2022 Honda Pilot vs Volkswagen Atlas
If you are in the market for a new large SUV this year, then you might have already been told about the 2022 Honda Pilot and perhaps even the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas. But which - if either - should you take out for a test drive (much less purchase)? Should you even stick with this segment or opt for something more compact?
Making the decision can be rough. The Pilot and Atlas both offer a lot of desirable features and have long histories as reliable vehicles. The problem with almost any third-row vehicle, though, is that getting to that cramped third row of seats can be a challenge for adults. Sure, you might need those extra seats, but they have to get reserved for children who are out of car seats.
Is the Pilot or the Atlas going to be a practical addition to your busy family life? Which one will give you a better performance, a higher fuel economy, and more versatility with its interior design? Let's find out.
Starting things off, we have the powertrain options. The 2022 Honda Pilot is exclusively powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine (which generates a power output of 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque). This engine is matched up to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The EX-L, SE and Touring trim levels are all designed with standard front-wheel drive while all-wheel drive is left as an option. All-wheel drive is standard on Elite and Black Edition trims, but you cannot get front-wheel drive on them.
In terms of power, the Pilot's standard V6 engine is no slouch. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 7 seconds flat which, for such a massive vehicle, is pretty impressive. Equally capable are the brakes, as the pedal has a firm enough feel when you press down on it. The brakes feel consistent in everyday driving, and when you do need to make an emergency stop, the Pilot only needs about 129 feet to come to a full and sudden halt.
Fuel economy is something Honda seems to always do fair well with. Even though the Honda Pilot isn't the most fuel efficient vehicle out there, it gets by. The AWD variant is EPA rated at 22 mpg combined (from 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway), but real world tests indicate that it can do slightly better, pulling more like 25 mpg combined. Of course, the FWD models will fare a few mpg better.
How does the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas stack up in terms of performance? It gives you two engine options: the base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (which generates a power output of 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque) or the optional 3.6-liter V6 engine (which produces 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque) for the SE with Technology and every iteration of the SEL. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is optional.
The V6 does have a nice thrust of power off the line, but as you go, it loses steam. The V6 equipped models take about 8.5 seconds to get up to 60 mph, which is a tad slower than average for this segment. The base 4-cylinder is actually quicker at 8.1 seconds. Still, neither engine is really able to outshine the Honda Pilot's strong V6 engine.
Fuel economy is merely "meh", with the base engine equipped with AWD getting only 22 mpg combined (with 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway). While real-world tests uphold these EPA estimates, a few third-row SUVs manage to do better than this - and one of them is indeed the Honda Pilot.
When we talk about drivability, we're really using an umbrella term to describe a vehicle's steering and handling, composure, comfort, user-friendliness of its tech, and how much utility the vehicle offers. Some large SUVs excel in those categories while others fall short in a few of them based on design limitations faced by third-row SUVs.
That being said, let's look at how the Pilot performs. The Honda Pilot is capable at handling winding roadways and, with AWD equipped, it can handle slick road surfaces. Just don't expect it to have the best off-roading potential since its ground clearance is not high enough. It also lacks off-road features like hill descent control. But it has responsive enough steering and controlled body motions.
Comfort is something Honda has down to a science, and the Pilot is no exception to this rule. The front seats are well sculpted for all-day support, and the second-row sliding and reclining seats give those middle-row passengers a bit of leeway to kick back and relax. The V6 engine is pleasantly quiet until you push it to full throttle, and relatively little wind or road noise enters the cabin even at highway speeds. The entire cabin sounds well muted, and the tri-zone climate control system is more than adept at keeping occupants properly warmed up or cooled down in a timely fashion.
The Pilot's interior evokes that typical Honda sensibility. Everything is smartly laid out, and there are plenty of areas to stash your smartphone or tablet. While the third row is not quite as big as that found in the Atlas (which we'll get to in a moment), it does offer enough space for smaller adults. It's just that the accessway is somewhat narrow. But, up front, it is easy to find a comfy driving position with the numerous ways you can adjust the driver's seat and tilting and telescoping steering wheel. The seat's upright position gives you an expansive view out of the Pilot, feeling more minivan-like than SUV-ish.
Honda's technology is pretty user-oriented and works well with just a few caveats. Inside of the (now) base EX-L trim level, you get treated to a seven-speaker sound system, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, smartphone app integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM Satellite radio, and a total of four USB ports (with two being placed up front and the other two in the second row).
The Special Edition (SE) trim level adds a standard wireless charging pad, but upgrading to the Touring trim level nabs you a rear entertainment system, one 115-volt household-style outlet, a 10-speaker premium sound system, WIFI hot-spot connectivity, a cabin intercom system, and parking sensors. The built-in navigation system is quick to respond to inputs. Also, the sound quality from the 10-speaker sound system is high on the spectrum.
