Chicago Auto Show 2020

Refreshed Volkswagen Atlas gets bolder design, interior upgrades for 2021

Volkswagen has made upgrades to the Atlas, filling it with high-tech features.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen has refreshed its seven-seater SUV, the Atlas. For the 2021 model year, the model has gotten a bolder face, interior enhancements, and high-tech upgrades.

"The Atlas has been a huge success story for Volkswagen of America, helping us to position the brand with a greater emphasis on the family-friendly SUVs that consumers are buying," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "This refreshed model brings all the functionality of the previous model, and ups the ante with new technology and more style."

2021 Volkswagen Atlas The Atlas is three-inches longer for the 2021 model year.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

While the Atlas's underpinnings are the same, the 2021 model is three inches longer than the 2020 version because of new front and rear bumper designs. There's also new headlight and taillight designs that include LEDs. Unique bumpers, side skirts, 20- and 21-inch wheels, and R-line badging are available.

VW has also upgraded the Atlas's interior saying that it's now more comfortable than before and it delivers a more connected user experience. The long list of upgrades includes: a new steering wheel, available contrast-stitching on the leather seating surfaces and door trim, and an 8-inch Composition Media infotainment system on all models but the base S trim. Other available features include the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, Fender Premium Audio System, ambient lighting, tri-zone Climatronic climate control, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, wireless charging, and remote start.

The SUV also comes with VW's next-gen Car-Net telematics system. The system includes an updated mobile app, a long list of no-charge services for five years, and a variety of subscription options for customer flexibility—including in-car Wi-Fi capability when you subscribe to a data plan. The Car-Net hot spot connects with up to four devices simultaneously.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas V6 Atlas models can tow up to 5,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen offers the Atlas equipped with a number of standard driver assistance technologies including forward collision warning and emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keeping assist, park distance control, park steering assistant, a bird's eye view camera, traffic jam assist, and dynamic road signs display are available.

Buyers can choose between an Atlas equipped with a new 235-horsepower turbo-four engine or a 276-horsepower V6 one. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available with both engines. V6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds, when equipped with the V6 Towing Package.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Volkswagen has upgraded the models comfortability.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

More details and pricing will be announced ahead of the launch in the Spring of 2020.

Volkswagen has worked with Panasonic and Fender to offer premium audio systems in their vehicles since 2011.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

You think about the price, number of seats, cargo space, fuel efficiency, and drivability. Then, somewhere down in the lower half of the list of considerations, for the average consumer, is the setup of the vehicle's sound system.

Volkswagen, like many other automakers, has teamed up with audio system companies to engineer sound solutions that provide high-quality sound in their vehicles.

In 2011, the first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the Beetle, Passat, and Jetta GLI. It delivered 400 watts of sound from eight speakers. Panasonic sound systems were added to the mix in 2015 delivering a concert-quality experience and since then, the company has offered available premium audio equipment on most of its model.

With that system, "we're able to put concert-quality sound inside a vehicle," said Tom Dunn, Director of Global Audio Solutions at Panasonic. "The emotion of a live performance is something we were all familiar with, but it was not something anyone expected to feel while driving their car."

Volkswagen's Atlas, introduced for the 2018 model year, presented unique acoustic challenges because of its size.

"The Atlas has three rows and seven seats, which gives the vehicle a large cabin space," said David Ernst, Panasonic's Senior Acoustics Engineer. "The Atlas Cross Sport has two rows and five seats, so we had to pare down the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality."

When VW decided to add the Atlas Cross Sport to its lineup, the move wasn't as simple as lowering the roofline and updating the grille.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Lowering the roofline as part of the creation of the Atlas Cross Sport presented unique challenges for Volkswagen and Fender engineers.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

According to Volkswagen, "To adapt the original Atlas audio system for the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst and his team tested the system with focus groups and people at events and concerts. The team even had musical artists sit in the Atlas Cross Sport and listen to their own music on the system to see how well it matched in quality and expectation."

"We did a lot of fine-tuning to make sure the product would be perfect for passengers, wherever they sat inside the vehicle," Ernst said.

