The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is a versatile and stylish two-row midsize SUV with two capable engine options and an interior that is as modern as it is sleek. The Atlas Cross Sport is a modified version of the standard three-row VW Atlas, with more aggressive bodywork lending itself to a more authoritative presence on the road. The Atlas Cross Sport is powered either by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.6-liter version of the legendary Volkswagen VR6. Both options provide the power and efficiency required of a modern crossover SUV but offer customization potential depending on the exact needs and priorities of the buyer. Overall, the Atlas Cross Sport has plenty of good looks, and its sophistication runs more than skin deep.
Two Powertrain Options
The engines that power the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport have both been powering Volkswagen vehicles for quite some time. The two engines are the 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinders and the 3.6-liter VR6. In the case of the Atlas Cross Sport, the 2.0-liter is optimized more for efficiency, while the 3.6-liter VR6 is optimized for power. Both engines provide respectable capabilities in both areas, but depending on one’s own priorities, one engine will likely be a better fit than the other.
Both engines have significant history, especially the VR6. The VR6 is a unique engine developed to provide V6 power in applications where only an inline-four would fit. The result is a V6 with a shockingly narrow angle between the piston banks and a similarly shocking power to size ratio. The VR6 has increased in displacement dramatically over the years, and the unit now available to power the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is quite capable. Equipped with a tough iron block and a lightweight aluminum alloy head, this 3.6-liter VR6 makes 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The engine’s sports car-like dyno plot makes it easy to get relatively high efficiency out of this engine on the highway while still producing substantial power and torque at the top of the rev range.
Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter turbo engine has lived a more sedate lifestyle than the VR6, which has often been used for performance applications. The smaller inline-four is mainly meant to provide a comfortable and efficient ride and does so by matching small displacement with turbocharging. The 2.0-liter turbo might give more efficiency than its VR6 counterpart, but thanks to a stratospherically high 36-plus pounds of boost stuffed through its turbocharger, it is no performance slouch. In fact, the engine makes 235 horsepower and a very impressive 258 pound-feet of torque from a jaw-droppingly low 1600 RPM. This low-down grunt makes the Atlas Cross Sport capable of hurling itself off the line, even with its smaller engine option.
The transmission used in all 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport variants is the same 8-speed automatic, all with the same gear and final drive ratios. The large number of transmission speeds contributes to getting the most out of the Cross Sport’s engines, whether that be to stretch out a gallon of gas or get somewhere in a hurry. Additionally, the Atlas Cross Sport features an available AWD system for both engine options. The system in question is the 4MOTION permanent all-wheel drive. This highly capable system uses a clutch pack center differential, which can shift how much torque is used between the front and rear axles. No matter which Cross Sport trim or variant you choose, all of them offer the very latest of tried and true powertrains.
A Comfortable and High-Tech Interior
The look and feel of the Atlas Cross Sport’s interior is a step above the pack. The materials and design of the interior give the vehicle an air of professionalism and dignity that is uncommon in crossover SUVs. Through the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit system, the driver is presented with multiple large customizable screens to keep them informed and entertained. These infotainment displays include a digital instrument cluster and a ten-inch TFT display, with a total of 21 display modes. This swath of information can be cycled through or selected from intuitively and quickly, allowing the driver to maximize situational awareness with a minimum of effort.
The Cross Sport offers dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start capability, and a ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The front passenger seat is eight-way power-adjustable. Further interior features include a premium twelve speaker audio system developed and implemented by a collaboration between Fender and Panasonic. This powerful 480 watts twelve-channel system is accessed through the ten-inch TFT display, as well as through Bluetooth and voice recognition. The Cross Sport can also function as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is built on a unibody frame, which is lighter and better optimized for road use than the more traditional ladder body-on-frame SUV designs of old. The body and unibody frame are built from steel stampings throughout. The front and rear subframes, where the engine and suspension mounts are located, are solid-mounted, similar to racing vehicles. While this increases the driver’s ability to read the road surface, it could also lead to a harsher ride in most vehicles. The Cross Sport avoids this with precision suspension tuning, effectively providing the best of both worlds in some scenarios.
The Cross Sport’s suspension is meant to provide a smooth ride under a wide variety of conditions while at the same time curtailing unwanted body motion and giving the vehicle’s occupants a feeling of stability. The front suspension is of a standard strut type, with telescoping shock absorbers and an anti-sway bar to produce additional stability. The rear suspension is multi-link, with a similar shock and sway bar setup. While VW may not be a luxury brand like Audi, its vehicles still have the same German attention to detail and offer an enhanced driving experience.
The New Atlas Is a Solid Choice
The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is a mix of new ideas and solid underpinnings, from the inside out and the outside in. As a sportier-looking two-row alternative to the standard three-row Atlas, it succeeds in providing a look and feel that the more family-oriented vehicle does not while offering the same level of comfort and practicality.
The two different engine options each showcase their own strengths, and while both offer good power and economy, those with a priority for one or the other attribute will find something perfect for them. The 2.0-liter turbo engine is the more efficient option, but it doesn’t lack power. Its massive amount of turbo boost allows it to maintain power when on boost and produce huge amounts of torque low in the rev range. Meanwhile, the VR6 remains a high-revving legend, with sound and power more reminiscent of a classic sports car than a modern crossover. However, you will still find that it offers good fuel economy numbers for a midsize SUV engine.
The interior of the Atlas Cross Sport is modern, sharply finished, and professional. Comfort comes through a heavy dose of available technology and amenities, including a very powerful twelve-speaker sound system and an incredibly versatile infotainment system with large and instinctively operated screens. Overall, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport comes with the power, looks, and utility one would expect from a modern European midsize crossover.