Like most automobile manufacturers, Volkswagen has expanded its lineup of utility vehicles to meet consumer demand. Crossovers and SUVs have overtaken hatchbacks and sedans as the most sought-after vehicle segments. You might say that VW two largest offerings, the Atlas and the slightly smaller Atlas Cross Sport, are as different as they are similar. While they use the same powertrain, they have distinct personalities and configurations. The three-row Atlas is popular with families who like to hit the road in comfort, while the two-row Atlas Cross Sport is preferred by outdoorsy types who may not have as many passengers on a regular basis. This rugged vehicle is back for its second model year, but that doesn't mean it's experiencing any kind of sophomore jinx. Improvements this time around include new driver-assist technologies and an updated infotainment system with additional features on most trim levels.

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Powertrain and Features


There are eight trim levels of the 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport: the S, SE, SE with Technology, SE with Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line. The first two are only eligible for the base powertrain, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 235 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. While it's also the standard engine for the SE with Technology, SEL, and SEL Premium, those trims can be upgraded with a 3.6-liter V6 (276 hp and 266 lb.-ft. of torque), which all of the R-Line trims come with. The transmission across the board is an eight-speed automatic, and front-wheel drive is standard on most trims. All-wheel drive is an option for everything but the SEL and SEL Premium, which come only with AWD. 

As the base trim, the S gets a lot of great features, highlighted by automatic LED headlights, heated exterior mirrors, LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, roof rails, three 12-volt power outlets, USB ports, and a split-folding second-row seat. The SE adds heated front seats, automatic climate control with two zones, push-button start, a power tailgate, a power-adjustable driver's seat, more USB ports, and simulated leather (V-Tex) upholstery. The SE with Technology receives 20-inch wheels, remote start, a hands-free tailgate, and a 115-volt power outlet; the SE with Technology R-Line is similarly equipped, but with R-Line badging and bumpers.

Even more luxury touches grace the SEL: heated windshield washer nozzles, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, adaptive headlights, ambient interior lighting, and Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit. The SEL R-Line also gets those features along with R-Line specific  bumpers and badges, 21-inch wheels, all-weather lighting with low-speed corner illumination, and a factory trailer hitch (the maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds). The SEL Premium goes back to 20-inch wheels but does not get the trailer hitch, although it's sweetened up with cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and power-folding exterior mirrors. The SEL Premium R-Line is the top-shelf version, getting the trailer hitch and two-tone 21-inch wheels, plus the expected R-Line treatment on the badging and bumpers.


Safety and Technology


VW's IQ.Drive package of active safety technologies comes standard, adding forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. The SE with Technology R-Line and above trims also get a park distance control function with maneuver braking, while the SEL and remaining levels receive automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, dynamic road sign display, lane keeping assist, and the two new technologies alluded to in the intro: emergency assist (which brings the vehicle to a full stop if the driver is incapacitated) and travel assist (which enables partially automated driving below 95 mph). The SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line are equipped with a top-down overhead monitoring system.

The base infotainment system uses a 6.5-inch screen to control its features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and the audio system. Features that are added at the SE level include an 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and hi-def radio, wireless smartphone integration, voice recognition, and Volkswagen Car-Net connected car services. Navigation and a premium Fender audio system are found on the SEL Premium and above.

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