2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL R-Line new car reviews

The Atlas Cross Sport looks to be Volkswagen's take on an aggressive, sportier-looking version of its full-sized Atlas SUV. In the process, the Cross Sport loses its third row but gains a sharper-looking rear roofline.

The same powerplants that can be had in the regular Atlas—a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four and a 3.6-liter V6—are also available in the Cross Sport, with our upper-middle SEL R-Line tester fitted with the V6.

To find out what it was like to drive, read our driving impressions below.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The Cross Sport variant of the MQB-based VW Atlas loses the third row that the regular Atlas comes equipped with but somehow produced a very different-feeling, far better driving vehicle.

Look, all MQB-based VWs feel great. It’s kind of a miracle that VW can adopt that chassis architecture for everything from the smallest subcompacts to the largest SUVs and produce driver-centric machines of any configuration, but the regular Atlas seems to stretch the limits of the chassis when driven back-to-back with the Cross Sport. If you really, really need that third row of seats, I suppose the full-size Atlas is a worthy choice, but lopping some meat off the back really turns the Cross Sport into a satisfying driver.

It feels a little weird to get excited about driving an SUV, but VW managed to turn the Cross Sport into something worthy of the hype, and it starts with a fantastic driving position and great seats. The driver controls the car from a position that’s not quite fully sporty, not quite utilitarian, but can aptly be called “commanding.” Driving the Cross Sport five miles gives you the impression that driving it 500 miles would not be a punishment, and hustling it along a back road doesn’t feel one bit out of sorts. It’s really an impressive achievement when you get out of the vehicle and see its size and shape and realize “Wow, I was just driving THAT!?! That’s a big wagony truck deal. I thought it was a sports sedan of some sort.”

Lopping off some material also seems to have given the Cross Sport’s powertrain less to worry about. The automatic transmission in our test car hunted less than it did in the three-row Atlas, although it always seemed to be a little overly aggressive in upshifting as early as possible. Switching into Sport mode helps, but a little too much sometimes holding gears longer than you’d like for daily driving. Still, at some point after a few drives, your foot adapts and it becomes less noticeable.

The bottom line is that VW has some legit mechanical magic with the MQB chassis. It makes everything it touches a rewarding driving experience, even if it’s a format not known for being a driver’s car.

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