Country Road Friendly SUV: VW Atlas at home in the country and suburbia

One of the best sing-along songs on road trips is John Denver’s “Country Roads.” Don’t try to convince me otherwise, and go ahead and ridicule me if you want. In my tester this week, I blared that song as I packed my family into the Volkswagen Atlas and headed to some country roads in Tennessee.

The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is my favorite Volkswagen vehicle in this model year. I can safely come to this conclusion after giving it an ideal test drive with two teenagers, two dogs, one wife and lots of luggage all packed into this SUV. Compile that with driving into the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and I was able to really put the Atlas to a road test.


Aesthetically, the Atlas fits well into the Volkswagen family of vehicles. This means the styling is conservative and reserved. The Atlas is not the sexiest SUV on the road today, but it has modern looks and enough flare to offer distinction. The Atlas isn’t a head turner, but the styling will be timeless which will help its resell value and longevity.

The Atlas debuted in the 2018 model year with this new platform. It was ironic that I drove it to Tennessee as the Atlas is manufactured in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Atlas has well-balanced proportions. It sits 70 inches high and is 198.3 inches long and 78.3 inches wide. It is the largest Volkswagen currently on sale in the U.S.


Those dimensions bode well for interior comfort. The two teenagers sprawled out and slept during our road trip and my big dog was even comfortable. The headroom in the second row is 40.4 inches while headroom in the third row is 38.3 inches. Likewise, legroom for the second row is an ample 37.6 inches with 33.7 inches in the third row. With the third-row folded flat there was 55.5 cubic feet of space. Behind the third row, there’s 20.6 cubic feet of space. And with all seats folded flat, the total cargo area is 96.8 cubic feet. We did not utilize this much, and frankly, we did not need that much. At one point, we had two adults in the second row and the teenagers in the third row and all passengers reported no issues with comfort or leg or headroom. All passengers enjoyed the panoramic sunroof which was ideal for taking in the beautiful mountain scenery.

The Atlas is chock full of technology, that is not limited to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (although those are nice features). There’s a responsive 8-inch touchscreen to drive the infotainment system. But there’s also some technology that is focused on safety and diagnostics. Volkswagen’s Car-Net app does in-vehicle updates and provides security features. There’s even compatibility with Apple Watches where you can lock and unlock the vehicle and open and close windows as needed.


There are two engine options for the Atlas – a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6. My tester was the latter. I would have rather experienced the turbocharged engine which has less power than the V6, but I just have a thing for small, turbocharged engines. As appointed, my tester’s performance was good. There was nothing exhilarating about the Atlas’ performance, but it handled itself well on the highway and also performed well on the twists of turns of the Smoky Mountains. The eight-speed automatic transmission performed well, especially on the uphill climbs and the downhill grades as we made our way into higher elevations. Volkswagen’s 4Motion All-wheel drive system with Active Control offers confidence on all road conditions. It also offers better fuel economy (for an AWD system). There are four driver settings including: Onroad, snow, Offroad and custom Offroad. We did not test it off the road, but certainly, the beautiful Tennessee countryside beckoned it to come out and play.


The Atlas with the V6 and 4Motion has an EPA rating of 17 mpg/city and 23 mpg/highway. We went over 20 mpg during our road trip and were impressed with how few times we had to stop to refuel.


MSRP for our Atlas was $48,395. We drove the SEL Premium which is the top-of-the-line trim. With the second-row captain’s chair package and the 20-inch triple spoke wheels package, my tester had a final price of $50,320.

Whether you’re driving on the “Country Roads”, or in suburbia, Volkswagen has a winner on its hands with the Atlas. This seven-passenger SUV is a phenomenal family vehicle.


2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium

Price/As tested price…………………… $48,395/$50,320

Mileage…………………………………… 17 mpg/city; 23 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 3.6-liter V6

Horsepower…………………………… 276 hp/266 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic

Drive Wheels………………………. Four-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………… Chattanooga, TN

Jimmy Dinsmore
For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - and follow him on Twitter @driversside.