2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport One-Week Test Drive Review

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport One-Week Test Drive Review

What Is the Volkswagen Cross Sport?

At first glance, you may be wondering what the Cross Sport variant does differently from the standard Atlas. It can take a moment before you see the major difference between the two: that sportier raked roofline. Volkswagen’s product planning team determined that not all Atlas shoppers needed a third row of seats. Then the design team was called in to give the Atlas a quick makeover with more of a fastback-style roofline in a similar vein to far costlier German utility vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and sporty Porsche Cayenne Coupe. The Atlas Cross Sport’s advantages go beyond its slicker shape, however; the Cross Sport is nearly three inches shorter and just over two inches lower than the standard Atlas, but keeps the same wheelbase, resulting in notably more legroom while also dropping some pounds for slightly improved efficiency, at least theoretically.

The test vehicle we spent our time with is an Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T SE, which, when decoded, means it’s a mid-grade model with VW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. That turbo four produces a healthy 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and is paired to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Ours was also equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, which in lieu of true winter weather to show its capability, at least allows us to get off the line quickly without wheelspin.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Equipment & Pricing

The level of equipment on this mid-grade Atlas Cross Sport equipped with the Technology package is strong, with 20-inch wheels, LED exterior lights, dual-zone climate control, heated leatherette front seats, plenty of USB charging ports, a large center console storage cubby, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and parking aids, wireless device charging, and an 8-inch touchscreen center display. In fact, the only option on our $39,100 Cross Sport was a set of $235 Monster Mats, which from previous experience do a great job of keeping carpeted floors clean even in mucky Pacific Northwest conditions. That said, VW is offering even more equipment on Atlas models for the 2021 model year including a new MIB3 infotainment system with new driver assistance features and an updated SiriusXM 360L satellite radio system. Worth the wait? Probably not for us, especially if you can get a small discount on an outgoing 2020 model-year Atlas. The base 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport starts at just over $31,000 with destination fee.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Cabin Comfort & Design

Climbing into the Atlas and peering out beyond the broad, flat hood almost makes us feel like we’re behind the wheel of a full-size truck. There’s no car-like arching hood line or rounded corners here, just feet of horizontal metal which makes the Atlas feel rugged and solid, despite its new fastback body style. A traditional lever-style shifter juts out from the center console, behind the wireless charging pad and center stack, where the climate control and infotainment display rest. The caramel-colored leatherette upholstery is quality stuff and doesn’t feel cheap, though the aluminum trim and faux woodgrain dash inserts don’t quite get a premium rating. Still, the dash top is soft, the driving position comfortable, and the controls mostly clearly labeled and well organized.

If you find yourself in the second row of an Atlas Cross Sport, you’ll praise the luxurious leg room and firm-but-comfortable bench seat. Two USB ports and climate system vents sit at the rear of the center console for second-row passengers, touches that we’re surprised aren’t standard in just about every four-door vehicle these days given how much they can improve the rear-seat experience. As you might expect, headroom is down very slightly from the standard Atlas to accommodate the fancy new roofline, but even six-footers will still have plenty of noggin space.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Engine & Performance

On the road, the Atlas’s turbo-four grunt is impressive and well controlled by the all-wheel-drive chassis. But despite somewhat sportier aesthetics, the Atlas still drives like an SUV built for Americans. None of that no-nonsense Teutonic road feel or steering precision here, it’s clear that the Atlas prioritizes comfort and isolation over any sporting pretenses. Volkswagen also sells the Atlas Cross Sport with a slightly more powerful 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine rated at 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft, but other than bragging rights there’s probably no good reason to spend more money—the turbo-four didn’t leave us wanting for motivation. Our only complaint about the powertrain was an occasional rough or sloppy shift from the 8-speed Tiptronic, which seemed to happen mostly at the start of trips, when fluids were still cold.

Is the Altas Cross Sport a better pick for your needs than the standard three-row Atlas? Consider that Cross Sport prices start at a full $1,000 less than the more family-oriented version and there’s no denying the rakish roof with its larger rear visor/spoiler and more aggressively slanted rear window do help transform the Atlas from a people-mover aesthetic to something more interesting. And undoubtedly, the Atlas Cross Sport will help bring a slightly different demographic into VW’s expanding SUV product line.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Pros

  • More interesting styling from VW’s largest U.S.-market passenger vehicle.
  • An increase in second-row legroom outweighs a slight loss of headroom.
  • Punchy turbo-four has all the power this two-ton SUV needs.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Sport Cross Cons

  • Interior materials are good, but not outstanding.
  • Slightly sloppy shifting when cold.
  • Near-$40,000 price tag for the SE version will have some shoppers at least considering other options.
2020 Volkswagen Sport Cross 2.0 SE w/Technology Package Specifications
ON SALENow
PRICE$38,865/$39,100 (base/as tested)
ENGINE2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/235 hp @ 4,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
LAYOUT4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE18/23 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H195.5 x 78.4 x 67.3 in
WHEELBASE117.3 in
WEIGHT4,288 lb
0-60 MPH7.5 sec (est)