2019 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2019 Mercedes GLS

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Atlas has a standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The GLS 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 that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The GLS doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

To help make backing safer, the Atlas’ cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The GLS doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the Atlas and the GLS 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, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems and around view monitors.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Atlas the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 155 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The GLS has not been tested, yet.


The Atlas comes with a full 6-year/72000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck. The GLS’ 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 22000 miles sooner.

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

There are over 71 percent more Volkswagen dealers than there are Mercedes dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Atlas’ warranty.


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

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 3 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 13th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Volkswagen 1 place higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Fuel Economy and Range

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




2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

20 city/26 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy


3.6 DOHC V6

17 city/23 hwy



450 3.0 turbo V6

16 city/22 hwy

550 4.7 turbo V8

14 city/19 hwy

AMG 63 5.5 turbo V8

13 city/18 hwy

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Atlas uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The GLS requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Brakes and Stopping

The Atlas stops much shorter than the GLS:



70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 1.7 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the GLS.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the GLS 450 pulls only .74 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Atlas’ turning circle is 2.6 feet tighter than the GLS’ (38.1 feet vs. 40.7 feet).

For greater off-road capability the Atlas has a greater minimum ground clearance than the AMG GLS 63 (8 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the Atlas to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.


The Volkswagen Atlas may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1050 to 1100 pounds less than the Mercedes GLS.

The Atlas is 3.7 inches shorter than the GLS, making the Atlas easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Volkswagen Atlas amounts to more than styling. The Atlas has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .34 Cd. That is lower than the GLS (.37 to .38). A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Atlas get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

The Atlas has 10.1 cubic feet more passenger volume than the GLS (153.7 vs. 143.6).

The Atlas has .1 inches more front headroom, 1.2 inches more front legroom, 3 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear headroom, 2.5 inches more rear shoulder room and 4.4 inches more third row shoulder room than the GLS.

Cargo Capacity

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



Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

16 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

49.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

93.8 cubic feet

The Atlas’ cargo area is larger than the GLS’ in 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 liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The GLS doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Model Availability

The Atlas is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The GLS doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Atlas owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Atlas will cost $1290 to $8115 less than the GLS over a five-year period.

The Atlas will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Atlas will retain 50.52% to 52.72% of its original price after five years, while the GLS only retains 43.11% to 44.05%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Atlas is less expensive to operate than the GLS because typical repairs cost less on the Atlas than the GLS, including $53 less for a water pump, $74 less for front brake pads, $52 less for fuel injection, $94 less for a fuel pump, $4 less for front struts and $77 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Volkswagen Atlas will be $39007 to $71654 less than for the Mercedes GLS.


The Volkswagen Atlas outsold the Mercedes GLS by almost three to one during 2018.

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

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