Although the VW Atlas debuted relatively recently, for the 2018 model year, it's already getting a pretty big refresh - some might even call it a redesign. The front and rear fascias each have a whole new look that adds about 3 inches to the vehicle's overall length, with a new grille and headlight design. The interior changes include updates to the stitching on the seats, the steering wheel, and the infotainment system. VW has also expanded all-wheel drive availability to the four-cylinder versions, whereas it was previously limited to the six-cylinder models.


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Powertrain and Mechanical Specs


Volkswagen likes to give its buyers a lot of choices, and as such there are eight trim levels for the 2021 Atlas: the S, SE, SE with Technology, SE with Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line. The trims that get the base four-cylinder turbocharged engine are the S and SE, front-wheel drive SE with Technology, and all-wheel drive SEL and SEL Premium; its output is 235 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The remaining versions receive a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 276 hp and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Front-wheel drive comes standard, most New England drivers opt for the available AWD.


Amenities by Trim Level


The base trim, the S, gets LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, a second-row bench seat that allows for a total of 8 passengers. The SE adds a lot of amenities: keyless entry, keyless ignition, auto temperature control with three zones, a power liftgate, heated front seats, durable and easy-to-clean leatherette seating, and a wireless device charger. The SE with Technology also gets a hands-free liftgate, remote start, and 20-inch wheels, plus it's eligible for a panoramic sunroof and the optional second-row captain's chairs, which would increase comfort for those passengers while limiting occupancy to seven. Buyers of the V6 versions can add a towing upgrade (maximum trailered capacity is 5,000 pounds). The R-Line offshoot of this trim will also come with some aesthetic changes, including track-inspired interior accents, a trim-specific bumper and lower door trim, and dark-grey wheels.


The SEL gets the pano sunroof as standard, along with a heated steering wheel, driver's seat and exterior mirror memory, and a power front passenger's seat; V6 models of this trim also get the towing upgrade. The SEL R-Line gets the typical sporty R-Line cosmetic upgrades as well as 21-inch wheels. The SEL Premium ups the comfort factor with leather seating, heated second-row outboard seats, ventilated front-row seats, and ambient interior lighting. The SEL Premium R-Line mixes the SEL Premium's comfort features with the SEL R-Line's flashier look inside and out.


Safety and Technology Features


Volkswagen has put a lot of state-of-the-art active safety features into the various trim levels of the 2021 Atlas. The base S gets a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with auto emergency braking, and a backup camera. The SE with Technology also gets adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors, while the SEL adds adaptive headlights and lane departure warning. As expected, the SEL Premium gets the most technology, adding an automatic parking system and a 360-degree monitor.


Everyone needs their connectivity and entertainment, and even the lowest '21 Atlas trims are set up very well to supply this. The infotainment system in the S trim gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six speakers, VW's Car-Net app suite, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The SE improves things with an 8-inch touchscreen with voice recognition and USB ports for the middle row. The SEL also gets navigation, and the SEL Premium gets the ultimate audio setup, a premium 12-speaker Fender system.

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