The Atlas Cross Sport ended up with a 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System. It has a 80-mm front-center channel speaker, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers in the front doors, four 60-mm soft dome tweeters in the first- and second-rows, two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar. A 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure in the back. All told, the system delivers 480 watts of power.

After spending months optimizing the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst says he's proud of the "concert feeling" passengers have when listening to the final product.

"This partnership is not just about the hardware of the audio system," said Dunn. "It's an opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level. And Volkswagen has always recognized the importance of this connection."

Volkswagen has partnered with eClassics to retrofit a 1966 T1 Samba Bus and make it an electric vehicle.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Volkswagen e-BULLI concept takes the company's focus on green living and a respect for heritage vehicles a step further. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) has retrofitted a 1966 T1 Samba Bus with an electric powertrain and converted it to a modern, family-friendly hauler.

VWCV partner eClassics, a company that specializes in electric vehicle conversions, is planning to offer T1 conversions in the style of the new e-BULLI to European customers. It's okay to pout, Americans.

The e-BULLI concept started its life in Hanover, Germany before spending a half-century on the roads of California.

2020 Volkswagen e-BULLI Concept

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Conversion started at by removing the bus's 43-horsepower four-cylinder engine that yielded 75 pound-feet of torque and replacing it with a Volkswagen electric motor that produces nearly double the power - 82 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. The motor is powered by a single-speed gearbox.

The motor works in tandem with a 45 kWh lithium-ion battery. The plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) is charged via an AC charger with charging power of 2.3 to 22 kW, depending on electricity source. Thanks to the e-BULLI's CCS charging socket the high-voltage battery can also be charged at DC fast-charging points with up to 50 kW of charging power. In this case it can be charged up to 80 percent in 40 minutes. The model's range is around 124 miles.

The bus's automatic transmission selector features P, R, N, D, and B (park, reverse, neutral, drive, and braking). When the lever is in the B position, the driver can vary the degree of energy recuperation the vehicle achieves while braking. It has an electronically limited top speed of 80 mph. The T1's original max speed was 65 mph (though it took a while to get there).

According to a release, "All of the electric drive system's standard parts are being made by Volkswagen Group Components in Kassel. The lithium-ion modules are designed at the Braunschweig components site. They are transferred by eClassics into a battery system appropriate for the T1." The battery is housed in the bus's floor.

The restoration and conversion company has improved the T1's chassis including redesigned multi-link front and rear axles with adjustable shock absorbers and coilover struts. There's also a new rack-and-pinion steering system and four internally ventilated disc brakes.

The T1's design has been refreshed to be modern with a touch of retro. The look was developed by the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles design center in cooperation with VWCV Vintage Vehicles and the Communications department.

Its two-tone paint is colored Energetic Orange Metallic and Golden Sand Metallic Matte. The new round LED headlamps feature daytime running lights. At the rear, there are LED charge indicators, which signal to a driver walking up to the e-BULLI how much charge the lithium-ion battery still has even before they reach the vehicle.

The reimagined interior features two colors: Saint Tropez and Saffrano Orange. The flow is made of solid wood designed to be reminiscent of a ship's deck. It also has a large panoramic floating roof.

The cockpit has new speedometer that is based on the original, Integrated LEDs indicate whether, for instance, the parking brake is on or the charging connector is plugged in. An additional detail in the center of the speedometer: a stylized Bulli symbol. A multitude of further information is shown via a tablet integrated into the roof console.

Using Volkswagen We Connect the e-BULLI driver can also call up information online by smartphone app or via a PC and a corresponding web portal such as on remaining charge time, current range, miles travelled, trip times, energy consumption and recuperation. Music on board comes from an authentic-looking retro-style radio, which, however, is equipped with cutting edge technology such as DAB+, Bluetooth, and USB.

European customers can fulfil their dream of owning an emission-free T1 at eClassics. They are offering the T1 conversion, complete with redesigned front and rear axles, at prices starting from 64,900 euros. T2 and T3 conversions are being offered by eClassics too. The company is also offering qualified dealers a ready-to-fit parts kit.