2019 Dodge Durango vs. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Durango has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Atlas doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

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

Warranty

The Durango comes with free roadside assistance for 5 years 100,000 miles. Dodge will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Atlas.

There are almost 4 times as many Dodge dealers as there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Durango’s warranty.

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Durango has a standard 850-amp battery (700 V8). The Atlas’ 680-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Dodge vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Dodge 19th in initial quality. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 24th.

Engine

The Durango has more powerful engines than the Atlas:

 

Horsepower

Torque

Durango 3.6 DOHC V6

293 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

Durango Dual Exhaust 3.6 DOHC V6

295 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

Durango 5.7 V8

360 HP

390 lbs.-ft.

Atlas 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

235 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

Atlas 3.6 DOHC V6

276 HP

266 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Motor Trend the Dodge Durango is faster than the Volkswagen Atlas V6:

 

Durango Dual Exhaust

Durango V8

Atlas

Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

6.4 sec

7.9 sec

Quarter Mile

15.8 sec

14.9 sec

16 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

88.9 MPH

92.9 MPH

81.6 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Durango gets better fuel mileage than the Atlas:

 

 

Durango

Atlas

 

2WD

3.6 V6 (295 HP)/Auto

19 city/26 hwy

18 city/25 hwy

3.6 V6/Auto

4WD

3.6 V6 (295 HP)/Auto

18 city/25 hwy

17 city/23 hwy

3.6 V6/Auto

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the Durango V8’s fuel efficiency. The Atlas doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Dodge Durango uses regular unleaded gasoline (mid-grade octane recommended with the 5.7 V8 engine for maximum performance). The Atlas requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 5 to 40 cents more per gallon.

The Durango has 6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Atlas (24.6 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Durango V8’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Atlas:

 

Durango V8

Atlas

Front Rotors

13.8 inches

13.2 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

12.2 inches

The Durango stops much shorter than the Atlas:

 

Durango

Atlas

 

60 to 0 MPH

120 feet

139 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Durango has larger tires than the Atlas (265/60R18 vs. 245/60R18). The Durango SXT/GT’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Atlas (265/60R18 vs. 255/50R20).

Suspension and Handling

The Durango has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Durango offers an optional automatic rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The Atlas doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Durango’s wheelbase is 2.5 inches longer than on the Atlas (119.8 inches vs. 117.3 inches).

The Durango’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (50% to 50%) than the Atlas’ (55.1% to 44.9%). This gives the Durango more stable handling and braking.

The Durango R/T 4x4 handles at .80 G’s, while the Atlas SEL 4Motion pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Durango R/T 4x4 executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Atlas SEL 4Motion (27.4 seconds @ .64 average G’s vs. 27.9 seconds @ .61 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the Durango has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Atlas (8.1 vs. 8 inches), allowing the Durango to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Durango GT 4x4 is quieter than the Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion:

 

Durango

Atlas

At idle

38 dB

41 dB

Full-Throttle

76 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

67 dB

68 dB

Payload and Towing

The Durango’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Atlas’ (6200 vs. 2000 pounds). Maximum trailer towing in the Volkswagen Atlas is only 5000 pounds. The Durango offers up to a 7400 lbs. towing capacity.

The Durango has a higher standard payload capacity than the Atlas (1380 vs. 1213 lbs.).

The Durango has a much higher maximum payload capacity than the Atlas (1460 vs. 1213 lbs.).

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Durango is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Atlas. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Durango GT/R/T/Citadel’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Atlas doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The Durango’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge – which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The Atlas does not have an oil pressure gauge.

On a hot day the Durango’s driver can lower the front windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Atlas can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

The Durango’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Atlas’ standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Durango has a standard rear fixed intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the Atlas only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.

The Durango has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. When the ignition turns off, the headlights turn off after a delay timed to allow you to securely get to your front door. The Atlas has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the SE/SEL/SEL Premium.

The Durango’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Volkswagen only offers heated mirrors on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium.

The Durango offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Atlas offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The Durango has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Atlas and isn’t available on the Atlas S.

The Durango’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Atlas S doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Durango is less expensive to operate than the Atlas because it costs $162 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Durango than the Atlas, including $445 less for a water pump, $373 less for a muffler, $7 less for front brake pads, $240 less for a starter, $280 less for fuel injection, $54 less for front struts, $452 less for a timing belt/chain and $461 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

The Dodge Durango outsold the Volkswagen Atlas by almost three to one during 2017.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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