For many years, utility vehicles represented a weak link in Volkswagen’s U.S. product portfolio. The German automaker rectifies this shortcoming with the redesigned Tiguan CUV (soon to arrive) and the larger Atlas, VW’s first modern 3-row offering here.

The Atlas does many things well, from its reconfigurable Digital Cockpit and excellent driver-assistance systems to its fast phone pairing, competent voice controls and information-rich central touchscreen – all features that help the Atlas win a 2017 Wards 10 Best User Experiences trophy.

The infotainment system springs from VW’s scalable MLB II infotainment architecture, which debuted in 2015 but was upgraded for the Atlas to respond more quickly to commands.

Fitting with the CUV’s generous footprint, the central touchscreen is bigger (8 ins. [200 mm] vs. VW’s previous 6.5-in. [170 mm] screen), brighter, delivers better color reproduction and improves visibility from various angles. With capacitive sensing, the screen stays uncluttered until a hand comes near, when additional menu options appear.

Take some time to acquaint yourself with the touchscreen, and you’ll find drilling into multiple menus for apps, navigation info, vehicle settings, audio preferences and the like to be intuitive and rewarding.

Here, the Atlas can store user settings (such as seating and mirror positions, gauge cluster configurations and driver-assistance preferences) as personal profiles for four different drivers, as well as a guest. With a tap of the touchscreen, the CUV is set up exactly how a driver wants it. Very smart, especially for a family vehicle that will be shared.

The new Media Control feature allows two smartphones or tablets to be connected simultaneously to the vehicle, via a direct Wi-Fi signal. Once connected, media on the devices can be managed on the touchscreen. A parental control tab allows front-row supervision of movies and music accessed by devices in the second row.

The Atlas also is one of the first vehicles integrating the three major smartphone connectivity platforms: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, which is popular in Europe and Asia. VW supports all three because the automaker finds many customers want the personalization from their smartphones to be experienced behind the wheel as well.

Let’s not overlook the optional 12.3-in. (31-cm) thin film transistor Digital Cockpit that serves as command central for the driver and can be reconfigured to display a navigation map and gauge clusters of varying sizes, as well as other vital information. It’s much like the graphically brilliant Virtual Cockpit that helped earn 2016 Wards 10 Best Interiors and Wards 10 Best UX trophies for VW’s luxury brand Audi.


Equally impressive are the Atlas’ driver-assistance features, which include a segment first: Automatic Post-Collision Braking. Standard on all models, the system applies the brakes when a primary collision occurs and is intended to reduce residual kinetic energy and the chance for additional damage.

WardsAuto judges praise the Atlas for driver-assistance features that perform as advertised, including blindspot monitoring, radar-based adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist and lane keeping. The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. is impressed as well, bestowing the Atlas with its highest 5-star overall safety rating.

Factor in the rockin’ 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System and the Atlas delivers the ideal user experience for the long haul or the short trip across town.