The Updated, Upgraded 2024 VW Atlas 3-Row SUV

The 2024 VW Atlas is all we love, and more. More standard features, top-notch tech, same great space and cargo capacity, and can accommodate car seat Tetris.

The 2024 Vw Atlas
The 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Everything You Love, and then, More.

I will confess… when I first saw the VW Atlas in 2017, I was excited. The US team behind this 3-row SUV got it all right. The 3rd row was roomy… big enough for full-size humans. The tech was good, the cargo space was good, and the interior details featured a thoughtful mix of everything you need in a family car.  Then, the VW team showed it with three child car seats installed … in the center row. Side by side. And there was still enough room for passengers in the third row, which can be reached by sliding and tilting the center row seats forward, even with car seats installed. And with rear-facing car seats installed, front-seat passengers are not crushed against the dashboard. You can see it here: 

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So when I heard that VW was giving the Atlas a makeover, I was at once excited and perplexed: what could they do to this sharp, stylish 3-row SUV to possibly make it better? 

Related: What We Love About the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

The Front Of The 2024 Vw Atlas Features A Light Bar Across The Top Of The Grille

The front of the 2024 VW Atlas features a light bar across the top of the grille. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Say Hello to a Better and More Capable Atlas

I won’t share the entire back story of the Atlas and why I love it so much; you can read about that here (it’s a good story). Since its introduction, Atlas has been VW’s top seller (no surprise). And it’s led VW to a major changeover: Before 2017, 91% of VW’s sales were sedans and hatchbacks. Today, 83% of VW’s vehicles sold are SUVs. And more are electric, built in the US, and cater to exactly what the customer wants in an SUV. For 2024, the VW team talked to customers and potential buyers. Better fuel economy, more power, more standard features, and more rear seat amenities is what they heard.  The 2024 model has been upgraded to reflect this to make this car even more premium with a number of truly impressive standard features. And, they’ve added a new trim called Peak Edition for owners who want a sportier all-wheel drive SUV.

Related: Which Volkswagen SUV is Right for You? 

The Interior Of The 2024 Vw Atlas

The interior of the 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

VW Calls it a “Refresh,” But This is Quite a Makeover

Probably the most notable detail is the new look front and back: the Atlas has a light bar that spans the front grille and an illuminated VW badge (on the SE Tech edition and above). This design is repeated on the rear with a light bar that spans from one tail light to the other, anchored by the VW badge in glowing red. The effect is quite stunning.

A new center console and command center anchors a new interior design. A demure and elegant toggle has replaced the lever gear selector; just pop the car into gear and go. There are sliders for everything – radio volume, climate functions, and the panoramic sunroof, but there are no dials or buttons.

This will be a learning curve, but by the end of my day-long test drive, I had it down; the sliders were responsive and easy to use. There are cubbies for your phone, key fob, and other things; there is under-console storage large enough for a small handbag and storage under the armrest.

Related: Hello VW Atlas Cross Sport, So Nice to Meet You!

The View From The Drivers Seat In The 2024 Vw Atlas

The view from the driver’s seat in the 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

“Hey Volkswagen, I’m Hot”

And then, tech in the Atlas has been completely upgraded. The top-end Digital Cockpit Pro is now standard (Digital Cockpit was previously the standard) with upgraded and vibrant graphics and images and “Hey Volkswagen” voice-activated assistance— a feature I really love. Just ask for what you want, and the assistant obliges. 

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The dash is anchored by a 12” multimedia touch screen and the driver gets a 10” digital information screen. The screens have sharp graphics and are customizable, so you can see things the way you want to see them. VW also added heated and ventilated front seats in all models, and while leatherette seating has always been standard and leather has been a feature in the top-level R Line model, now it’s standard in the SEL model as well. Add to that wireless phone charging, wireless “app connect” for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 6 USB-C ports (though you can get up to 8), all standard.

My Co-Driver Sue Mead And Me

My co-driver Sue Mead and me in the VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Peak Edition Is your Athleisure Version of the Atlas

Also new for 2024 is the Peak Edition trim, available in SE Tech and SEL versions. These models include all the standard features of both trims and add AWD, a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, and black wheels, as well as sporty details and some unique exterior — Avocado and Pure Gray — and interior color options for a sporty, ready-for-the-trail look and feel. 

The New Center Console With A Toggle Gear Selector

The new center console with a toggle gear selector. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A New Engine Means More Power for Everyone

VW replaced its 4 and 6-cylinder engines with a single upgraded 4-cylinder turbo. The new engine increases horsepower to 269 HP and 273 torque, up from 235 HP and 258 torque in the base model engine, though the prior 6-cylinder generated 276 HP and 266 torque.

