Hollis Johnson Our Volkswagen Atlas SE test car.
Editorial note: Business Insider will name its 2017 Car of the Year on November 14 , based on 15 finalists. Each day this week, we're taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up. Thus far, the Acura TLX A-Spec , the McLaren 720S , the Lexus LC500h/LC500 , and the Chevrolet Bolt have been named runners-up. Today, we present the fifth and final runner-up, the Volkswagen Atlas.
- The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is a German take on the mid-size American crossover SUV.
- It's spacious, comfortable, and loaded with features.
- The infinitely practical Atlas marks a departure from VW's traditional strategy which focused on driving dynamics.
- The base VW Atlas start at $30,500; on par with its rivals from Ford and Toyota.
These days the saying in the auto business goes something along the lines of, "if you want to sell more cars, forget about cars and start churning out SUVs." Nowhere is that saying truer than in the US. In October, more than 40% of vehicles sold in the US were crossovers or SUVs. In fact, every segment of the crossover/SUV market has experienced sustained growth all the while passenger car sales have continued to slide.This brings us to Volkswagen, a brand whose business in the US is built on providing small, fun-to-drive cars like the Golf, the Beetle, the Jetta, and the Passat. So the fact that VW's sales in the US have plummeted by 26% since 2012 shouldn't be a surprise. (I'm also aware that VW's multi-billion dollar emission cheating scandal in 2015 also didn't help its cause.)
To be fair, Volkswagen has been selling SUVs in the US for more than a decade. Both the first generation Tiguan and the midsize Touareg were good cars. Sadly, the duo was simply too small and expensive to run with the big boys.
However, things are looking up for Volkswagen these days. Through October, the brand's US sales are up more than 9.4%, the bulk of the growth can be attributed to the arrival of the second-generation Tiguan crossover and the all-new seven-passenger Atlas.
Earlier this year, Business Insider spent a week with a top-of-the-line Atlas V6 SEL Premium with 4Motion all-wheel-drive that cost $49,000. We were so impressed with the Atlas that we brought it back for a second tour duty just to make sure we didn't miss anything. This time, we got our hands on a mid-grade Atlas V6 SE with 4Motion that cost a tad under $40,000. The base front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Atlas S starts at $30,500.
Here's a closer look at the new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.