Volkswagen Atlas Preview

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What it is:  VW’s new three-row crossover, challenged with lifting the smoggy skies that have been shrouding the brand since the diesel cheat broke. This Honda Pilot–sized SUV packages seating for six or seven along with ample cargo space. For the time being, the pricier, two-row Touareg will continue to sell alongside the Atlas.

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Why it matters:  Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Atlas is VW’s first U.S.-made SUV, and, with three-row SUV sales growing fast, VW desperately needs a player if it wants to make a comeback.

Platform:  VW’s versatile MQB components set (Golf, Audi A3, etc.) is stretched to its max for the Atlas.

Powertrain:  The standard engine will be a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 238 horsepower driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic. A 3.6-liter V-6 delivering 280 horsepower will be optional and mated to the same transmission, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

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Competition:  Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander.

What might go wrong:  Having driven lightly disguised prototypes, we’re convinced the Atlas will carve out a place in its crowded segment.

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Estimated arrival and price:  Due this spring, VW’s big boy is expected to start around $30,000 and top $50,000 when loaded.

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