It may have been late to the SUV party but Volkswagen seems determined to catch up with a rapidly expanding line-up of new models.
The latest offering will make its debut at this month’s New York International Auto Show – albeit in concept form. And with a two-row version of its largest crossover, VW appears to be ready to chase another niche in the booming utility vehicle market.
“The Atlas has built strong momentum for Volkswagen in the SUV segment, and we are excited to grow our SUV portfolio with this new, Chattanooga-assembled five-passenger SUV,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
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The long-awaited three-row version of the Atlas made its own debut in November 2016, rolling into showrooms a few months later It helped fill a big gap in a line-up that, at the time, consisted of only two SUV models: the massive Touareg and the compact Tiguan. The Touareg has since been dropped but there are now two versions of the Tiguan: the original “classic,” and a newer, larger and more lavishly equipped offering.
But while the three-row Atlas has become the utility vehicle flagship for the VW brand, it has left some gaps that the two-row addition should help fill. While the company has not yet provided many details, the likelihood is that it will come in at a slightly lower price point than the current $30,750 base.
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What we do know is that the five-seater will also be based off the same modular MQB architecture as the seven-seater – as well as much of the rest of the current Volkswagen line-up.
And, like the original Atlas, it has been designed and engineered primarily for the American market where it also will be assembled.
“We are not only committed to this market, we are committed to our U.S. manufacturing home in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” said Woebcken, in a statement accompanying this first image of the two-row Atlas.
The Chattanooga factory opened in 2011 and originally produced the VW Passat sedan. It was nearly doubled in size – at a cost of $900 million – to add room for the Atlas. VW is spending another $340 million to bring the smaller version of the ute to market.
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The German automaker is saving most details for the NYIAS unveiling next week. But we can expect the five-seater to measure somewhat shorter than the original Atlas which came in at 198.3 inches nose-to-tail, 77.9 inches in width, and 69.6 inches in height – dimensions that make it the biggest vehicle Volkswagen sells in the U.S.
Also yet to be revealed is what sort of powertrain options will be offered. The bigger Atlas is offered with two choices: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 238 horsepower, and a 3.6-liter V-6 making 280 hp.
Even with two versions of the Atlas, along with the two Tiguan models, VW has made it clear that it will be further expanding its utility vehicle line-up over the coming years. That is expected to include an all-electric model that will be badged under the new I.D. sub-brand and brought to market around the beginning of the coming decade.
That should be no surprise considering crossover and conventional sport-utility vehicles now make up about half of the overall American new vehicle market. In 2017, Atlas itself helped VW deliver its first sales increase in a number of years.