Based on the boxy Atlas, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport adopts a more rakish design but loses the third row of seats in the process. Other than that, the Cross Sport is nearly identical to its brother. Even the powertrain options are the same: A 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter is standard, and a 276-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is optional. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. Despite the lower roofline and abbreviated rear end, the Atlas Cross Sport offers plenty of space for both passengers and cargo. But while the Atlas Cross Sport is a nicely packaged mid-size SUV, we find that rivals such as the Honda Passport and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer more appeal.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Of the two powertrains offered, we’ve tested only the 3.6-liter V-6 with front-wheel drive. Delivering a 7.5-second 60-mph time, it proved to be slightly quicker than a similarly equipped three-row Atlas. While we haven’t tested the 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, that powertrain pushed the three-row VW to 60 in 7.1 seconds. During our test drive, we found the Cross Sport lacks the sporty driving dynamics that its fastback rear end would suggest. The ride quality is less refined than expected, too, with the wheels pounding over every imperfection and pothole they cross.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The four-cylinder Atlas Cross Sport comes with EPA fuel-economy ratings of 21 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive model and 18, 23, and 20 mpg, respectively, for the all-wheel-drive version. The V-6 is thirstier, with ratings of 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined for the front-driver. The all-wheel-drive model with the six-cylinder returns the same combined rating but drops to 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. On our 200-mile highway loop, the front-drive V-6 Atlas Cross Sport averaged 25 mpg, nearly 10 percent better than what the EPA suggests.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Those familiar with the three-row VW will find the Atlas Cross Sport’s interior quite familiar, despite an updated steering wheel and stitched door panels. Adults should find comfortable seating positions in either of the SUV’s available rows of seats, but unlike the regular Atlas, the Cross Sport offers only a bench for its second row. We have yet to see how many carry-on suitcases will fit in the cargo hold, but we expect the Cross Sport to offer similar cargo space to the Ford Edge and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Atlas Cross Sports come with a touchscreen infotainment display providing both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Navigation is optional, as is a reconfigurable gauge display and SiriusXM satellite radio. VW’s Car-Net connectivity app allows for remote starting and analytics. Plus, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot lets occupants remain connected to the internet while on the go.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Atlas Cross Sport a five-star overall crash-test rating but it missed out on a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).