Cars are irrational purchases, made in the heat of the moment, out of jealousy, or in the name of happiness. Out of all the cars on sale, the ones that make the least amount of sense are coupe-like SUVs. These high-riding vehicles have the same designs as two-door sports cars. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. They trade in all of the qualities that make SUVs great in the name of design.
This is my second encounter with the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. The first time around, I found that as confusing as coupe-inspired SUVs are, it made sense. That was with a model fitted with the V6 engine. For the second time around, VW let me test out an SUV with a four-cylinder engine. The week was filled with a lot of questions.
For those not in the know, the Atlas Cross Sport is the sportier version of the regular Atlas. It’s not sportier in the traditional sense. It has the same powertrains as the Atlas, but it crucially has a sloped roof design for a sportier look. Whether it works is subjective. Ask me, and the answer is: sure?
The Atlas Cross Sport we got to test for a week was a 2.0T SEL trim with all-wheel drive. The SUV carried a price tag of $43,315 with the mandatory destination fee, marking the middle of the Cross Sport lineup.
Sure, you could go higher, but the SEL trim comes well-equipped. You’re getting heated front seats, 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette upholstery, and VW’s IQ.Drive set of safety features.
Beyond the blunt rear end, the Atlas Cross Sport retains the same muscular, conservative design as the regular Atlas. The rakish roofline does add a kick of paprika, but the SUV could use something with heat, like cayenne. Still, over the Atlas, which is a bit of a snooze fest, the Atlas Cross Sport isn’t nearly as boring. Still, we can’t help but feel like it needs something more.
The Atlas Cross Sport looks so big and bold that the 20-inch wheels look tiny on the SUV. If someone told me they were 18s, I wouldn’t question it. There’s a modest amount of chrome littered throughout the body, including on the grille, badges, window surround, roof rails, rear bumper, and liftgate. On a sporty SUV like the Atlas Cross Sport, the chrome works, as does the subdued Pure Gray paint job.
As far as personal opinions go, the Atlas Cross Sport isn’t the ugliest coupe-inspired SUV on the market. That must be some kind of win.
Once again, there are a lot of similarities between the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. Seriously, from the front seats, they’re almost nearly identical. Where the Atlas Cross Sport shows its differences are in the second row and behind. The sloping roofline eats into rear headroom and, unlike the regular SUV, there’s no third row of seats. Despite the design, the second row still offers plenty of space for adults. Especially in the legroom department, where there’s 40.4 inches — roughly 3 inches more than the three-row Atlas.
Anyone familiar with a VW product will feel right at home in the Atlas Cross Sport. The interior is straightforward, if a bit drab. The seats have an odd blue insert on them, as well as a faux carbon fiber print on the bolsters. I’m sure VW’s designers thought these things liven the Atlas Cross Sport’s interior up, but they look odd. Kind of like a last-ditch effort to appease one designer. In addition to looking a little strange, materials aren’t that nice. This doesn’t really feel like a budget-friendly version of other coupe-inspired SUVs on the market. It just feels budget-friendly.
One would assume that the rakish roof digs into cargo capacity. While that is true, it’s not like you’re losing a lot of space by choosing the Atlas Cross Sport. There’s 40.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and a total of 77.8 cubic feet of space. Those are some impressive figures for a midsize SUV. For people that still want an SUV to do SUV things with, the Atlas Cross Sport will fit the bill.
The Atlas Cross Sport weighs over 4,000 pounds, so it’s not exactly a featherweight. With that kind of girth, there’s a good reason as to why other midsize SUVs don’t even bother with a four-cylinder engine and cut straight to the point with a V6.
VW offers the Atlas Cross Sport with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 276 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. These aren’t large decreases compared to the V6’s output of 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, but the four-cylinder struggles to get the Atlas Cross Sport down the road in anything other than a leisurely pace. The SUV is available with FWD and AWD, though opting for the latter doesn’t bring any major benefits that you’ll feel regularly.
Handling wise, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport isn’t as sporty as its design lets on. It’s big and physics can’t be ignored. Still, the Atlas Cross Sport has a nice enough ride with its 20-inch wheels, while the steering wheel has a hefty weight to it. It wouldn’t hurt to see the Atlas Cross Sport come with some extra goodies. Upgraded suspension, firmer brakes, and better tires would go a long way to having a harmonious feel with the design.
Honestly, I’m not sure why you would buy a coupe-inspired SUV. But if you were to buy one, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport makes the most sense. The way the SUV looks will probably play a large role in your decision and, I can only assume, that you’re into the whole sporty SUV thing. In that case, do yourself a favor and spring for the V6 engine. It’s a much better fit for the Atlas Cross Sport.