2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL – Re-Driven, Front Wheels Only

2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL: the biggest and brawniest of VW SUVs gains more assertive nose and new VW emblem for a mid-cycle refresh.

WHEN THE LOVE FOR LIL’ BUG WENT BUST:  Americans learned to love their Volkswagens sized Mammoth.

REASON FOR RE-DRIVE: Enter the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas.  A 3-Row full size American made for American tastes crossover sport utility vehicle more assertive cues and new emblem to ensure it remains a close number two on VW’s U.S. charts [after Tiguan].

Driving Hits:

  • Deep lungs & silky sound of single overhead bent VR-6 engine
2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL: Unique single head over the narrow angel V6 engine block.
  • 8-speed torque converter automatic transaxle
  • Useful ground clearance
  • 465 miles highway range
  • Observed fuel economy +23% vs. 4Motion all-wheel drive model
  • Rides rigid MQB platform
  • Heaping helping of compliance
  • Eager braking
  • 20″ alloy wheels
  • Firmly weighted helm
  • Well insulated against external sounds

Driving Misses:

  • Touchy throttle
  • Transaxle releases low gears early on
  • 21 mpg fuel economy = -13% vs. base 2.0 turbo-4
  • Steering dilly dallies to inputs
  • Motorway lane wander
  • Body dive on braking
  • 255/50-20 Goodyear Assurance tires afford quiet at a slight cost to grip
  • Lacks all-terrain capability with all-season highway rubber

What It Has Got:

  • From $31,675 (incl. destination) for a front-drive 8-speed tiptronic automatic 2021 Volkswagen Atlas 2.0T S FWD. The tested 2020 VW Atlas 3.6 SEL FWD pumps the bottom line up to $43,315, but saving $1900 by foregoing all-wheel drive.
  • As mammoth as a crossover SUV gets
  • 3 Row seating for up to eight occupants
  • Row 3 access = easy peasy
  • Row 3 seating = two average sized adults roomy
2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL: Split bench 2nd Row slide and fold for peasy Row 3 access
  • Decent front seat bolstering
  • Immense cargo carrying
2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 : flat folding Row 2 & 3 seat backs & tall aperture = ginormous cargo capacity
  • 60:40 split 2nd Row, 50:50 split flat folding seat backs
  • Sub cargo floor storage
  • Universally comprehensible switchgear with bits of Bauhaus distinction
  • Above par standard feature set
    • Heated mirrors, front seats, headlamp washers
    • Keyless comfort entry, ignition
    • Cruise control
    • Power windows full express x 4
    • Bluetooth wireless communications and music stream
    • 6.5″-inch touch LCD infotainment display
    • 6 speaker audio
    • Inductive wireless device charging (SE trim and up)
    • Android Auto, AppleCar Play and MirrorLink phone projection
    • Wi-Fi
  • Good safety features & grades
    • IIHS Roof, side, driver small frontal overlap, occupant protection ratings = GOOD
  • Driver assist tech enhanced on lower trims
    • Forward Collision avoidance w/ pedestrian & cyclist detection braking, blind spot & rear cross traffic warning
      • Available adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, park distance warning, surround camera, and auto high beams (on higher trims)
  • 4 year / 50,000 miles bumper to bumper warranty includes 2 years maintenance

What It Has Not (or Not Preferred):

  • Lack of distinctive cabin finish in $40k vehicle
  • Corded rather than remote cable 3rd Row seat back release
  • No cargo bay remote 2nd Row seat back release
  • Short door pockets
  • 2nd Row seat heating only on top SEL Premium trim
  • Low cabin material contrast and excessive hard surfaces
  • Instrument panel illumination only adjustable via infotainment when parked
  • Digital Cockpit only on higher trims
  • Level 2 Driver autonomy only on SEL and SEL Premium trims
  • Lane departure warning too sensitive and barely nudges to correct
  • Traffic jam assist renders obsolete alerts
  • 2 years / 22k miles shorter warranty from 2019 MY

NEW for 2021 Volkswagen Atlas:

2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL: the biggest and brawniest of VW SUVs gains more assertive nose and new VW emblem for a mid-cycle refresh.
  • Exterior updates include:
    • More prominent “U” front bumper cover cradles new 3 chrome bar w/ dark chain-link grille the latter neatly tying bezeling for new twin segmented LED headlamp housings. Large piano black lower front corner duct bezels are split by a lower air dam intake under and outerscored in body color.
    • New split letter “VW” front and aft badge

Standout Cool Features on tested 2021 Atlas SEL FWD:

  • Digital Cockpit configurable LCD instrument cluster w/ navigation map
    • Road sign display
2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL: landscape orientation of native Navigation map in 10.2″ Digital Cockpit driver’s cluster and Android Auto’s Pandora music app in the 8.0″ touch infotainment display
  • 8.0″ Discover LCD HDD navigation infotainment display w/ proximity gesture settings menu
  • Panorama tilt and slide power moonroof
  • Proximity release power liftgate
  • 3-zone, including 2nd Row climate control
  • 115 VAC x 1 power outlet – Row 2
  • 10-way + 3 position / 8-way power adjust driver’s / front passenger seats
  • 2nd Row door sunshades
  • Heated steering
  • Rain sensing windshield wipers


2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL front-drive = People’s Car maker finally figured out what sunbelt Yanks want in their large sized family vehicle, gulping far fewer gallons without all-wheel drive.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

WHAT: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4-Motion 3- Row off-road capable, full-sized crossover sport utility vehicle.

Std. Power: transverse 2.0L DOHC 16V SI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 235 hp/ 258 lb-ft + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle

Opt. Power: transverse 3.6L DOHC 24V gas VR-6 w/ idle Start/ Stop = 276 HP/ 266 lb-ft + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + (opt.) Haldex PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Built on the versatile MQB modular platform, block-ier than the size-down Tiguan LWB, paying homage to the Audi Q7 Mk. 2 (now on the Audi-developed MLB matrix).

– Paper-airplane creased hood has three valleys; Bi-bar chrome lattice grille borders unify with light housing upper beam lower LED DRL split light assemblies to form single span; Tandem headlight cells are W-underlined by amber blinkers; Front bumper cover tugs back slightly at corners; Dark clad lower fascia, with center lattices, includes chromed corner fog-lamp housings, and simulated skid plate.

-Midline fender and rear quarter panel creases joined by cheat line crease; Lower door scoops blend into dark body cladding; High beltline rises to notable greenhouse kink at D-pillar; Subtle roof spoiler, outwardly canted liftgate for added space; Split wrap-around inverse L-shaped tail-light housings; Chrome band connecting taillamps embossed with “ATLAS” model designation; Lower rear dark clad fascia with faux skid plate insert houses dual tetrahedral corner chrome banded exhaust outlets and center tow bar.


An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan. Present ride: 2022 Mazda 3 Turbo AWD Hatchback.

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