For many of us, nothing was more humiliating than a trip to Sears to buy a new pair of jeans, only to find your parents taking you to the husky department, with pants that have larger waists and fuller legs to accommodate chunky children. Husky may seem like an innocuous word, but it verifies that you are overweight.
Good news: The new 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is the perfect vehicle for a nation clad in elastic-waist pants.
Built on the three-row Volkswagen Atlas SUV platform with which it shares its wheelbase, the Cross Sport is 5.2 inches shorter and 2.2 inches lower than the Atlas, but it’s just as wide.
In essence it’s a vehicle tailor-made for middle America; you’ll know that once you slide into the driver’s seat. The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport feels sprawling, with a broad hood, a massive windshield and a horizontally-themed dashboard that make it feel even wider. And because it lacks a third row, there’s more space for second-row legroom – a limo-like 40.4 inches – as well as a vast 40.3-cubic-foot cargo hold for your supersized lifestyle debris.
However, the Cross Sport sports a lower roof than the Atlas to give it a more athletic look, so second row headroom isn’t as generous, but is still quite ample.
Volkswagen offers the Atlas Cross Sport in eight trim levels — S, SE, SE w/ Technology, SE w/ Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line.
Interior accommodations have a functionally efficient esthetic, with a clear, concise design accented with a dash of flashy trim. Pay enough, and you’ll get a two-tone interior with stitching accents on the door panels and steering wheel. Base S models get cloth seats; SE models get leatherette. SEL models get leather.
The test vehicle, an SEL, was nicely equipped and well-finished, but didn’t feel opulent thanks to the presence of hard-plastic surfaces, but it was very well assembled. You’ll find the controls have a refreshing simplicity to their design that makes them easy to understand operate, although the radio tuning and volume knobs are excruciatingly tiny.
Every Atlas Cross Sport model comes with four driver memory settings, six-speaker audio system, a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen infotainment system, two USB-C ports, Bluetooth, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink compatibility. But you’ll want to at least spring for an SE; it adds small niceties that make for a big difference, such as dual automatic climate control, keyless access on all five doors, push-button start, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, wireless charging for phones, and a larger 8-inch capacitive touchscreen infotainment system.
Underneath the hood you’ll find one of two engines. Standard is VW’s ubiquitous dual-overhead-cam 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. SE w/Technology and higher trims are available with a 3.6-liter VR6 engine that produces 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard; 4Motion all-wheel drive is available, allowing for 50% of power to flow to the rear wheels. Most of the time, however, it runs in front-wheel drive. You can adjust the vehicle for road conditions (Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad) and driving dynamics (Normal, Sport, Comfort, and Individual).
Towing is rated at 2,000 pounds unless you opt for the SEL or SEL Premium with the VR6 and a factory-installed trailer hitch, then you’re good for hauling 5,000 pounds.
When it comes to driving dynamics, however, those expecting a Germanic driving experience will be disappointed. Like the old Willie Dixon blues song, the Atlas Cross Sport is built for comfort, not for speed. Oh sure, the VR6 has more than enough moxie to move the metal and the squishy organisms riding inside. It’s just that the Cross Sport’s demeanor is not that of a giant GTI; It’s more an overgrown Passat.
Encountering bumps or changing lanes brings out body motion, and it feels cumbersome when cornering, although its quick steering eases the pain of the rush hour grand prix. Bumps are well-absorbed, giving the Cross Sport a very comfortable ride – unlike some German cars that require a trip to the chiropractor. And it boasts a remarkably quiet cabin, quieter than many luxury SUVs.
According to the EPA, four-cylinder models with front-wheel drive return 22 mpg in combined city/highway driving, 20 mpg withal-wheel drive, while the VR6 models return 19 mpg with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Four-cylinder models require premium-grade fuel; the VR6 runs on regular. But the difference in fuel cost is a mere $200, according to the EPA. That’s $3.85 a week.
There is an impressive menu of standard driver-assistance technology, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning. Options include lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance. Bravo.
If you were expecting the Atlas Cross Sport to be sporting you may be disappointed. This is a pair of stretchy pants for the well-fed and under-exercised American, with tons of room and a comforting, yet capable demeanor. Those who have never considered a Volkswagen SUV should give it try.
Just don’t call it husky.
2020 Volkswagen Cross Sport
Base price: $30,545-$39,245
Engine: 3.6-liter VR6
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 16/22 mpg
Fuel required: Regular
Length/Width/Height: 195.5/78.4/67.8 inches
Ground clearance: 8.0 inches
Cargo capacity: 40.3-77.8 cubic feet
Towing capacity:5,000 pounds
Curb weight: 4,411 pounds