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A Tale of Two SUVs – Jeep Wrangler/Volkswagen Atlas

Like twins separated at birth, one of these SUVs grew up to be the outdoorsy type, while the other became a paragon of responsible family transportation.

The Jeep Wrangler has impressive off-road chops. (Photo: © FCA US LLC.)

A poseur. That’s what virtually every other SUV on the market looks like compared to the Jeep Wrangler.

While plenty of competitors put out a rugged vibe, the all-new Wrangler is the real deal. Simply put, it is designed and built to go places that would stop those wannabes in their tire tracks.

This impressive off -road capability starts with the hardware, including a choice of two engines and three different four-wheel-drive setups. I drove Wranglers with both the standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine and the available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and was pleasantly surprised by the turbo-four’s spunk.

Also remarkable is this new Jeep’s noticeably improved ride and handling on the pavement. Though the Wrangler’s newfound on-road performance is not a reason to buy one, it’s bound to make living with one as a daily driver more realistic.

The same sentiment goes for the upscale creature comforts on the four-door (aka Wrangler Unlimited) Sahara models we spent time in.

Ultimately, this new Jeep is not only the opposite of a poseur; it’s the best Wrangler yet.

Base Price: $27,945

MPG: 18 city, 23 highway

Crash Test: N/A

The Volkswagen Atlas is a spacious family ride. (Photo: © FCA US LLC)

Like its mythical Greek namesake who was tasked with holding up the sky for all eternity, the Volkswagen Atlas has some broad shoulders. That’s a good thing when it comes to a model designed to carry an entire family and all their stuff.

While its muscular exterior styling is the first thing you’ll notice, the real strength of the midsize Atlas is its spacious passenger cabin with seating for seven. Interior details include adult-size room in all three rows, handsome design and good-quality materials.

My Atlas had an optional V-6 engine mated to an available all-wheel-drive system (a turbocharged four cylinder and front-wheel drive are standard). While its bulk impacts performance, I came away thinking that this powertrain – which can tow a hefty 5,000 pounds – would do nicely for a large swath of SUV shoppers. The suspension delivers an exceptionally smooth ride.

Add in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration plus top crash test scores, and the Volkswagen Atlas becomes a strong contender in an increasingly crowded SUV segment.

Base Price: $30,895

MPG: 22 city, 26 highway

Crash Test: 5 stars

Looking for a new car ride? Find more car reviews online. AAA.com/TestDrive

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