Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: VW takes a new slant with its Atlas Cross Sport

Photos at the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach by Howard Walker.
Luxury Living Tampa Bay

Slanty-back crossovers are hot right now. Why drive a box on wheels when you can pilot an SUV with a roofline that looks like it came off a sports coupe? 

So what if that swoopy tail reduces load space and rear-seat headroom? It looks good. And different. And sets you apart from the cubist 4×4 crowd.

BMW pretty much created the segment with its X6 cross-coupe; Mercedes wasn’t far behind with the GLC and GLE Coupes. Audi recently introed its Q8 while Porsche has a new coupe Cayenne.

Until now, however, crossover coupes — or better still coupeovers — have been the domain of high-end luxury brands. 

But now Volkswagen is shaking things up with a coupe version of its Chattanooga-built Atlas seven-seater, called the Atlas Cross Sport. Prices start at just over $30-grand, though the versions you’d want go for closer to $50,000.

While you’d lose the regular Atlas in a parking lot — I swear its styling was inspired by a Maytag refrigerator-freezer — this new Cross Sport has, yes, personality.

It’s not dramatically different than the regular seven-seat Atlas. Around six inches have been chopped from the overall length, while the roofline is 2.2 inches lower. The wheelbase, however, stays the same at 117  inches.

But angling back that rear window makes the Atlas look like it just came from the gym, all slimmed down and beefed up. I like it.

A casualty of the Cross Sport’s sportier rump is that the third row seats have been jettisoned. As a new five-seater, however, it’s suddenly become a stellar people-carrier.

Slide into the back and there’s now more legroom than a stretch limo. It’s huge. Take out a tape measure and you’ll see a sprawling 41 inches of kneeroom. Cross your legs, stretch out, tap your feet to a country beat.

And it gets better. The new rear seats now recline for even more comfort. I tell you, this is business-class travel at its best. 

Even with that more angled rear, the Cross Sport is still a terrific load-carrier. Flip forward that split rear seat and there’s a whopping 77.8 cubic feet of load space. There are New York condos with less room.

Take your pick from a punchy 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder packing 235-hp, or a silky-smooth 3.6-liter V6 with 276-hp. Both come mated to an eight-speed automatic. 

Front-wheel drive is standard, though it’s worth spending the extra $1,900 for the peace of mind and extra traction of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive. 

Despite the “Sport” in the Cross Sport badge, don’t expect too much sporty performance or agile, nimble handling. Its suspension is pretty much identical to that of the regular, rug-rat-hauling Atlas, so the priority is smoothness, safety and refinement.

My tester was a Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium — $48,095 nicely-loaded — which sits pretty much at the top of the Cross Sport range. 

With V6 power, the sprint from green light to 60mph takes an OK-not-great 7.5 seconds, but there’s enough pep on hand to zip past slower traffic and merge easily with the freeway rush. 

And its German heritage means the steering is precise and nicely weighted, the handling safe and predictable, the ride comfy and quiet.

But what’s up with the fuel economy? Even with gas at under $2 a gallon, the Cross Sport V6’s 16-city and 22 highway average is mediocre.

As for the model lineup, it kicks off with the base S, then there’s SE, and SEL with a multitude of option packs like Technology and R-Line. 

For me the V6 R-Line is the one to have, with its cool-looking 21-inch rims, bolder front end, and extra chrome.

It’s definitely the sportiest-looking Cross Sport. Worthy even of being called the Cross Sport Sport. Or maybe not.

Take a spin in the new Atlas Cross Sport at Kuhn Volkswagen of Tampa, Reeves Volkswagen in Tampa, Lokey Volkswagen of Clearwater, or Brandon Volkswagen.

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