© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line review

2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line right front
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line right front

For all the auto world’s emphasis on power and styling, often a vehicle’s selling point, or sticking point, is a game of inches.

Maybe the best current example is Volkswagen’s Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport models that, on their face, appear to be almost exactly the same. They nearly are.

But the tested Atlas Cross Sport is five inches shorter in length than its fraternal twin, the Atlas. In theory, that makes for a sportier handling SUV and as I explained in my initial review of the Cross Sport three years ago, the rear roofline is more slanted creating a less boxy SUV look.

Yet the biggest difference in that five inches is that the Cross Sport is more a cargo hauler than a people hauler. Instead of a third-row seat in back and mild cargo room, the Cross sport uses all of its tail for cargo space, 40.3 cubic feet to be exact. Fold down the second-row seats and that grows to 78 cubic feet. Monstrous!

On the other hand, the Atlas uses its extra length for that third-row seat, allowing it to haul up to seven adults. So, know your hauling needs, people or packages, before shopping.

All that remains the same since my last review, but for 2024 VW has tweaked the front and rear lights to slightly update the Atlas Cross Sport’s looks.

That’s nice, but the bigger change is under the hood. Gone is the smooth 3.6-liter V6 now replaced with a more efficient 2.0-liter turbo I4 that makes 269 horsepower, just 7 horses short of the former V6, but a whopping 33 horses more than the former base I4 powerplant.

The turbo is plenty peppy, just a bit noisier than the V6. It gets the Cross Sport up to highway speeds easily and the AWD mid-size SUV still tows up to 5,000 pounds as did the previous model. A smooth shifting 8-speed automatic transmission helps.

The other advantage is better fuel economy. Cross Sport is rated 19 mpg city and 26 highway by the EPA. That’s up from 16/22 with the older V6. I managed 22.6 mpg this time, while I only got 19.6 mpg in the test three years ago.

The handling is light and easy and the traction is good due to the 4Motion AWD system, standard on this Premium R-Line model. Some models are front-wheel drive with AWD costing extra.

And while the dimensions remain the same for Cross Sport as in the earlier model, the ride seems to have been improved, well-controlled and only slight jiggles on really rough roads. This is pretty much a luxury feel. That’s good because in this trim the Atlas Cross Sport hits entry-level luxury pricing. More on that in a bit.

VW continues to put solid effort into the SUV’s interior in an attempt to set it apart from lesser models.

The Silver Mist Metallic (no extra charge) tester included a black leather interior with the seat cushions featuring a blue tint that looked particularly sharp but was subtle. The seats themselves were Vienna leather. Ironically that leather is made in Italy.

The R-Line trim includes a diamond stitch pattern in those seats, plus stainless steel pedal caps. Also cool is the adjustable ambient lighting (I like the blue as it matches the seats and is easy on the eyes). That lights map pockets and a line across the dash, plus a somewhat starry pattern on the passenger’s side dash front. Way cool at night.

There’s also carbon fiber-look door and dash trim and gloss black trim on the console. A stubby gear shift lever is located on the console too as is the push-button ignition and there’s a wireless phone charger tucked under the center stack.

Above that is another game of inches, a 12-inch infotainment scree, up from 8 inches in the previous model. Under the touchscreen are all the climate control buttons. Nice layout and everything is simple to use.

The seats are well cushioned, but the driver’s lower seat cushion is a bit long, so presses against the back of a short-legged driver’s knees. I found that uncomfortable after a few minutes of driving. Long-legged drivers likely will have no such issues.

The seats are heated and cooled and rear seats are heated. VW also includes a heated steering wheel, which is activated via a tiny button on the steering wheel hub.

2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line rear seat
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line rear seat

Good news for folks not wanting to raid their 401k for some of these premium items. Even the base SE model now includes the heated and cooled seats and heated wheel, plus the large infotainment screen. Bravo!

Also standard throughout the lineup is wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Other pluses include a flat-bottom steering wheel and panoramic sunroof on the tester.

Like it or not one can also wave a hand in front of the info screen, and it will change functions, plus there’s a little arrow you can slide your finger along under the screen to boost the volume. Awkward! I did like that I could wave my hand under the overhead cabin lights to get them to pop on.

Note too that the radio must be on for other info screen features to work.

Safety is a strong point with a full bevy of safety doodads standard. VW’s IQ Drive now features smart cruise control, lane assist and keeping, forward collision warning and emergency braking, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and pedestrian and cycle monitor.

A few minor concerns include some tire noise from the 21-inchers that are standard, plus as with other SUVs, the thick A-pillar and side mirror combo limits side views.

So, what’s the Atlas Cross Sport cost?

Big range here with the base SE listing at $38,410, a very competitive entry price. Add the technology package and it hits $42,515, still well below mid-size SUV pricing. There’s an SEL for $49,295 and the SEL R-Line at $50,745.

The tested Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line, the top trim, lists at $52,795 and this one added no options. The longer Atlas runs $39k to $54,000, so a bit more. Yet with most SUVs hitting $55 grand or some even starting there, the VW seems a bargain, especially at its middle trim levels.

Mid-size SUVs are among the most popular vehicles today, so the market is extremely competitive. Top competitors include the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, plus the new Toyota Grand Highlander. Others to consider include the Mazda CX-90, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Honda Passport.

FAST STATS: 2024 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line

Hits: Good power. easy handling, improved ride, AWD, massive cargo room and roomy attractive leather interior. Huge screen, well designed dash, plus heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, flat-bottom steering wheel, wireless charger, solid safety features. Cool ambient dash lighting.

Misses: Long lower seat cushion affects driver comfort, some tire noise on freeway. Radio must be on for info screen features to work, and thick A-pillar/mirror combo limits visibility.

Made in: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 269 hp/273 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,600 lbs.

Wheelbase: 117.3 in.

Length: 195.5 in.

Cargo: 40.3/78 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 19/26

MPG: 22.6 (tested)

Base Price: $52,795

Invoice: $50,687

Major Options: None

Test vehicle: $52,795

Sources: VW, www.kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
Related Content