Pecheles Automotive Compares 2018 Volkswagen Atlas VS 2018 Toyota Highlander Near Greenville, NC

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2018 Volkswagen Atlas

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2018 Volkswagen Atlas

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2018 Toyota Highlander

Safety Comparison

The Atlas has standard post collision braking, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Highlander doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Atlas SEL/SEL Premium has standard Maneuver Braking which use rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Highlander doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

Compared to metal, the Atlas’ plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Toyota Highlander has a metal gas tank.

Both the Atlas and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty Comparison

The Atlas comes with a full 6-year/72000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck. The Highlander’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 3 years and 36,000 miles sooner.

The Atlas’ corrosion warranty is 5 years longer than the Highlander’s (10 vs. 5 years).

Reliability Comparison

The Volkswagen Atlas’ engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Highlander’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Atlas has a standard 680-amp battery (700 V6). The Highlander’s 604-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are better in initial quality than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 2 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 13th.

Engine Comparison

The Atlas’ standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 50 more horsepower (235 vs. 185) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Atlas FWD turbo 4 cyl. gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander FWD 4 cyl. (22 city/26 hwy vs. 20 city/24 hwy).

Regardless of its engine, the Atlas’ engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Toyota only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Highlander LE Plus/XLE/Limited/Platinum.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

For better stopping power the Atlas’ brake rotors are larger than those on the Highlander:




Front Rotors

13.2 inches

12.9 inches

The Atlas’ standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Highlander are solid, not vented.

The Atlas stops much shorter than the Highlander:





70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the Atlas’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (255/50R20 vs. 245/60R18).

The Atlas’ optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander SE/Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Atlas offers optional 20-inch wheels. The Highlander’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The Atlas has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Atlas’ drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Highlander doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Atlas’ wheelbase is 7.5 inches longer than on the Highlander (117.3 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is 2.8 inches wider in the front and 3.6 inches wider in the rear than on the Highlander.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Atlas’ turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the Highlander’s (38.1 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

Passenger Space Comparison

The Atlas has 8.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander (153.7 vs. 144.9).

The Atlas has .6 inches more front headroom, 1 inch more front hip room, 2.2 inches more front shoulder room, .5 inches more rear headroom, .9 inches more rear hip room, 1.2 inches more rear shoulder room, 2.4 inches more third row headroom and 6 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

The front step up height for the Atlas is 1.3 inches lower than the Highlander (18” vs. 19.3”). The Atlas’ rear step up height is 1.5 inches lower than the Highlander’s (18” vs. 19.5”).

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The Atlas’ cargo area provides more volume than the Highlander.




Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

13.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

42.3 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

83.7 cubic feet

The Atlas’ cargo area is larger than the Highlander’s in almost every dimension:




Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)



Max Width



Min Width






To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Atlas SEL/SEL Premium’s cargo door can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Highlander doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its cargo door, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Ergonomics Comparison

The Atlas (except S) offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The power windows standard on both the Atlas and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Atlas is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Highlander prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Atlas’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Highlander’s standard rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. The driver of the Highlander can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Highlander doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the Atlas offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Highlander doesn’t offer cornering lights.

When the Atlas SEL/SEL Premium is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Highlander’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Atlas SEL Premium’s Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Highlander doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

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