Our Rides: The Way to Get To Your “What To Do’s”

2024 Atlas Cross Sport vehicle.
Photos by Randy Stern

Want something to do this winter? Try to find the “perfect” SUV to tackle anything that will come your way.  

OK, you may have already seen every SUV in the marketplace. You may think that one such vehicle is right for you. You expect this magazine to steer you to the right SUV that fits our lifestyle.

As we know, not one SUV should be seen as “our” choice for our lifestyle. Just like the SUV market, we are as individual as everyone else. What we choose as “our” vehicle reflects how we live and our pursuits. Therefore, no SUV should be considered “perfect” – unless it is perfect for you. Let alone, “perfect” to handle our winters.

In my case, I like an SUV with some space for people and our stuff. For example, I want to be able to bring three of us along to any of the winter activities that are listed in this issue. Perhaps to take them to some Pride event next year in a far corner of our state. I also need to bring a mobility device, some of their things, and to be comfortable for a few hours on the road.

Or, an SUV that takes me deep into Minnesota to one of our state parks for a day trip or an overnight cabin stay – even in the dead of winter. Somewhere that is peaceful and quiet. All I can bring is what I need – some clothes, a mobility device, some music…maybe a friend who enjoys the outdoors. And, plenty of items to keep us warm.

This brings me to the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.

The Atlas lineup was originally engineered for American consumers back in 2017, because Volkswagen wanted to give us something that is big enough for families and the things we do. First introduced as a three-row SUV, the Atlas was soon given a shorter, two-row version that provided more than enough interior volume to “live large.” The two-row Cross Sport arrived in 2020. Every Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport is produced at the Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee.

The 2024 model underwent a deeper revision from previous models. That included a new front clip with a larger grille and new LED headlamp units. Out back, a new enlarged taillight unit stretches the entire width of the rear area. The profile remains the same, even with some new wheel designs and badging.

The biggest change in the Atlas Cross Sport (and the larger Atlas) is the interior. The dashboard is all new, featuring an updated Digital Cockpit instrument cluster. You can choose from four types of instrumentation and a plethora of information to be read on each screen. You can also have some information displayed on the new tablet-like 12.0-inch infotainment touchscreen above the center stack.

Also new is a center console that features a new toggle-like shifter for the automatic transmission. It takes getting used to, as long as you see the Park button between it and the ignition button. Every other control is what you expect in a Volkswagen these days.

One of the biggest changes made in the Atlas lineup is underneath its hood. The V6 engine is no longer offered. Instead, every Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport is powered by a 269-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 273 pound-feet of torque, this muscular engine can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels through the 4Motion system.

Compared to its three-row sibling, the two-row Atlas Cross Sport seemed perfect. There is space for two-to-three adults in the second row. The driver and front passenger have a great view out of the windshield. It also has a lot of space behind the second row for luggage, cold weather gear, food and drink, and anything else you fit back there up to 40.3 cubic feet worth.

The upholstery in our tester is a black perforated leather which the perforations is trimmed in blue. You will also find blue on the dashboard with an LED etching of the model’s name with some delightful blue accent lighting.

With all of those blue elements, there is still a mighty two-row mid-sized SUV to manage through the winter – and the rest of the year. In the far reaches of the center console is a set of buttons – one of which controls the drive modes for the Atlas Cross Sport. When you click that button, the infotainment screen offers a selection of several drive modes – including Sport, Offroad, and Snow.

The ride quality is thud solid. Mainly because it wears a set of 21-inch alloy wheels for the SEL Premium R-Line trim and all-season tires. The penalty is not noise, but a level of firmness even on smooth highway sections. You will also find the overall handling to be controlled and level. It behaves quite well and offers nominal roll and lean through the turns.

Here’s something to consider: You can get a second set of winter tires and wheels to maximize the grip during our coldest months. Once you change out your tires for the wintertime, you will notice the difference in terms of handling over snow and ice. Just take it easy on the throttle when you encounter these conditions.

The steering system was very good, with a solid on-center feel and a good turning radius. There was just nominal lag from the steering wheel to the road. The brakes also felt solid with good feedback from an equally solid pedal. Stops were good in both normal and panic situations, as well as on gravel and dirt roads.

As far as fuel economy is concerned, the Atlas Cross Sport averaged 22.0 MPG.

With five different trim levels to choose from, the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport starts from $36,715. This SEL Premium R-Line tester arrived with a sticker price of $50,320.

The one thing that stood out about this Atlas Cross Sport is how well it did when visiting one of the Minnesota State Parks. The mix of tarmac, gravel, and dirt roads at Sibley State Park near New London, Minnesota was a great test for this SUV. It passed with flying colors! This is a vehicle that can carry your camping gear for the four of you, or pack your cross country ski gear to handle the trails for a good day at the park.

There is still one question that must be asked: Is the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport the “perfect” SUV? Not quite, but in terms of performance, handling, and space, it’s close enough.

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