“2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium Test Drive

“2021 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium”
Easier on the Eyes and More


Volkswagen introduced its mid-size, American-built, three-row family oriented crossover SUV in 2018. It came with a spacious interior featuring three rows and comfortable seating for seven adults and was based on VW’s award-winning Modular Transverse Matrix (MOB) architecture, as the largest, most dynamic Volkswagen vehicle ever assembled in America. It is built at VW’s Chattanooga, TN assembly plant alongside the Passat.

There are a variety of trim level choices, with the same two engines to choose from and one may choose either a FWD configuration or VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system for select models for an extra $1,900. Base pricing ranges from $32,565. for a base S model to $40,015 for a V6 SEL R-Line version. Those who want 4Motion all-wheel drive can add it for $1900.


Engine choices include a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.6-liter V-6. Motive force for both is geared to the driving wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission with clutch-pack center, differential, adaptive torque distribution and Driving Mode selection, consisting of On road, Snow, Off-road and Custom Off-road settings. Within the “On road” setting, additional options are offered: Normal, Sport, Comfort and Individual, which alter operating parameters for drive systems like the engine, transmission, steering and Adaptive Cruise Control, as well as traction-assistance systems such as Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.


The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas continues with a boxy appearance, a spacious interior, and impressive practicality. It’s one of the largest mid-size crossovers, with a footprint that delivers three spacious rows of seating.

The styling of the Atlas is influenced by the 2013 CrossBlue concept vehicle. It’s clean and conservative, with more functionally than luxuriousness. The interior space includes a spacious cargo area, with easy third row access.

The front end that is not unlike Range Rover in its first impression. Character lines run from nose to tail, with pronounced fender arches above the wheel wells. The sculpted hood meets a sharply angled windshield, and the roof curves gently downward at the broad and powerful rear end.

The 2021 Atlas will cost slightly more than last year’s model. with contemporary features that include an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, and remote start. Adding second-row captain’s chairs and the tow hitch bringing the Atlas’s maximum towing capacity of 5000 pounds.

Other model change benefits include some modest visual changes such as new front and rear fascias that increase the SUV’s overall length by almost three inches. a new steering wheel, restyled headlights featuring standard LED elements., bumpers, taillights and a new horizontal bar grille. New driver aids including traffic signs – a system that’s able to scan speed limits.

Trim levels include: the base S, SE, SE with Technology package, SEL and the flagship SEL Premium. A new trim is being introduced this year – the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport – a five-passenger version with upgraded infotainment software.

Models with the R-Line option come with special badging, a body kit, and 20- or 21-inch rims. Inside, you’ll find updated seat stitching and the latest iteration of VW’s Car-Net smartphone app. The four-cylinder Atlas is now available with all-wheel drive for the first time.


No matter what your trim choice, the Atlas comes well connected and entertainment ready. The touchscreen interface is intuitive and about as responsive as an average smartphone. Base S models feature a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a USB port. Upgrade to SE or SEL models and the infotainment display grows to 8.0 inches, three additional USB ports sprout from the center console, and SiriusXM satellite radio and two additional speakers.


My test 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SUV was in SEL Premium trim, powered by the 3.6-liter V6 with 276 horsepower and 266 pound feet of torque, and with 4Motion. It wore an exterior finish of Racing Green metallic, while the interior was executed in Mauro Brown and Black leather, with wood grain trim elements on the doors and console. The base sticker was set at $48,995., with a final tally of $50,710. after adding the destination charge. It came loaded with Technology and Convenience features.


The three-row seating delivers comfortable seating for up to seven adults, to travel in comfort, and the second row comes with a 7.7-inch fore and aft sliding range, tilting and folding forward even with child seats in place.

The Atlas SEL Premium model ups the ante in terms of content, with the 12.3-inch VW Digital Cockpit instrumentation, 20-inch alloy wheels, navigation, LED taillights, power folding door mirrors, door mirrors with puddle lights, leather seating surfaces, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, automatic High Beam Control (Light Assist) and Ambient lighting. Also added are driver assistance and infotainment features such as: Parking Steering Assistant, Area View Camera, and the Fender® Premium Audio System with a 12-channel, 480-watt amplifier and 12 speakers.

SEL Premium models feature a power tailgate with Easy Open that works in conjunction with KESSY® keyless access enabling opening the tailgate with simply a kick of the foot below the rear bumper, when the key is in range.

All Atlas models feature full LED front lighting, including low beams, high beams, turn signal indicators, Daytime Running Lights and side marker lights
LED taillights are standard on SEL Premium models. Overhead, a large panoramic sunroof measuring 4.46 feet by 2.85 feet, with a two-part glass opening system and powered sunshade, is offered on SEL Premium models.


The Atlas performs admirably whether driving over back roads or on the freeway. The 3.6-liter V6 provides ample power without hesitation. The transmission shift points are customizable within the Drive Mode Select and the ride quality is smooth and comfortable with the Atlas remaining flat and stable through challenging, twisty scenarios.

We didn’t conduct off-road tests, but the Atlas should certainly handle non-paved surfaces with no problem. Handling characteristics are positive and readily responsive. The towing capacity is 5,000 lbs. with factory installed tow gear hardware but drops to 2,000 lbs. for aftermarket setups.


In the final analysis, the Volkswagen Atlas in SEL Premium trim with 4Motion makes a bold move forward for the American marketplace. In VW parlance, “Life’s as Big as You Make It” and the Atlas is big and bold and should prove to be a winner In the SUV marketplace. There’s a wide range of collision-avoidance safety tech that earns high marks in federal and independent safety tests. In a word, it’s a winner on the SUV playing field.

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium

Base Price:                     $48,995.
Price as Tested:            $50,710.

Engine Type and Size: 3.6-liter, DOHC, 24-valve narrow angle V6 with FSI Direct Fuel Injection

Horsepower (bhp):     276 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.):        266 @ 2,750 rpm

Transmission:              Eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic.

Drive Train:                 Transversely mounted front engine / 4MOTION™ permanent all-wheel drive system with eight-speed automatic transmission, clutch-pack center, differential, adaptive torque distribution and Driving Mode selection.

Suspension:                Front Strut-type with lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar.
                                     Rear – Multilink with coil springs and telescopic dampers.

Brakes:                      Power-assisted dual circuit four-wheel discs (vented front) 4-wheel standard ABS with EBD and ESC.

Tires:                        Goodyear Assurance 255/50 R20 105T235/50 R20 105T mounted on 5-Stylized “V” spoke Machine face with painted inner alloy wheels.

Wheelbase:              117.3 inches
Length Overall:     198.3 inches
Width:                       78.3 inches – w/o mirrors
Height:                      70.0 inches
Curb Weight:         4,427 lbs.
Turning Circle:        38.1 ft.
Fuel Capacity:         18.6 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 16 mpg city / 22-mpg highway
Drag Coefficient:     0.34
0 – 60 mph:              Not tested

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