2020 Mercedes GLS vs. 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

The GLS’ pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Atlas doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

To provide maximum traction and stability on all roads, All-Wheel Drive is standard on the GLS. But it costs extra on the Atlas.

The GLS’ driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Atlas doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the GLS 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, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning and available lane departure warning systems.

The Mercedes GLS weighs 973 to 1468 pounds more than the Volkswagen Atlas. The NHTSA advises that heavier vehicles are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

Warranty

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The GLS’ corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Atlas’ (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).

Reliability

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A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the GLS’ reliability 17 points higher than the Atlas.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 19 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mercedes 6 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

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The GLS 450’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cylinder hybrid produces 127 more horsepower (362 vs. 235) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 258) than the Atlas’ standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The GLS 450’s 3.0 turbo 6-cylinder hybrid produces 86 more horsepower (362 vs. 276) and 103 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 266) than the Atlas’ optional 3.6 DOHC V6. The GLS 580’s standard 4.0 turbo V8 hybrid produces 207 more horsepower (483 vs. 276) and 250 lbs.-ft. more torque (516 vs. 266) than the Atlas’ optional 3.6 DOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the Mercedes GLS is faster than the Volkswagen Atlas V6:

GLS 450

GLS 580

Atlas

Zero to 60 MPH

5.8 sec

5.4 sec

7.9 sec

Quarter Mile

14.3 sec

14 sec

16 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

101.7 MPH

81.6 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the GLS gets better fuel mileage than the Atlas V6:

MPG

GLS

AWD

3.0 turbo 6-cyl. Hybrid

19 city/23 hwy

Atlas

FWD

3.6 DOHC V6

17 city/23 hwy

AWD

3.6 DOHC V6

16 city/22 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the GLS’ fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Atlas doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The GLS has 5.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the Atlas (23.8 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mercedes GLS higher (6 out of 10) than the Volkswagen Atlas (3 to 5). This means the GLS produces up to 23.4 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Atlas every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes GLS, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Atlas.

Brakes and Stopping

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

GLS

Atlas

Front Rotors

14.8 inches

13.2 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

12.2 inches

The GLS stops much shorter than the Atlas:

GLS

Atlas

70 to 0 MPH

166 feet

174 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

139 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the GLS has larger standard tires than the Atlas (255/50R19 vs. 245/60R18). The GLS’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Atlas (275/50R20 vs. 265/45R21).

The GLS’ tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Atlas’ standard 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the GLS has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Atlas. The GLS’ optional 23-inch wheels are larger than the 21-inch wheels optional on the Atlas SEL Premium.

Suspension and Handling

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The GLS has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the GLS flat and controlled during cornering. The Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

The front and rear suspension of the GLS uses air springs for a smoother, controlled ride than the Atlas, which uses coil springs. Air springs maintain proper ride height and ride more smoothly.

The GLS offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Volkswagen doesn’t offer an active suspension on the Atlas.

The GLS has a standard driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The GLS has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The GLS’ height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Atlas doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the GLS’ wheelbase is 6.1 inches longer than on the Atlas (123.4 inches vs. 117.3 inches).

The GLS 580 handles at .90 G’s, while the Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The GLS 450 executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.5 seconds quicker than the Atlas SEL 4Motion (26.4 seconds @ .7 average G’s vs. 27.9 seconds @ .61 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the GLS has a 2.1 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Atlas (10.1 vs. 8 inches), allowing the GLS to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The GLS Off-Road Package’s minimum ground clearance is 3.3 inches higher than on the Atlas (11.3 vs. 8 inches).

Chassis

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The design of the Mercedes GLS amounts to more than styling. The GLS has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .32 Cd. That is lower than the Atlas (.34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the GLS get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

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The GLS has 4.3 inches more rear legroom and .9 inches more third row legroom than the Atlas.

Cargo Capacity

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The GLS has a standard third row seat which folds flat into the floor. This completely clears a very large cargo area quickly. The Atlas doesn’t offer seats that fold into the floor.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the GLS’ second and third row seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The Atlas doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

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The GLS’ standard towing capacity is much higher than the Atlas’ (7700 vs. 2000 pounds). The Atlas’ maximum towing capacity is only 5000 pounds.

Servicing Ease

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The engine in the GLS 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.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Volkswagen. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 39% lower rating, Volkswagen is ranked 18th.

Ergonomics

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Unlike the driver-only memory system in the Atlas SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line, the GLS has standard driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position, suspension setting, power steering assist, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The GLS’ standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Atlas doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The GLS offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Atlas doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

If the windows are left open on the GLS the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Atlas can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

The GLS’ standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Atlas has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The GLS has standard heated front and optional heated second and third row seats, which keep the driver and passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Volkswagen doesn’t offer heated seats in the third row of the Atlas.

Optional air conditioned the front and second row seats keep the GLS’ passengers comfortable and take the sting out of hot leather in summer. The Atlas doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats for the second row.

The GLS offers optional massaging front and second row seats, which keep the driver and middle row passengers. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Atlas.

The GLS 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 is only available on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Mercedes GLS has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console and one for the rear passengers. Only the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line offers wireless charging.

The GLS’ Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Atlas SEL Premium’s automatic parking system requires operating the brakes and transmission to safely park.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the GLS is less expensive to operate than the Atlas because it costs $18 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the GLS than the Atlas, including $130 less for a muffler, $31 less for a starter and $1033 less for a timing belt/chain.

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

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