Atlas flexes muscles with Chattanooga-made crossover [photos, video]

Atlas flexes muscles with Chattanooga-made crossover [photos, video]

April 14th, 2017 by Mark Kennedy in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 4/13/17. Chattanooga Times Free Press’s Mark Kennedy test drives the all new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL premium V6 SUV during a Media preview of the new vehicle at the Chattanooga VW manufacturing plant on Thursday, April 13, 2017.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Atlas flexes muscles with Chattanooga-made crossover

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POLL: Would you consider buying a VW Atlas?

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WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ATLAS:

Cars.com — "Those who constantly carry passengers will appreciate the thought and family oriented details found throughout the cabin."

Motor Trend — "It should be called the 'AtLast' because it's a good decade and a half overdue. Its styling is inoffensive but also devoid of any family resemblance to other VW products."

Car & Driver — "Volkswagen's all-new, three-row crossover, with room for up to seven, is finally here — and it's worth the wait."

Autoblog.com — "VW needed a credible entry into the seven-passenger crossover segment, and now it has one. But the company didn't break any ground in the process."

New York Daily News — "From our short stint behind the wheel (of the Atlas) the competition better be on the lookout, as the latest seven-passenger people mover has got a loaded barrel of goods."

Edmunds.com — "From what we've seen so far Volkswagen's forthcoming three-row SUV has the goods to challenge the top contenders in the midsize class."

Automobile — " The Atlas is designed to compete. Aesthetially, it looks rough and ready with broad, chiseled lines, a blunt snout, and a creased character line along each side that emphasizes its rugged appearance."

The new, Chattanooga-made Volkswagen Atlas SUV is almost ready to hit the road.

Landing in dealerships next month, the seven-passenger crossover made its local debut Thursday with a rollout for Chattanooga media.

Arriving at a time when VW needs a hit to bolster sales, the Atlas slots into one of the hottest — and most profitable — segments in the automotive marketplace: mid-sized, three-row SUVs.

"It is going to be a home run for Volkswagen and Chattanooga," says Jeremy Holsomback, general manager of Village Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

Holsomback said he expects his dealership to get its first wave of Atlas SUVS in mid-May.

Some have criticized VW for waiting so long to develop a made-for-America SUV that combines the bigger dimensions and value pricing that domestic buyers crave. Motor Trend magazine has dubbed the Atlas the "AtLast," because "it's a good decade and a half overdue."

The Atlas is 7.5 inches longer and much bigger inside than the VW Touareg, which until now has been Volkswagen's largest SUV. It will compete alongside the popular Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander, although it is several inches longer than both of those vehicles.

Michael Fetter, a manager on the launch team at the VW plant here, said the Atlas, which has more interior cargo space than the Explorer, was designed with the North American market in mind.

"Big vehicles are big in America," he said, noting that the third row in the Atlas is large enough to accommodate two six-foot-tall passengers.

VW managers acknowledge that they are fortunate to be launching the Atlas during a period of relatively low gas prices when consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for family-size SUVs.

Volkswagen's Touareg crossover, a highly refined, European-style SUV, starts at just under $50,000, while the much bigger Atlas has a base price of just $31,425.

That price imbalance is expected to jump-start Atlas sales. The sweet spot for well-equipped Atlas' is likely to be in the low $40,000s.

Automotive journalists have noted that the Atlas, while not a groundbreaking product, includes many of the best features of the major competitors in the mid-size segment: ample cargo space (almost 100 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down), available all-wheel-drive, a raft of safety-tech features and a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines.

There are no immediate plans to build a diesel version of the Atlas, company officials said Thursday, as VW continues to try to repair its image after an emissions scandal last year involving diesel vehicles.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.