suv WY

Comparing the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas to the 2018 Toyota Highlander.

One of our readers from near Casper, Wyoming is considering trading her GMC Acadia. She is considering the Volkswagen Atlas and the Toyota Highlander. Having children aged of 7 and 2, a third row is handy to have. Living on a ranch, where roads aren’t necessarily plowed in the winter, 4WD or AWD is necessary. Ground clearance is also something to consider. She also travels a fair distance into the town of Casper almost every day, so gas mileage is important also.


Both 2018 vehicles achieve an overall 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA (Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Here are the details below. The results are identical.

NHTSA Safety RatingsAtlasHighlander
Front Driver Side********
Front Passenger Side**********
Combined Side Barrier & Pole Rating-Front Seat**********
Combined Side Barrier & Pole Rating-Rear Seat**********
Side Barrier Driver**********
Side Barrier Rear Passenger**********

For more information on what these tests mean, check out NHTSA website link for the 2018 Highlander AWD and 2018 Atlas AWD.

2018 Toyota Highlander safety features

The Toyota Highlander features a lot of the latest safety technology as standard on all Highlander trim levels. It’s called T-SS P which stands for Toyota Safety Sense™. Features include;

  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD)
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA)
  • Auto High Beams (AHB)
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
  • STAR Safety System™ includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Anti-lock braking system
  • Electronic Brake Force Distribution
  • Brake Assist
  • Smart Stop Technology
  • Downhill Assist Control
  • Safety Connect (Emergency Assistance). Available by subscription on Limited and Platinum trim lines.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas safety features

All trim lines of the Atlas get Electronic Stability Control and (class exclusive) Post-Collision Braking.

Available driver assist systems (depending on trim line) include;

  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist)
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Traffic Alert
  • Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist)
  • Front and rear Park Distance Control with Maneuver braking
  • Parking Steering Assist
  • High Beam Control
  • Overhead view camera
  • Car Net


Fuel Economy

Looking at the AWD versions of the Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas. These are the EPA estimates for fuel economy.

Fuel EconomyAtlas (3.6L V6)Highlander (3.5L V6)
City- mpg1720
Highway- mpg2326
Combined - mpg1922

According to the EPA, this equates to about $50 more a year (based on 15,000 miles a year) to fuel the Atlas.

The Highlander is smaller than the Atlas, thus better acceleration and better fuel economy.

Seating and space

The VW seat configuration allows 3-rows with a middle row that can either be a bench (3 person) seat or captains chairs (2 person). The third row is 2 seats. Room for 6 or 7 people total.

The Toyota seat configuration is 3 rows that with captain’s chair’s in the second row seats up to 7. With a bench seat in the middle Toyota say it will seat up to 8 people, with 3 people in the second and third rows.

Although the Atlas has one less seat in the third row, it does have more space.

Cargo Volume to Seat 2 (ft³)
Cargo Volume to Seat 1 (ft³)
Cargo Volume to Seat 3 (ft³)

Ground clearance

Both the Toyota Highlander and VW Atlas have the same ground clearance at 8″.



The Atlas base model gets a 6.5″ screen but the rest of the lineup gets the 8″ touchscreen. All trim levels get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so smartphone integration is easy (literally plug and play). It allows access to apps such as navigation, phone and messaging right on the color touch screen in the center console.

The Highlander, however, does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (yet). The base model gets a 6.1″ touchscreen and the rest an 8″ touchscreen.  It does have Toyota’s version which is called Entune. Entune allows Bluetooth and audio streaming. Scout GPS Link allows users to project a navigation map from smartphone to screen. Wi-Fi is also not an option (yet).


Warranty and Dependability

Toyota’s warranty on the Highlander is much the same as most vehicle warranties. It’s a 3 year / 36 000 mile basic warranty and a 5 year/ 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Toyota have a good reputation for producing reliable vehicles. The current model Highlander has been around for quite some time.  Volkswagen, however, offer a 6 year/ 72, 000 mile basic and powertrain warranty on the Atlas.  As far as dependability goes, the Atlas is too new to really know how reliable it will be.



As far as price goes when comparing MSRP’s  the Volkswagen base model Atlas S (assuming the AWD version with the V6) is just under $600 cheaper than the base Toyota Highlander LE AWD. As you climb higher in trim levels, the Atlas becomes a little more expensive than the Highlander. Of course, this is just looking at trim level for trim level and does not take into consideration any rebates or incentives. Talk with your preferred Toyota or Volkswagen dealer directly about pricing info.

These a very comparable vehicles so ultimately, its worth driving both of them to see which one you prefer., if there isn’t a particular spec that’s a decision maker for you.

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