This week, we’re debuting our latest feature, Drivers’ Notes. A variety of cars, trucks, and SUVs roll through our office, but we don’t always have an opportunity to showcase them. Consider this a weekly logbook of sorts, with quick-hit contributions from a variety of staff members. We get seat time in all sorts of vehicles, and we want to share our thoughts, opinions, and general musings. The goal is to obsessively cover cars in ways we can’t in First Drive or Quick Spin reviews.
For the past few days, we’ve passed around the key fob to the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. This big three-row crossover is the replacement for the Touareg, slotting above that all-new Tiguan. Like the current Passat and Jetta, the Atlas is designed with American tastes and sensibilities in mind. Some Volkswagen enthusiasts may lament the loss of European flair, but a big, handsome, and refined crossover is exactly what shoppers today are looking for. This may be the model that helps repair Volkswagen’s diesel-soaked image.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: I spent a night in the Atlas and generally enjoyed it. It’s big, comfortable, looks pretty tough, and has a lot of space. I picked up my in-laws from the airport, and there was plenty of room for a couple suitcases, carry-ons, and four people. I also made a Taco Bell run in the Atlas and took it to the gym. Pretty much exactly what the target buyer would do with it. The touchscreen infotainment system is clear, colorful, and intuitive. It’s almost a little too responsive – I found myself changing the radio just by brushing past it while messing with the air conditioning. I probably put a little more than 90 miles on the Atlas in total and was impressed. It’s the right vehicle at the right time for VW.
Senior Green Editor John Beltz Snyder:
In town, the Atlas’ 3.6-liter V6 does a good job of projecting a sense of urgency with a soft touch. It doesn’t take a lot of footwork to get it moving, and it gets up to speed with traffic on city streets with ease. That responsiveness goes a long way toward making this feel like a smaller vehicle the first time you get in to drive it. When you get on the highway and put the hammer down, you don’t get the same feeling of potency as you do in casual city driving, and it can actually feel a bit breathless when trying to pass someone at those speeds.
I was impressed with the stop/start system. It shuts down quietly and it picks up again the very moment you lift your foot off the brake, allowing one to get right on the gas as soon as the light turns green. It seems to make a practical difference when it comes to fuel economy, too. My commute is about 37 miles, about eight of which are on city streets. On that drive, I got an average fuel economy of 24.3 mpg, which beats our tester’s 23-mpg highway rating.