The 2022 Volkswagen Atlas is a sizable vehicle, but it does not exactly feel like one. It remains planted while rounding through turns, showing no real signs of body roll. The transmission upshifts and downshifts without any noticeable interruptions in power, and the brakes retain a consistent feel.
The Atlas also does not quite match the Pilot in terms of comfort. The front seats lack some adjustability, and shorter drivers might struggle with the seat bottoms being too flat and long to hold them in proper comfort. A nifty feature for those in both back rows is that these seats are all able to recline, and a reclining third row is virtually unheard-of. The second row is also able to slide.
The ride quality on the Atlas feels firm and planted enough. There is no sense of the suspension making the vehicle seem too floaty. The huge side mirrors do generate some wind noise, and you will hear that inside of the cabin once you get going at a higher rate of speed. However, you can just crank the volume on the audio system to drown it out.
The third row is one of the most spacious out there. Adults who are 6 feet tall can sit back there without feeling too cramped. The sliding second row adds a lot of comfort, and there is plenty of visibility out of the rear thanks to the slender roof pillars and wide glass.
Up front, the digital gauge cluster does take some getting-used-to, but it does become more user-friendly as you work through the short learning curve. The touchscreen display does force you to look at the screen to press its buttons, though, which is distracting as you try to drive.
The Atlas does boast a wide array of desirable technology. It is outfitted with a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, smartphone app connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and WIFI hot-spot connectivity.
Upgrading to the SE with Technology will get you some second- and third-row USB ports, an 8-inch touchscreen display, wireless smartphone app integration, voice controls, and a wireless charging pad - all of which feel more on par with what buyers are looking for. The line-topping SEL Premium R-Line gives you a 12-speaker Fender premium audio system, but it might be too expensive of an upgrade for the average buyer. Voice controls are better than they used to be, but they are still fairly basic.
Behind the third row, you get 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space, which is generous for a midsize third-row SUV. Folding both back rows of seats down maxes the available space out to a whopping 96.8 cubes. With the manually folding seats being so flexible, it is easy to take the seats down and stash your bulky cargo.
Honda equips the 2022 Pilot with a slew of standard driver aids that make it all the safer to drive on a daily basis. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision mitigation, and a lane keeping system are all included in this bundle. All in all, this is a well-rounded package, but it would be nice if adaptive cruise control worked down to 0 mph and not just to 20 mph. Also, it seems as though the lane keeping system gets too intrusive on twisting roads.
The 2022 Volkswagen Atlas also has quite a few safety features equipped. The SE only has forward collision mitigation and a blind spot monitor with a rear cross-traffic alert. Going up to the SE with Technology at least adds on adaptive cruise control and parking sensors for the front and rear of the Atlas. The SEL tacks on blind-spot intervention, adaptive headlights, and a lane keeping system, which puts it more on-par with the basics offered on the Honda Pilot. Upgrading to the SEL Premium R-Line will get you more advanced features, including a 360-degree surround-view camera system and an automated parking system.
Which Has the Best Value?
In terms of value, the Honda Pilot is packed with it. The fully loaded, line-topping Elite trim level is a little more expensive than other line-topping models in its segment, but it leaves them in the dust when it comes to comfort and utility. For a non-luxury vehicle, the Elite really could fool you; it looks and feels that luxurious. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and cozy materials to be found even in the lower trim levels. Warranty coverage is standard, but you do reap some rewards in terms of a high fuel economy for this class.
That isn't to say the Volkswagen Atlas doesn't have much value. However, the higher trim levels are pricier than quite a few of the Atlas' main competitors. There are a lot of easy-to-use high-tech features and driver aids (although you do have to upgrade from the base trim to get a fair amount of them), and they work well enough.
What drags the Atlas down is its engine options. They're so lackluster that even the V6 can be called boring. In fact, the 4-cylinder is slightly better than the V6, although that really is not saying a lot. With a lack of horsepower, the cheap interior plastics and average warranty coverage make the Atlas less attractive than some of its competitors.
Which is Better?
While the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas has some good tech included on it and is mostly comfortable to sit in, you don't get as much value in the long-term as you do from the 2022 Honda Pilot.
The Pilot is composed, upscale, and fuel efficient for a vehicle in its segment. It is backed by a long history of reliability, which really hammers home sales for Honda. People keep coming back for more, and it is easy to see why Honda has so many return buyers. The Pilot is packed with comfort and creature comforts, plus it can actually be a fair amount of fun to drive while carting your family around.
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