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The new two-row midsize crossover retains all the strenghs of its three-row sibling

VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - The 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport is a handsome two-row midsize crossover based on the popular three-row Atlas that was introduced a couple of years ago.Because buyers are increasingly choosing SUVs over cars, manufacturers are rushing new crossovers into production. For example, in the last couple of years alone, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Volkswagen all introduced new midsize three-row crossovers — their largest SUVs ever — to rave reviews.

And now Volkswagen has pulled a clever trick to be even more competitive. The German company pulled the third row of seats out of its Atlas, shortened the overall length a few inches and sharply sloped the rear roofline to create the new Atlas Cross Sport.

VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - Removing the third row of seats from thr Atlas allowed Volkswagen to shorten the Atlas Cross Sport by 5 inches, lower the rear roofline by two inches, and angle the hatch, giving it a sportier look.

Although still a midsize SUV, the model is one of the largest in its class because it is so closely related to the three-row version. The wheelbase is the same, and so is most of the sheet metal, with a few tweaks that are being added to the original Atlas this year. The interior is also largely the same. Volkswagen used the leftover rear interior space to give the back seat more legroom, creating one of the most spacious back seats in a midsize crossover ever.

Despite being shorter and lighter, the Cross Sport does not drive much differently than the three-row Atlas. Both are available with the same engines, a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four that produces 235 horsepower or a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 276 horsepower. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is available either engine.

VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - The interior of the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport is clean and efficient, with good materials and easy-to-use controls, like all Volkswagen products.

So despite its name and faux fastback appearance, the Atlas Cross Sport is not particularly sporty. But neither is it disappointed. Both versions drive very well, with the turbo 2.0 providing decent performance for such large vehicles. The V6 will haul up to 5,000 pounds, however, so it is a better choice for anyone who needs to tow anything very often.

In a week of driving, the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport proved itself to be a comfortable and capable ride, with a large amount of interior space for the driver and passenger, too. The turbo 2.0 in SE test version pulled strongly, although it was noisy under heavy acceleration at freeway speeds. The suspension was well balanced between soft and firm, with only a occasional thud going over potholes to disturb the ride.

VOLKWAGEN OF AMERICA - The rear seats in the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport may have the most room of any midsize crossover.

The interior design is typical Volkswagen, which is to say, clean and efficiently laid out. The materials were a mix of leather and soft plastics on the surfaces you see and touch most often, and harder plastics everywhere else. Despite the leather interior in our test model, the Atlas Cross Sport does not aspire to be a genuine luxury vehicle, just a really nice one.

Our tester also came with the company's optional 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, which we'd recommend for anyone living in the wet Pacific Northwest. Both the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport also have enough ground clearance for the kind of light to medium off-road driving that many families enjoy.

VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - The dial behind the shifter controls the traction settings for the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system available on the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.

Like the other recent midsize crossovers, both the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are clearly designed for the American market. For starters, they are far larger than the ones they replace, with wider seats to go along with the larger interiors. They also have more convenience features, like the multiple cup holders that American families demand. Both are offered in a wide rage of multiple trim levels, from the base S to the top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line. And of course the names are more American than the discontinued Touran and Toureg.

The Volkwagen Atlas was well received when it was introduced a couple of years ago. The new Atlas Cross Sport should be just as appreciated by families that only need two rows of seats and want a sportier-looking midsize crossover.

You can find a Portland Tribune review of the three-row Volkswagen Atlas here.

VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - The base turbocharged 2.0-liter engine provide enough power for most owners, but a 3.6-liter V6 is also available.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T SE 4Motion.

Base price: $32,445

Price as tested: $39,100

Type: Midsize SUV

Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged (235 hp, 258 lbs-ft); 3.6-liter V6 (276 hp, 266 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 18/23 mpg

Length: 196 inches

Curb weight: 4,288 pounds

Final assembly: Chattanooga, Tennessee


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