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VOL. 41 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 03, 2017
Traverse or Atlas: When a minivan won’t do
By Ed Hellwig | Edmunds
When it comes to finding a family vehicle that can do it all, a three-row midsize crossover SUV is a great place to start. You can typically expect to find room for up to eight passengers, lots of cargo space and all the latest safety features.
Two of the newest and most spacious crossovers are the Chevrolet Traverse and the Volkswagen Atlas. They’re similar in size and price but have different personalities. Here’s how they compare.
If you like a tight, carlike feel from your crossover, the Volkswagen Atlas is the way to go. It delivers a smooth ride yet still feels sharp around corners. Its one big flaw is a lack of power. Even with the optional V6 engine, the Atlas struggles to get moving at highway speeds.
There’s no such issue with the Chevrolet Traverse: Its standard V6 delivers strong acceleration in any situation. Properly equipped, both vehicles are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. The Traverse, however, feels far more capable of handling the extra weight than the underpowered Atlas does. On rough roads, the Traverse has a forgiving ride quality, but the trade-off is a less precise feel on smooth highways.
Although both the Atlas and Traverse can be equipped with a four-cylinder engine, the majority of models you’ll find at a dealer will have a V6 under the hood. So, equipped, the Chevrolet Traverse has a slight advantage over the Atlas with an EPA rating of 21 mpg in combined driving for front-wheel-drive models and 20 mpg combined for all-wheel-drive models. The Volkswagen Atlas V6 is rated at 20 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive and 19 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
If you’re willing to pay a little extra, both vehicles offer the latest active safety systems such as automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beam headlights. The Atlas also offers a unique post-collision braking system designed to minimize damage by applying the brakes after it detects an initial collision.
The Atlas received the highest-possible rating of Good from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and was recognized as a Top Safety Pick. It also received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Traverse has not been tested yet by the Insurance Institute and NHTSA.
Interior space and technology
These are two of the largest vehicles in their class, and both provide exceptional passenger and cargo space. With the second and third row seats folded, the Traverse packs in a couple extra cubic feet of space, although both are well ahead of the competition in this regard.
The Traverse has the advantage when it comes to second-row legroom, though the Atlas counters with slightly more third-row legroom and a higher-quality look and feel to the cabin. In terms of cargo space behind the third row, the Chevy has a clear advantage. That’s something to consider if you often have the third row raised for carrying passengers.
Those who like to stay connected on the road will prefer the Traverse since all trim levels come standard with an onboard 4G LTE data connection and Wi-Fi hotspot. The Atlas doesn’t offer either, but it does have the option of smartwatch integration that gives you remote access to various vehicle functions. Both the Atlas and the Traverse provide Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration along with teen driver controls, real-time traffic information and multiple USB ports.
The Traverse and the Atlas both start around $30,000, but note that the base Atlas comes with a four-cylinder engine while the Traverse has a standard V6. With either vehicle, a well-equipped model with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine pushes the sticker price to around $38,000. A fully loaded Atlas tops out right around $50,000, while the Traverse can go as high as $53,000 for the top-of-the-line High Country trim.
If you need room for the family but don’t want a minivan, these two crossover SUVs offer nearly as much passenger and cargo space, in addition to optional all-wheel drive. The Traverse, with its powerful V6 and class-leading cargo capacity, is best suited for those who value performance and practicality above all else. The Atlas doesn’t have the same muscle under the hood, but it does offer a more refined cabin that’s nearly as spacious, along with a proven record of crashworthiness.
Ed Hellwig is a senior editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @edhellwig