By Peter Perrotta
If there is anyone who knows about being “cross cultural,” it’s me.
My parents came from as many different backgrounds as can be. My dad’s family is rooted in a small Italian village, Esperia, nestled about 30 miles or so to the southwest of Rome.
My mom’s family is Jewish and immigrated from Lodz, Poland, in the 1920s.
Needless to say, I grew up in a very loud and vocal family atmosphere. We spoke with our hands a lot and enjoyed a tremendous diversity of great European-rooted foods.
While it’s clear that people can be cross cultural, can an automobile be cross cultural as well?
In doing some research on this week’s car review, many media outlets use that exact term to describe the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium.
Well, 44 percent of the parts content of this model comes from the U.S. or Canada, 24 percent comes from Mexico and 16 percent from Germany.
Moreover, the engine comes from Germany, the transmission from Japan, and the final assembly point where it’s all put together is Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I would say that this offering from the German importer certainly qualifies as a cross cultural vehicle.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport for one week to see what this diverse 5-seat, crossover SUV feels like to drive.
Oddly enough, I found that this sporty version of the Atlas – introduced by VW in 2018 – really does have a cross cultural feel to it. It offers a lively and exciting blend of a stick-to-the-road German import ride combined with a very, cushy and comfortable American/Japanese suspension.
Usually, you get one or the other. However, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the duality of the personality of the ride in this Atlas Cross Sport.
While there is a less punchy four cylinder version of the Atlas, my tester was equipped with the more powerful 3.6 liter, V-6 engine with four-wheel-drive. This engine delivers a spunky 276 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 266 pound feet of torque.
From a convenient center console dial, you can dial up what driving mode you would like to be in – sporty, eco or touring. You can also select what type of terrain you would like the four-wheel-drive system to be set for: snow, ice, hills, etc.
I found this configuration to be quite convenient and resourceful. During my week of driving with it, I found the Atlas Cross Sport to be quite versatile. It has enough luxury characteristics, inside and out, to give it the feel of a more expensive crossover. At the same time, it delivers an exciting enough ride to give an edgy performance side to its personality as well.
While most of the Atlas models come as seven seat, three row configurations of the Cross Sport is the only one that is offered as a five-seater only.
The base price of the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium is $48,325. The only added option on the tester I drove as $395 for an Aurora Red paint. When you add in the $1,195 for destination and delivery the bottom line sticker price comes in at $49,915.
The EPA fuel consumption ratings for this model give it an overall rating of 19 miles per gallon – 23 mpg in highway driving and 19 mpg in the city.
The EPA estimates that it will cost about $2,150 per year to run the Atlas on average as it uses about 5.3 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
On the government’s Five Star safety ratings test, the Atlas Cross Sport earned an impressive 5-star rating overall – garnering four stars on the frontal crash test, five stars on the side crash test and four stars on the rollover test.
There isn’t much changed on the Atlas models for 2021. They did tweak the front and rear styling a bit to give it a bolder, more modern look.
The Atlas Cross Sport is plenty roomy. It has a nicely designed front dash with controls that are not overly complicated to figure out. The touch screen infotainment system is very intuitive and easy to use.
The Fender brand – yes the same company that makes guitars – premium audio system is surprisingly high end. If you are an audiophile you will enjoy this system.
The editors at Car and Driver give the Cross Sport Atlas high marks for its handsome exterior styling, roomy cabin and for having plenty of space for cargo.
Car and Driver gave it low marks for its suspension system and disappointing fuel economy.
I’m not sure I agree with the folks at Car and Driver on this one. They rank the Atlas sixth in its segment – behind the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento.
I can’t agree with that at all.
I actually enjoyed the Atlas Cross Sport very much and found its versatility quite refreshing.
If you are in the market for a five-seat, sporty cross over, then I would say you should definitely check this model out for all the aforementioned reasons.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted at email@example.com.