Car Buying Strategies
Search Car Buying Strategies Makes & Models Select a Make and Model Makes & Models Select a Make and Model New Cars Prices Buying Advice
Home / Volkswagen / 2023 Volkswagen Atlas

2023 Volkswagen Atlas Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2023 Volkswagen Atlas Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: SE vs SE with Technology, SEL vs R-Line Black and SEL Premium
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

What 2023 Volkswagen Atlas Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Looking for a third-row, family-friendly SUV this year? If so, then the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas might be on your list of vehicles to test-drive. And, if it is not, then it might be after you read through this trim level comparison review. Spacious, comfortable, and straightforward, the Atlas is a vehicle with a lot of promise for growing families.

The Atlas has a cabin that is set up for everyone to be able to use without issue. The controls are smartly laid out and placed well within the driver's reach. Having been introduced onto the market in 2018, the Atlas is one of the roomiest mid-size third-row SUVs out there. Passengers in all three rows get ample room to stretch out and relax. Even in the third row, two larger kids or smaller adults fit comfortably together.

In 2021, VW gave the Atlas a mid-cycle refresh that included an infotainment system riddled with updates. In 2022, there were not too many changes made, save for the base S trim level being axed from the line-up. That means that, for 2023, you will not find too many differences. The biggest difference is that yet another trim level - the SEL R-Line - is gone from the lineup. Also, starting on the SE with Technology trim level, you now get an upgraded version of last year's digital instrument cluster. And, yes, it comes standard on that trim.

There are a few drawbacks to owning the 2023 Atlas, though. First and foremost, its fuel economy is lower than many of its toughest competitors in this segment. EPA estimates for the 4-cylinder base engine are more generous than the optional V6's 22 combined miles per gallon estimate. Real-world tests show that these numbers are fairly accurate with a combined mpg of 23.5. Unfortunately, they just do not stack up to what other mid-size third-row SUVs with similar engines offer. And even on the V6 option, you will not get inspiring acceleration speeds.

If the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas sounds like the right vehicle for you, then you will be getting something spacious. But which trim level best meets your needs with all of its included features? Despite losing two trim levels in the past two years, the Atlas still has a lot of trims to choose from.
Whether you stick with the base SE trim, buy up to the line-topping SEL Premium R-Line, or go somewhere in between, you need to know what to expect from each one. Read through this trim level comparison and learn about our pick for the Atlas trim level with the most value for the average buyer in this segment.

Compare the SE vs SE With Technology. What is the difference?

Kicking off the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas line-up is the base SE trim level, which is directly followed up by the SE With Technology. These two trim levels are fairly similar, but as their names indicate, there are some noticeable differences. These two trims, plus the SEL, are all powered by a standard 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine that generates a maximum power output of 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard issue on this engine, but all-wheel drive is available as an option if you want it.

The base SE trim level drives on top of 18-inch wheels made from alloy material, and it has LED headlights imbedded into the front fascia. In the back, you can open the power liftgate to make for easy access into the cargo area. The external side mirrors come with a heating function which comes in handy when you need to melt away ice. Also, you can easily get into the Atlas and start it up with proximity keyless entry and ignition.

Once you slide into the cabin, you will notice that the driver's seat is power adjustable. The seats are covered in a simulated leather upholstery, and the front seats are equipped with a standard heating function that can help warm you up on cooler mornings. The second row of seats has a 60/40-split fold while the third-row is a 50/50-split folding bench seat. There are manual sunshades placed in the vehicle for the rear seats. In the cockpit, you can use the digital instrument cluster to look at all your important driving data.

As far as technology on the SE trim level goes, you get a basic setup. This consists of a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen display, a six-speaker sound system, two USB ports, WIFI hot-spot, and smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A moderate amount of advanced driver aids come on the Atlas, too. You get forward collision mitigation, which lets you know if there is a potential oncoming crash and will apply the brakes in an effort to avoid an accident. Blind-spot monitoring comes with rear cross-traffic alert, and these will alert you when a vehicle is driving in your blind-spot if you try to change lanes or go in reverse.

