Everyone loves a good mystery. The quagmire of why our long-term Atlas had the turning radius of a Greyhound bus frustrated me from the first time I tried to make a U-turn. Unfortunately, without any point of reference, I chalked up the Atlas’ lack of agility to the fact that it’s a large three-row SUV. But once I got behind the wheel of another Atlas, that experience shed light on the fact that not all was what it should be with our long-termer.
It turns out, we were right. After multiple visits to our local Volkswagen dealer could not remedy the situation, VW North America asked us to relinquish the keys for a week to see if they could diagnose the problem. What they found, according to our helpful VW PR contact, was that a prior to the Atlas joining the MotorTrend long-term fleet, “a replacement steering rack was fitted to the car and the correct software wasn’t implemented when the change was made.”
Along with a fresh set of tires, the implementation of the correct software made all of the difference in the world. Although we didn’t retest the retuned Atlas with our GPS testing equipment, I can tell you that our Atlas now feels like it turns and steers like the other Atlas SUVs I’ve driven. Along with the significantly improved turning circle, I think the overall steering feel has been improved, too. Then again, knowing that something has been fixed may be making me think that it feels better—after racking up over 25,000 miles with it being out of calibration, it sure feels better to me.
With my year with the Atlas ending, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I spent the better part of a year driving and evaluating the big VW with a fairly significant issue that affected my daily experience with it. With the short time I have remaining with the Atlas, I need to put more miles on it and take a hard look at the overall opinion I’ve formed.
Before our Atlas leaves, I recently had a chance to drive the new Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride (read the comparison here). Although both three-row crossovers offer a lot when it comes to comfort and the way they drive, they can’t hold a flame to the Atlas’ ability to swallow cargo. With the second and third rows stowed, the Atlas’ cavernous cabin can hold 96.8 cubic feet of stuff, more than the Telluride’s 87.0 cubic feet and the Palisade’s 86.4 cubic feet.