Two for the cost of one. It’s Volkswagen‘s new doubling-up strategy to get more variants per platform to give customers more choice, and it costs VW less to do so.
The first test is the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport midsize crossover, a five-passenger version of the larger seven-seat Atlas. It’s the same tactic Honda used with the Passport, which is a shortened version of the Pilot.
VW will do the same thing in the compact SUV space with plans to slot another crossover below the Tiguan. So far the strategy is only being applied to SUVs as that’s where the volume and profits are. The Atlas was VW’s third-best seller in the U.S. in 2018 after the Tiguan and Jetta (yes, a car).
The smaller 2020 Atlas Cross Sport was revealed at an event at the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it is built alongside the Atlas. VW spent $340 million to add the smaller CUV and says it was the fastest vehicle the North American arm has ever done. It goes on sale in the first quarter of 2020 with eight trim levels to choose from.
“Building off the success of the Atlas seven-seater midsize SUV, we see an opportunity for a five-seater model that offers even more style and almost as much interior space,” said Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.
There are two engine choices: the 276-hp, 266-lb-ft 3.6-liter V-6 and the 235-hp, 258-lb-ft turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder TSI engine. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available even with the turbo-four, which is something the larger Atlas doesn’t offer. The V-6 can tow 5,000 pounds with an available towing package.
The Atlas Cross Sport is 2.8 inches shorter than the Atlas and 2.3 inches lower to give it a more coupe-like design with almost as much interior space by retaining the same 117.3-inch wheelbase and same width. There is 111.8 cubic feet of passenger space, with 40.3 cu-ft of luggage space behind the second-row seats and 77.8 cu-ft with the second row folded. Rear seat passengers have 40.4 inches of legroom.
The family resemblance is there but the Atlas Cross Sport gets new lighting up front that extends the width of the center bar of the three-bar chrome grille, between the hood and more aggressive bumper. The rear pillar and hatch are more raked than on the Atlas and the rear lights are also different. R-Line trims have a more sculpted bumper, more chrome and piano black trim, and available 21-inch wheels.
The 2021 Atlas Cross Sport’s Interior
The interior was also upgraded with a new steering wheel, optional wireless charging, heated rear seats and steering wheel, ventilated front seats and a Fender audio system. Higher trim levels offer a digital cockpit. Car-Net includes an updated mobile app and increased connectivity for starting and locking the car remotely, locating where it’s parked, checking the fuel level, and sending destinations to the navigation system. Later this year Car-Net will connect to smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, so Alexa, for example, can check how much gas you have. Connect up to four devices to Car-Net Hotspot for internet access.
In terms of safety, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, and Rear Traffic Alert are standard across the lineup. Higher trims add adaptive cruise control and some parking assistance.
Two new driver assistance features debut on the Cross Sport. One is Traffic Jam Assist to safely inch along at speeds up to 37 mph, bring the vehicle to a full stop, and restart again if traffic moves within 3 seconds. If longer, a tap of the gas pedal or the “Resume” button on the steering wheel will get the car going again if adaptive cruise and lane keep are active.
The second new system is dynamic road sign display that augments the navigation system; displaying speed limits, no-passing zones, school zones and work zones as detected by the car’s cameras and data.
The Chattanooga Assembly Plant’s 3,800 employees also build the Passat and Volkswagen plans to invest another $800 million to make small electric vehicles in the future.