If you decide that you need something a bit more tech-oriented, then the aptly named SE With Technology might be worth considering. This trim level gets upgraded to bigger 20-inch wheels and comes with a hands-free liftgate in the back for even easier cargo area access. Remote engine start makes starting the vehicle up all the more simple too. A digital gauge cluster with configurable settings can be seen behind the steering wheel. A tri-zone automatic climate control system heats and cools all three zones inside of the cabin, adjusting automatically as needed.

In terms of tech specs, the SE With Technology steps it up in some rather big ways. The second and third rows of seats gain USB charging ports, and the second row gains a 115-volt AC outlet. An 8-inch touchscreen display gets swapped in up front, and the smartphone app integration becomes wireless, thereby eliminating a lot of cord clutter. What's more, you gain voice controls with this system as well as a wireless charging pad to use for your smartphone.

A couple more advanced driver aids come on the SEL With Technology. This gives the Atlas adaptive cruise control, which lets you set a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of the Atlas, and the system will adjust accordingly. Also, there are parking sensors for the front and rear of the vehicle that can detect objects sitting below the bumper line that you would not be able to see with the naked eye.

Options available for the SE With Technology include AWD, captain's chairs for the second row, a panoramic sunroof, and, for the V6 models, a towing package that boosts max towing capacity up to 5,000 pounds.

Compare the SE With Technology vs SEL Trims. What is the difference?

The SEL trim level comes with the 4-cylinder engine, but if you'd like, you can opt for the 3.6-L V6 engine, which generates a power output of 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. With the V6 equipped, you get the towing package. The previously optional panoramic sunroof is also now standard. AWD is the standard drivetrain, not FWD.

Additionally, the SEL trim level is outfitted with heated side mirrors that have a power folding ability and a heated steering wheel. The front passenger seat gains power adjustability, plus the cabin is lit up with ambient interior lighting. A drive mode selector comes standard, as does an integrated navigation system with voice controls that can recognize natural speech patterns pretty well.

Blind-spot intervention will steer the SEL back into its current lane if you attempt to change lanes while someone else is driving in your blind spot. Adaptive headlights swivel as you turn so you get enhanced illumination while cornering, and lane keeping will make small steering adjustments to keep the Atlas centered within its lane.

Compare the SEL vs SEL R-Line Black. What is the difference?

Upgrading one more trim level lands you at the SEL R-Line Black. The biggest change is that the V6 engine is standard on this trim level, but there are a few more differences worthy of note. The 20-inch wheels are done in a sleek gloss black, and the front and rear bumpers are done in a sport styling.

More black adorns this vehicle than that though. You get black badges, a black front grille, and black mirror caps. Also, you get special R-Line trim inside of the cabin.

Compare the SEL R-Line Black vs SEL Premium R-Line. What is the difference?

At the top of the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas lineup is the SEL Premium R-Line. It takes everything from the SEL R-Line Black and adds a slew of upgrades, including bigger 21-inch wheels. The front row of seats gains a ventilation function while the second-row seats have a heating function built into them. Also, the seats all throughout the cabin get upgraded to chic leather upholstery that is breathable and comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time.

A 360-degree surround-view camera gives you a top-down view around the outside of the Atlas, and the automated parking system will guide the Atlas into a parking spot without any intervention on your part. The audio system gets boosted to a 12-speaker Fender premium sound system that produces crisp audio quality throughout the cabin.

Final Thoughts

The 2023 Volkswagen Atlas line-up has been trimmed down a little bit, but that is not a bad thing as these trim levels pack in quite a bit of value. Even the lower trim levels give you quite a bit of bang for your buck. But which Atlas trim level holds the most value for buyers this model year?

We have to hand it to the SE With Technology for hitting a sweet spot, striking just the right balance between features and cost. The hands-free liftgate and remote engine start make the vehicle feel even more convenience-oriented, which is great if you are a busy parent on the go with the kids all the time.
Of course, the extra driver aids and bigger infotainment touchscreen display are nice benefits. You will not find yourself wanting for more in this trim level, as it does a thorough job of covering all its bases.

Previous Year Trim Configurations:

2022 Volkswagen Atlas Trim Levels