Rental review - 2021 VW Atlas SE 3.6 4Motion. 702 miles & 19 hours 23 mins behind the wheel.

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So had a halloween trip to New England planned for a few months now. We are both lighthouse fans as well as Hocus Pocus (and general witchery) fans so planned a little US 1 driving getaway to start in Bangor, ME and end in Boston, MA with overnights in Bar Harbor, Portland and Boston with the goal of visiting as many lighthouses as feasible and stop in Salem in the short 74 hours we had. Outside of the flight, car and hotels not a single bit else of the trip was planned - we just found a good jumping off point (Cadillac Mountain) and be-bopped our way down the coast - final visit was Provincetown for lunch then back to Boston Logan to fly home.

Rental: 2021 VW Atlas SE VR6 4Motion

Powertrain: 3.6L VR6 - 276 HP and 266 lb/ft. 4Motion AWD - operates FWD but can shift up to 50% of power to rear as needed. The VR6 is still one smooth operator and nary any hint of vibration was felt, the auto really liked to lug the engine around so there was a little bit of droning when we were basically high idling around New England (35-40 MPH @ 1100-1200 RPM). VR6 puts out good numbers on paper but it is not any kind of speed demon and you definitely need to get the revs up for good forward progress, fortunately the VR6 sounds very nice all across the rev range so I was not too upset when it was singing along 4-5k RPM. VW needs to do something about that ultra low 1st gear, it made it nearly impossible to start off from a stop smoothly and even towards the end of the rental after plenty of wheel time I was still getting some herky jerky acceleration and I could not figure out any way to get it to start in 2nd gear (I didn't try snow mode though).

Fuel economy and cost:

Per EPA - 16/22 - 18 combined.
Per trip computer - 25.3 MPG
Per hand calcs - 23.5 MPG (not sure fuel level when started @ "full")

Fuel cost to drive 702 miles - $114.29
- 15.181 gallons 87 @ 3.699/gal
- 14.685 gallons 87 @ 3.959/gal

Not too terrible but competitors (Pilot, Highlander, etc.) have much better EPA ratings. With the VR6 feeling overtaxed as is combined with middling fuel economy this is one area VW needs to step up their game.

Interior/Comfort:

Here is where the Atlas shines. Interior is very spacious and sitting behind myself in 2nd row I had limo like legroom. Comfort was excellent and not once did my body complain about sitting in a car so long, dare I say these seats are better than Volvo? Interior is not very exciting, very VW generic but was decently high quality short of some expanses of hard plastic and that terrible plastic wood. No notable squeaks or rattles in this near 30k mile example even on some of the roughest gravel roads we encountered.

Handling/Ride:


Competent and drives much lighter and smaller than it really is. Despite its curb weight being very close to that of my ID.4 I hate to admit the Atlas just had more confidence inspiring handling and felt like it was much lighter on its feet. Ride quality was quite good and it did an excellent job of filtering out some of the terrible Massachusetts roads we had to traverse and it did great on the few gravel roads we took it down as well.

Overall:

If I had to do another longish driving trip the Atlas would be near the very top of my list because of the comfort aspect and because it was so easy to operate and live with for a few days, I can see why these are so popular with families. I have always had a soft spot for Volkswagens and always craved the VR6 since the MKIV Jetta/Golf days so getting the Atlas for this trip was just icing on the cake to get to make the VR6 sing for a couple days and get an extended Atlas test drive. That fuel economy though - if I was doing a long cross country I don't know if I could stomach that gas bill.


Atlas taking a break on the drive up to Cadillac Mountain.
IMG_6246.jpg



Atlas @ Lobster Point Lighthouse in Ogunquit, ME.
IMG_6316.jpg


Atlas @ Niles Point Beach - Gloucester, MA. (Only parked long enough for pics - did not ignore the resident permit sign....well kind of did).
IMG_6319.jpg
 
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glad you had a safe enjoyable trip! i too like VW,s 200 thou on my 2001 1.8T jetta 35 mpg when stock + 30 with a 100 xtra HP!!! a great car for over 10 years + NO rust, retired now with a fun 2001 TT 225Q roadster 25 mpg not stock + my work truck a 2011 fronty SV that averages 19 mpg, all vehicles manuals of course!!
 
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2.0T is a much better option.
I was considering VR6 in 2018, but here at this altitude, it just felt anemic. They did not have 4Motion 2.0T back then.
Last year I drove 2.0T, and it is much more potent and handles better, too bcs. less weight in front.
But, of family SUV's, nothing comes close to it utility-wise.
 

TiGeo

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I have an '18 SEL 4Mo 3.6 we bought new so going on 5 years soon, been a great family hauler. The interior is huge and the third row is v. useable by adults. The motor is fine to me and the mpgs for around-town use are abysmal but so are many larger family vehicles in that use case; our Atlas is about the same w/r to mags as our '06 Honda Odyssey. Highway I regularly see mid-20s with ACC and speed-limit driving. Spot on with the interior materials....a bit too much hard plastic going on is about my only gripe.
 

pezzy84

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Atlanta, GA
2.0T is a much better option.
I was considering VR6 in 2018, but here at this altitude, it just felt anemic. They did not have 4Motion 2.0T back then.
Last year I drove 2.0T, and it is much more potent and handles better, too bcs. less weight in front.
But, of family SUV's, nothing comes close to it utility-wise.

I'd be curious to see how the 2.0T would do fuel economy wise on same circuit, I bet the MFD would be pushing 28-29 MPG.

