WHISTLER, British Columbia — As SUVs and crossovers have come to dominate U.S. auto sales and vehicles have grown bigger and boxier, Volkswagen believes a certain subsegment of consumers — roughly 45 percent — begin to draw a mental line in the purchasing sand.
They want big, but not too big. They want boxy, but not too boxy. They love the cargo room that a three-row crossover affords when its seats are down, but they're put off by the notion that a third row might turn their cool crossover into little more than a minivan disguised with swinging doors.
Enter the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, a two-row, five-seat version of the German automaker's increasingly popular three-row, seven-seat U.S.-made Atlas. Volkswagen's third crossover aims to grab a chunk of those Goldilocks buyers — those who will buy a Ford Edge while shunning an Explorer, or clamor for a Nissan Rogue while turning their noses up at a Murano.
Arriving in U.S. dealerships this month, the Atlas Cross Sport shares most components with the freshened 2021 Atlas — which will arrive in dealerships in April — including a much-improved interior and infotainment system.
Indeed, from the front seats forward, it's difficult to tell the two crossovers apart. However, behind the front seats, the Atlas Cross Sport offers additional legroom and a huge cargo area, despite the sharper downward rake of its rear pillars and its shorter overall length.
The result is Volkswagen's first direct attempt to take on two wildly popular vehicles in the U.S.: the Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's also part of the German automaker's overall strategy to gain market share by further expanding its crossover offerings, which last year accounted for more than 53 percent of its overall sales.
"We have taken the things that we have done well with the Atlas to go and take on this big part of the rest of the [midsize crossover/SUV] segment," explained Serban Boldea, director of product planning at Volkswagen of America.