2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Review: Excellent Value and Space for Days

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Written by Paul Strauss | April 15, 2024
2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Review: Excellent Value and Space for Days

There are plenty of three-row SUVs to choose from nowadays, but they can be pretty expensive and often have cramped back rows that are hard to get in and out of. The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas defies both of those trends by offering great bang for the buck and a brilliantly designed cabin that’s comfortable no matter what seat you choose. As an auto journalist, I’m used to car companies sending the most extravagant and option-packed trim levels, but this time, I had the opportunity to try the entry-grade Atlas SE – and it’s a lot of SUV for the money.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Front 3/4 View

The Atlas has a typical Volkswagen aesthetic that’s chunky and purposeful rather than sleek or sporty. At 200.7 inches long, 78.3 inches wide, and 70.4 inches high, the Atlas has a large footprint and a tall, upright stance. Unlike some competitors, its roofline barely slopes, providing exceptional headroom throughout all three rows.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Side View

With a base price of $37,995, the Atlas SE is about $10,000 less than the average vehicle sale price in the U.S. For that money, you get a pleasantly peppy 269 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine and a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to the relatively small engine, fuel economy is good for something of this size – with up to 27 MPG on the highway, 20 MPG in the city, and 23 MPG combined. This particular vehicle was front-wheel drive, but as you climb through the trim levels, all-wheel drive also available. The 18-inch base wheels are plenty big, though they come as large as 21-inch with the higher-end trims.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Front View

Its four-wheel independent suspension offers a soft and well-cushioned ride, though it has quite a bit of body roll and feels like you’re driving a large vehicle. The power steering is tuned for a light feel, which means easy maneuvering but not much driver engagement. The cabin is well insulated from road and engine noise, and visibility is good overall.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Driving

VW did a great job with the interior design – the Atlas SE doesn’t look or feel cheap for a base-level trim. Instead of junky cloth seats, you get quilted and perforated synthetic leather, which looks fantastic in Shetland Beige. While the woodgrain on the dash and doors isn’t real, it’s the most convincing fakery I’ve seen in any vehicle. You’d only know it wasn’t real wood if you tap on it. There are soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors, too, and the overall look is modern and upscale.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Dashboard

Heated and ventilated front seats come standard, too, and the driver’s seat offers 8-way power adjustments. However, if you want a power passenger seat, you’ll need to splurge for a more pricey Atlas SEL. The D-shaped faux leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, too. There are paddle shifters for the transmission as well, but this isn’t the kind of vehicle you’ll feel compelled to use them in.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Front Seats

Sitting atop the center stack is a 12-inch touchscreen for interacting with the multimedia system, climate, and vehicle settings. Volkswagen opted for touch-based inputs for temperature and volume controls. I would have preferred physical buttons and dials, but this design results in a cleaner look. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are complemented by a standard wireless charging tray.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Center Console

To the left of the cupholders, you’ll notice a nubby little thing – the smallest gear shifter ever. It gets the job done, but I wish that car companies would stop trying to reinvent the wheel with shifter designs. On the plus side, this shift-by-wire system allows Volkswagen to free up space underneath the console, providing extra storage space for a purse or other small items. This is in addition to the large storage bin that sits under the center armrest.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Floating Console Storage

As we move back into the cabin, you’ll find a second-row bench seat that easily accommodates three people. There’s great legroom and headroom here, and the seats are thickly padded and comfortable for long drives. Captains chairs are available on higher trim levels, but this configuration means you can seat up to seven passengers instead of six. The second row gets dual USB-C chargers with 45-watt fast charging, as well as independent climate controls.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Second Row

Accessing the third-row seats was easy and didn’t require the kind of contortion that some SUVs require. The second-row seats offer a 60/40 split and slide forward enough that there’s room to climb in and out between the C-pillar and the seatback. You can also slide the seats forward while seated to provide extra legroom for back-row passengers.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Getting into Third Row

Because of the wheel wells, the third row isn’t as wide as the second, and the seats are thinner and less padded. Still, they’re more comfortable than others, and as a 6-foot-tall human, I was pleasantly surprised that I could sit back here without my head or knees bumping into anything. There are also cupholders and storage bins for the kids, though you’ll have to splurge for the SE with Technology trim if you want USB-C ports to keep their gadgets charged without using a 12-volt adapter plug.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Third Row

I mentioned in the headline that the Atlas has space for days, and this is no truer than in its cargo area. Both the second and third rows fold perfectly flat. Combined with the roofline, there’s ample space for hauling suitcases, golf clubs, groceries, and pets. There are 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 56 cubic feet behind the second row, and a cavernous 97 cubic feet with all the seats down.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Cargo Space

There are slicker, more luxurious, and sportier options for three-row SUVs, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better balance between roominess, price, and standard features than the Volkswagen Atlas SE. It’s an incredibly practical family vehicle; its interior is stylish and looks more expensive than it is, and every seat is comfortable, even way in the back.

2024 Volkswagen Atlas SE Rear 3/4 View

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