I have an '18 SEL 4Mo 3.6 we bought new so going on 5 years soon, been a great family hauler. The interior is huge and the third row is v. useable by adults. The motor is fine to me and the mpgs for around-town use are abysmal but so are many larger family vehicles in that use case; our Atlas is about the same w/r to mags as our '06 Honda Odyssey. Highway I regularly see mid-20s with ACC and speed-limit driving. Spot on with the interior materials....a bit too much hard plastic going on is about my only gripe.

I can only imagine an Atlas on a full on city commute, this trip was painful enough getting higher than highway EPA estimates. I can understand the gripes about gas tank size in the reviews, you can pretty much watch the gas gauge move on this thing and it could really use a couple extra gallons.
 
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I'd be curious to see how the 2.0T would do fuel economy wise on same circuit, I bet the MFD would be pushing 28-29 MPG.



I can only imagine an Atlas on a full on city commute, this trip was painful enough getting higher than highway EPA estimates. I can understand the gripes about gas tank size in the reviews, you can pretty much watch the gas gauge move on this thing and it could really use a couple extra gallons.
I think mpg depends greatly on the driver. My wife gets 29-31mpg on why in Tiguan, I get 21 :)
 
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Apr 7, 2004
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NJ
2.0T is a much better option.
I was considering VR6 in 2018, but here at this altitude, it just felt anemic. They did not have 4Motion 2.0T back then.
Last year I drove 2.0T, and it is much more potent and handles better, too bcs. less weight in front.
But, of family SUV's, nothing comes close to it utility-wise.

I wish the higher trims would have the 2.0t. But from what I see they only come with the 6 cyl. I would consider it when time comes to replace our Q5 as some more room would be nice. I average 31-32 consistantly on road trips with the Q5 and the VW's mileage would be tough to take. I am on a 560 mile trip currently and did 32.5 mpg hand calculated.
 
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I wish the higher trims would have the 2.0t. But from what I see they only come with the 6 cyl. I would consider it when time comes to replace our Q5 as some more room would be nice. I average 31-32 consistantly on road trips with the Q5 and the VW's mileage would be tough to take. I am on a 560 mile trip currently and did 32.5 mpg hand calculated.
They did. But chip shortage messed that up, so they limited SEL Premium to VR6 now.
I think Q5 has ZF8 transmission. That will work much better mpg wise than Aisin.
 
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It has the dual clutch transmission. Yes it is more efficient in every way. I would like a little more room but dont want to spend Q7 money. I could probably live with the plastics and such materials used in the interior but the base radio's sound awful, hence the need for the higher trim...
 

pezzy84

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I wish the higher trims would have the 2.0t. But from what I see they only come with the 6 cyl. I would consider it when time comes to replace our Q5 as some more room would be nice. I average 31-32 consistantly on road trips with the Q5 and the VW's mileage would be tough to take. I am on a 560 mile trip currently and did 32.5 mpg hand calculated.
Oh you would never see anything that close in an Atlas 2.0T - your Q5 Quattro gets 23/29/25 vs Atlas 2.0T 4Motion 20/24/22. Maybe if you are just moseying on with cruise set at 45MPH you might see that. :ROFLMAO:

It has the dual clutch transmission. Yes it is more efficient in every way. I would like a little more room but dont want to spend Q7 money. I could probably live with the plastics and such materials used in the interior but the base radio's sound awful, hence the need for the higher trim...

I never realized they put the DSG in the Q5. VW makes a great DSG but I have to say I'm not a huge fan, yeah the lightning fast shifts are great but the lag from a stop while it eases off the clutch was just maddening. Not very good for light trail duty because of computer controlled clutches you can't modulate. See below Taos 4Motion review that does not paint the DSG/4Motion combo in a good light.

Taos 4Motion Offroad
 
Joined
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Messages
17,022
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Colorado Springs
It has the dual clutch transmission. Yes it is more efficient in every way. I would like a little more room but dont want to spend Q7 money. I could probably live with the plastics and such materials used in the interior but the base radio's sound awful, hence the need for the higher trim...
I didn’t know current one has DSG. My CC would return 36-37mpg on hwy with DSG. This Aisin junk in Tiguan can see 30+mpg only if I push it down Pikes Peak, using shortcut :).
 
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Austin, TX MSA
Why not drive the iD4?
I really liked keeping my parents' ID.4 for a week while they were out of town but the Pro S trim they bought for the larger battery is $48K MSRP, I believe. The Atlas SE with Technology is about $8-$10K less, you can buy a lot of gas for that.
 
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Why not drive the iD4?

I do frequent road trips in the Q5. NJ to FLa and dont want the hassle of waiting to charge. Usually stop in Georgia about 800 miles in a day. With the Q 5 that is just 1 gas stop, we drive about 11 hours first day to arrive in West Palm beach around 2pm. I cant see doing that with electric. I dont want the headache of looking and waiting for a charge. Until charge time comes down dramatically I or they stop making ICE I dont see electrics in my future. Also the interiors are usually a mess, A big tablet stuck on the dash! Its not what I like in a car. No thank you.
 
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OH
2.0T is a much better option.
I was considering VR6 in 2018, but here at this altitude, it just felt anemic. They did not have 4Motion 2.0T back then.
Last year I drove 2.0T, and it is much more potent and handles better, too bcs. less weight in front.
But, of family SUV's, nothing comes close to it utility-wise.
What happened to your Sienna? I haven't been on here much lately so may have missed something.
 
Joined
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Messages
17,022
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Colorado Springs
What happened to your Sienna? I haven't been on here much lately so may have missed something.
Sold in May. Banked on current prices, plus needed front suspension, brakes, and eventually, tailgate, which runs $3500-4000.
Ordered new one bcs. minvan+hybrid, but I am keeping an eye on new Honda Pilot.
 
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