The 2024 model maintains the Atlas’s tow rating of 5,000 lbs.  On the road, I found the new engine to be confident and responsive, easy to drive and handle. There was plenty of power underfoot when I needed it and I can imagine that with the power output nearly what it was in the 6-cylinder of prior model years, the Atlas will be capable even when filled with passengers and gear.

The Center Row Is Quite Roomy

The center row in the VW Atlas is quite roomy. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Hasn’t Changed — Great Seating Options for Car Seats

Probably the thing we loved the most about the Atlas from the start is all the interior space. This SUV has one of the most configurable center and 3rd rows in any SUV. With 37.6” of legroom and a seat sliding range of 7.7”, there is a lot of room to stretch out or install rear-facing child car seats.

Specifically, center seats slide forward about 4.7″ and back about 3.2″, and with the movable front passenger’s seat, a rear-facing car seat will fit nicely without bumping up against the front seat, even if the front seat isn’t pushed dramatically forward. Without considering where the front seats are positioned, second-row legroom can range from 40.7″ to with seats pushed back to 32.9″ with seats pushed all the way forward. Third-row legroom ranges from 30.6″ to 38.4″ when center seats are pushed all the way forward. 

VW showed the Atlas with three child car seats installed in the center row. They chose seats from Chicco and installed them with removed cupholders, two front-facing and one rear-facing behind the front passenger’s seat, which fit neatly. 

And, when car seats are LATCH installed, the center seats still slide and tilt to allow 3rd-row access, which I tried and successfully managed. One detail to remember is that there are only two full sets of LATCHes for installing car seats; these are in the center row outboard seats. However, there are 5 upper tether anchors— one for each rear seat.

This means that every seat can be anchored, but seats without lower anchors require car seats to be seat-belt installed. For practicality, this makes sense; lower anchors are where you’ll most need them for infant seats or rear-facing seats, and of course, installation with a seat belt is always safe. 

The 20 Cubic Feet Of Cargo Space Behind The 3Rd Row

The 20 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row in the VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Roomy 3rd Row and Lots of Cargo Space

The 3rd row is comfortable and amply sized. There is plenty of headroom due to the squared rear end of the Atlas. Center-row seats can be positioned for more 3rd-row legroom, however, I found the 3rd row to be much more comfortable with center-row captains chairs than the bench option. The cabin just feels much more open and airy versus feeling shut in behind the bench seat. 

Cargo space behind the 3rd row is surprisingly ample, too, with 20 cubic feet of space. It’ll fit a stroller or two and accompanying tote bags, or 5 or 6 middle schooler book bags, which I always think should be the standard measure of cargo space. With the 3rd row down, there is 55 cubic feet of space, nearly enough room to stretch out for a nap. 3rd-row passengers have air vents, two USB ports on the left side (but not on the right), and cup holders on both sides.

3Rd Row Access With 3 Car Seats Installed In The Center Row

3rd row access in the VW Atlas, with 3 car seats installed in the center row. Photo: Scotty Reiss

But Yes, You’ll Pay a Bit More for All This Loveliness

For 2024 VW has added a lot of nice features and upgrade but has also added about $2,500 to the base price. Even in the base SE model, though, the upgrades in standard features are significant. 

The SE model includes Digital Cockpit Pro with the new multimedia screen and 10” driver information screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leatherette seating, heated steering wheel, power heated and vented front seats, 3 zone climate, IQ driver assist and safety systems, rear seat reminder and smart key, priced from $37,725.

The SE Tech edition adds the new headlights with light bar, tail lights with light bar and illuminated VW badges, power lift gate, and built-in dash cam, priced from $41,665; the Peak Edition model is $46,555.

The SEL model adds standard leather seats, heated second-row seats, ambient lighting, head-up display, and predictive ACC, and it is $48,445; the Peak Edition model is $50,435.

The top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line adds 21” wheels, park assist self-parking, surround-view camera, and premium Harman Kardon sound is $52,445.

On SE and SE Tech editions, you can add: 

  • AWD for $1,900 
  • Panoramic sunroof, $1,200 
  • Captains chairs, $695
  • Destination charge, $1,350
The Light Bar And Illuminated Badge On The Rear Of The 2024 Vw Atlas

The light bar and illuminated badge on the rear of the 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The One to Buy

The SEL edition offers the most value for premium features— AWD, head-up display, leather seats, and a panoramic sunroof, in addition to all the other goodies and configurable seating — for just under $50K. However, at the base SE model, you’ll do well, even adding AWD, for just over $41K with destination included. Either way or if you opt for the Peak Edition or spoil yourself with the R-Line, the Atlas is a lovely SUV for you and all your people—kids, fur babies, or just your crew for a week away. The tech, cargo space, and seating configurations are impressive.

The new engine is responsive and fun to drive, especially in sport mode. And the new look with the light bars and illuminated badges is futuristically cool. I was skeptical that VW could improve the Atlas much, but delightfully surprised that they did.

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Disclosure: I was a guest of VW for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss