Beach wheels: VW’s 2019 Atlas SEL R-Line a solid family hauler
by Jeff Mitchell
Last month I spent a week with a Volkswagen 2019 Atlas SEL R-Line sports utility vehicle and found it burgeoning with Teutonic goodness, all which is focused on delivering uncompromised comfort and driving capability.
I suspect most folks won’t be swept off their feet by the exterior styling on this SUV, but the it won’t disappoint when it comes to hauling people or cargo in a no-nonsense fashion.
My tester came in the so-called “R-Line” trim level and was a brilliant white on the outside with black leather on the interior seating. R-Line is a VW term describing a certain trim line typically offering sporty styling. These differences include sleeker, updated fascia, headlights, taillights and front and rear bumpers that have been given freshened styling touches. The Atlas came sitting on handsome 20-inch all aluminum alloy wheels.
My Atlas offered 20.6 cubic feet to the back of the 3rd row of seating and a lot more if you fold the second and third rows flat. The vehicle also offers a power trunk lid — a real convenience when you have your hands full of grocery bags.
Inside the cabin of this 7-person SUV, you’ll find a comfortable, quiet world — ranging from a heated, leather-wrapped steering to a heated front driver’s seat with no less than 10 power adjustments. (The rear seating areas are also heated and ventilated.) The vehicle features a large “greenhouse” style sunroof that can bring a lot of natural light into the interior spaces. On the dashboard, you’ll find a tasteful combination of leather and stainless steel metal trim accents that are both clean and attractive to the eye.
I found the vehicle to both comfortable and capable on both city streets and freeways and on unimproved dirt roads — though I wouldn’t go too far off road with it. It’s definitely an SUV that drives a lot smaller than its size. It was pretty nimble in city traffic.
The Atlas is a crossover SUV. It offers a nice, comfortable ride making it ideal for long-range family road trips and vacations. The cabin also features a great sounding 12-speaker Fender sound system that features a CD player and MP# player, not to mention a bunch of USB ports to support all of one’s other electronic devices. My Atlas featured a spacious and intuitive 8-inch wide navigation/entertainment screen that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Owners with large families will appreciate the fact that the Atlas comes with no less than 17 cupholders.
Under the hood, you will find a beefy V-6 power plant that produces 276 horsepower at 6,200 RPM. This engine also generates 262-pound feet of torque at 2,750 RPM. My front-wheel driver tester was mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Clearly, the Atlas, built here in the U.S., wasn’t made for racing. But put the selector switch into “sport” mode you will find the throttle linkage and the transmission significantly more responsive.
Being a larger, heavier SUV, the Atlas won’t wow you in the fuel economy department. It produced 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg out on the highway.
The Atlas competes with the Ford Explorer, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot among others.
My tester, as equipped, has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $44,340.
As I mentioned earlier. the Atlas won’t knock you over in the looks department. But it is one competent SUV that gets to the point of why it was made. It’s a comfortable and reliable SUV that deserves your consideration.
Jeff Mitchell is a South Bay freelance journalist