While the LA Auto Show is not technically the first time we’ve seen the upcoming oh-finally-they-gave-it-a-name Volkswagen Atlas, it was the first time VW’s foray into the world of full-sized three-row crossovers was on display for more than a select few media guests.
It may have been one of the worst-kept secrets in the automotive world around the LA show, but it nevertheless made its entry with a ‘bang,’ appearing on-stage finished in a yellow that would look at home on a vehicle from VAG’s Lamborghini division.
To top it all off, once the steam cleared, out stepped none other than ex-Los Angeles Lakers players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, in an effort to showcase just how much room was in back of VW’s latest.
It’s an important reveal for Volkswagen, as not only is it a popular segment that VW’s never really been a player in, but the brand desperately needs to deflect attention away from Dieselgate as much as possible.
“We want to be a totally relevant player in the core vehicle segments,” said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North America.
That’s a nice goal to have, but this is a segment that’s hotly contested by a number of veteran players such as the Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, and Toyota Highlander. It’s one that’s been heating up even more lately due to freefalling gas prices, and you have to wonder what that landscape’s going to look like when the Atlas drops late next year as a 2018 model.
Speaking of fuel and Dieselgate: it should come as no surprise that no diesel engine has been announced for the Atlas. Instead, two gas engines will be available at launch: a 238-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-four; and a 280-horsepower VR6. Only the latter gets 4MOTION AWD, though, which is a risky proposition since four-banger power and AWD is a combination offered by the competition.
Having said that, a three-row Tiguan will also be making its way across the pond, and it is available with AWD and four-cylinder power in markets where it’s currently sold, which will provide an alternative to the Atlas.
In the looks department, while there’s some derivative styling namely in how certain aspects of the Atlas recall the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the headlight lenses and chrome honeycomb grille – not to mention that yellow paint – are distinctive features. Still, the Atlas definitely leans toward the more conservative side, but then that’s kind of VW’s modus operandi when it comes to styling.
Inside, things get better thanks to a digital gauge cluster – that’s a VW first – silvery Fender audio speakers, and some pleasing shades of leather, including a gorgeous baseball glove-like brown. There’s also a 9.2-inch display screen with gesture control capabilities.
The second row can either be captain’s chairs or a bench seat, and they slide and tilt forward like the items in the Pathfinder to access the third row. If said third row is not required, then the seats fold completely flat for an easily-loadable cargo bay.
Prices have yet to be announced, but expect to see something closer to the Q3 2017 release date.
Also on display at the VW booth was an updated version of the E-Golf, which is for the first time coming to Canada. The pure electric Golf gets an updated range of 125 miles as well as new front bumpers, fenders, and headlights of the style soon to spread across the rest of the Golf lineup.
The electric motor itself has also been improved, and it now makes 134 horsepower, 19 more than the previous version. Torque is up 15 lb-ft, to 214.
Inside, a digital gauge cluster and gesture control are the chief additions, although gesture control hasn’t been fully implemented yet.
Expect the E-Golf, Volkswagen Canada’s first all-electric vehicle, in Canadian showrooms in mid-2017.