Review: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Has Longer Name, Fewer Seats

The Atlas Cross Sport is the five-seat, sportback version of the larger Volkswagen Atlas crossover sport utility. Introduced last year, the Atlas Cross Sport aims for an audience that wants a large, spacious crossover-SUV, but don’t really need the third row of seating. The Cross Sport is a bit nimbler in handling than its slightly larger sibling and for the 2021 model year, it gains VW’s new infotainment system and some driver’s aids.

The 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport focuses on interior space and comfort, both of which it excels in. Compared to most rivals, the Atlas Cross Sport has more interior usefulness and roominess. It’s not off-road-centric like some rivals, but it does offer excellent on-road comfort and driving appeal.

There are no fewer than eight trim levels for the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport, which may be a bit much for some buyers to dig through to find a match. The top-end SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line packages are not quite as luxurious as their prices would suggest, so we think most buyers will be happier in the mid-level SE with Technology and SEL packages instead. The Atlas Cross Sport comes pretty well-accoutered from the get-go, with the base model featuring LED headlamps, heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and VW’s Car-Net remote services. The 6.5-inch touchscreen and six-speaker audio are a little disappointing, though. Forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitoring are also standard in the Atlas Cross Sport.

Going to the SE with Technology gets simulated leather upholstery, wireless connectivity for App-Connect (which includes CarPlay/Auto), more USB ports, a wireless charging pad, voice-activated infotainment controls, dual-zone climate, heated front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, remote start, adaptive cruise control, a household power outlet, a power liftgate, and an option for the V6 engine upgrade and towing. The SEL has all of that plus adaptive front lighting, a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting, a digital instrument cluster, integrated navigation, and several advanced safety features like lane-keeping assistance and road sign display.

The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that outputs 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is just about adequate for the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. But only just. The upgrade engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that outputs 276 HP and 266 lb-ft. The longer, smoother power curve of the V6 is much more well-suited to the Atlas Cross Sport’s size than is the turbo four. Both engines mate with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.

The interior of the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport is spartan, as is true of most Volkswagen vehicles, but has a bit of flair in its plainness. Technology is generally the “bling point” for any VW interior and it’s definitely what makes the Atlas Cross Sport most appealing. Seating comfort is very good, even in the middle of the second row, and everyday driving is pleasant in the Atlas Cross Sport.

Maneuverability is surprisingly good for such a bulky SUV and comes mostly thanks to the responsive steering and squared edges of the Atlas Cross Sport that allow intuitive movement. Visibility for the driver is good in this VW.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of the big 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. It’s stylish, much sportier in look and feel than most square-bodied SUVs, and practical in both comfort and design. Pricing for the 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport starts at $30,855 with our recommended SE with Technology starting at $36,245 or $47,645 with the V6 upgrade. The SEL begins at $41,725.

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at