)$39,420 ($43,015)
Powertrain2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
Torque273 lb-ft
Seating Capacity7
Max Towing5,000 pounds
Curb Weight4,451 pounds
Cargo Volume20.6 cubic feet behind third row | 55.5 cubic feet behind second row | 96.8 cubic feet behind first row
Ground Clearance7.1 inches
0-60 mph7.3 seconds
Off-Road Angles18.9° approach | 17.7° breakover | 21.3° departure
EPA Fuel Economy19 mpg city | 26 highway | 22  combined
Quick TakeA comfortably spacious family hauler that drives too sloppily to stand out.
Nico DeMattia
Volkswagen Reviews