2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport tailors two-row SUV for American tastes

The two-row midsize SUV space is getting another option, with the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport making its official debut today. A five-seat version of the full-sized Atlas, it's shorter and lower than its three-row brethren, but combines that more easily-parked scale with no reduction in wheelbase.

The upshot there is that, despite being almost three inches shorter and 2.3-inches lower, there's still a healthy amount of cabin space for passengers and cargo. With the second row of seats up, you'll seat five and have 40.3 cubic feet of trunk space; ditch the rear passengers and fold the seats down, and that expands to 77.8 cubic feet.

Those are the specific demands that North American SUV buyers have, VW says, and indeed the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport was built specifically with them in mind. By dropping the third row, VW's designers could taper off the roofline more aggressively, for a more striking SUV. That's not the only aesthetic change, mind.

At the front, there's a three-bar chrome grille and a new signature light that spans the whole width of the car – including the middle bar across the VW logo. The bumper is new, too, and the hood has become more sculpted than the regular Atlas. At the rear, the back pillar and hatch are more steeply raked, and there are new lights and a redesigned bumper.

VW adds extra chrome accents, while the R-Line trim has even more sculpting to the bumper along with chrome and pain black detailing. R-Line cars can also be had with 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

Climb inside, and the dashboard has been tweaked a little. A new steering wheel has been added, which VW says should be more intuitive in its secondary controls, while the door inserts and seats get new accent stitching options. Wireless phone charging, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and a 12-speaker Fender audio system are available. Atlas Cross Sport SEL trim and above can be had with the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit.

A new version of the Volkswagen Car-Net system has a revamped app and five years' subscription to the automaker's remote access system. That includes features like lock/unlock, honk and light flash, parked location sharing, fuel level and door/window status, and remote start/stop. If there's navigation fitted, the app allows the infotainment system to be remotely programmed with destinations. 4G LTE and WiFi turn the SUV into a mobile hotspot.

Forward Collision Warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert are standard on the entry-level 2020 Atlas Cross Sport S. Options like adaptive cruise control and park distance control are available on higher-spec cars, as is Traffic Jam Assist which can keep the SUV in its lane at 0-37 mph traffic. Overall, there'll be eight trims: S, SE, SE w/Tech, SE w/Tech R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line.

Two engines will be available. First there's a 235 horsepower four-cylinder turbo, with an eight-speed automatic transmission; an option is a 276 horsepower V6 with the same gearbox. 4Motion all-wheel drive is standard, and the V6 – when equipped with the V6 Towing package – is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Pricing will be confirmed closer to the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport going on sale in Spring 2020, but it's expected to slot in under the Tiguan, which starts at $24,295.