CLIFF LEPPKE'S CYBER SEAT
VW’s 2024 Atlas Family Earns Safety Award
Volkswagen’s 2024 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s TOP SAFETY PICK+. The refreshed Altas models have roomy interiors. Their front have a softer feel and more upscale look. A relatively spunky turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the sole mill; the VR6 has been discontinued.
For 2024 these SUVs get VW’s frustrating touchsensor climate and infotainment controls. The steering wheel’s switchgear, however, retains pushbuttons.
The PICK+ award requires a vehicle to test well in the IIHS’ crash tests. It must have standard acceptable or good headlights. The front-crash prevention system must earn an advanced or superior score in both daytime and nighttime evaluations.
Consumer Reports cautions would-be Atlas buyers. For 2023, all VW models scored below average in vehicle reliability. Thus, the non-profit no longer recommends Atlas models.
CLIFF LEPPKE'S VW REVIEWS
2022 Volkswagen Golf R Review: Deft Handling, Smudgy Driver Interface
VW invites you to discover automotive fingerpainting. Choose your canvas, a snakey roadway is perfect. Your paintpot is a turbocharged 315-hp Golf R. Get in. Adjust the shell-like front throne. Grab the steering wheel. Apply the pedals. Press start. Zero-to-60 mph is yours in less than five seconds.
This $44,640 R-tist went to an automotive art school. You feel like Jackson Pollock as you pour it down the road. It inspires confidence with proper steering effort, unflappable chassis and prompt directional changes. Plus, the R stops as well as it goes due to two-piece, cross-drilled front rotors clamped by blue calibers via a firm brake pedal.
Stir the six-speed manual transmission; the engine’s power band and idle-speed modulation make clutch-work simple. Stop before applying the electric parking brake; it’s aggressive. Try the foot-brake enabled hill-holder.
Touched by a Demon
There’s a fly in this car’s painterly ointment. Much like kids who over-express themselves while finger-painting, VW mucked up its driver interface with a touch/talk/video display scheme. This replaces conventional gauges, buttons and dials. While the steering wheel’s touch-action “switchgear” is nicely illuminated, you can inadvertently brush sensors. Likewise, tapping the infotainment screen’s virtual home button while driving is like operating a vending machine while twirling a hoola hoop.
VW’s Bizantine climate setups could cause a mental meltdown. It has three folders: Classic View, Smart Climate and Air Care. There’s a cold/hot-feet setting. If your brain’s overloaded by choices, leave it in automatic.
There is a blast of sorts: finger-dialed chassis/engine drive modes. These settings make driving, as with painting therapy, pleasurable. May I direct you to the blue R logo on the steering wheel’s left side? Rub it. Then, the touchscreen’s drive mode menu expands: race, drift (serious tire painting), sport, comfort and individual. Want Eco? Sorry Charlie, this isn’t your auto. The R, however, prompts you when to shift or coast for best fuel economy.
You can vary engine sound, idle speed, dampers and therefore chassis dynamics. VW’s sound effects are acoustically satisfying, neither too loud nor blatantly fake. The engine hums pleasantly at highway speeds.
The Golf R’s snubbed suspension seems resilient despite rolling on 235/35R19 tires. Body roll is minimal. This car’s stout body feels like it’s an ingot. A creative driver gets support—switches for power seat controls. The split-folding rear seat with ski pass thru is upright but supportive for two. Aft passengers back get face vents, seat heaters—and yes there’s a touch panel.
The R’s driving dynamics paint a pretty picture. It’s an inspiring machine with GT-car provenance. Its driver-control interface, however, muddles the picture, as touchscreens, touchpads and talk replace snickety switchgear. The EPA fuel economy numbers are 20-mpg city, 28 highway and 23 combined. I averaged 27 overall. This VW requires premium fuel.
The R’s thin horizontal grille punctuated by the brand’s rondel has Golf designer genes. Front inlets are more than eye candy including brake ducts. The LED headlamps effectively illuminate scenery.
Inside, VW went hardcore with hard plastics. Typical VW niceties such as cloth-covered A pillars, plentiful soft-door card areas and an overhead eyeglass bin are conspicuously absent—even the hood’s hydraulic lift is awol. VW offsets this with interior ambient LED lighting and an R puddle light. There’s no spare tire. You can slide a road bike (wheels attached) into the rear hatch and then close the lid.
The R can park itself. Touch a dedicated spot and you’ll receive directional instructions while the R twirls the steering wheel.
VW’s R brushes with greatness; it’s got poise and power. Its low profile evokes practical Golf design language. VW’s touch interface, however, feels wrong. Wireless Android Auto and CarPlay are standard.
WHAT IS THE VWCA?
The VWCA (Volkswagen Club of America) is a not-for-profit hobby club for owners and enthusiasts of Volkswagen and Audi automobiles. Founded in 1955, the Club has followed the evolution of Volkswagen from the early air-cooled Beetle to the latest models to roll off the assembly line. We are not owned by, affiliated with or sponsored by Volkswagen AG or Volkswagen of America, the Importer. The Club is operated and managed solely by volunteer members who contribute their time and energy in pursuit of our motto, "to help Volkswagen and Audi owners enjoy their cars to the fullest." Read about the club's history.