2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2019 Ford Flex

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 2020/08/06

The Atlas has standard Autonomous Emergency Braking, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Flex offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

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 Flex 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 Flex doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

When descending a steep, off-road slope, the Atlas 4Motion’s standard Hill Descent Control allows you to creep down safely. The Flex doesn’t offer Hill Descent Control.

The Volkswagen Atlas has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Flex doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

The Atlas (except S)’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Flex doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Atlas SEL Premium has a standard Overhead View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Flex only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

Both the Atlas and the Flex have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras and available all wheel drive.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Volkswagen Atlas is safer than the Flex:

Atlas

Flex

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

11 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

23 cm

23 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.46/.5

.53/.69

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 198 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Flex was not even a “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

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The Atlas comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Flex’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The Atlas’ corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Flex’s (7 vs. 5 years).

Volkswagen pays for scheduled maintenance on the Atlas for 2 years and 20,000 miles. Volkswagen will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Ford doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Flex.

Reliability

© 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 2020/08/06

The Volkswagen Atlas’ engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Flex’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. The Flex’s 650-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

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 Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 15 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

Engine

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The Atlas’ optional 3.6 DOHC V6 produces 12 lbs.-ft. more torque (266 vs. 254) than the Flex’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

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In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Atlas’ engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Flex doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Volkswagen Atlas, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Flex.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Atlas

Flex

Front Rotors

13.2 inches

12.8 inches

The Atlas stops much shorter than the Flex:

Atlas

Flex

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

192 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

© 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 2020/08/06

For better traction, the Atlas has larger standard tires than the Flex (245/60R18 vs. 235/60R18). The Atlas SEL Premium’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Flex (265/45R21 vs. 255/45R20).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Atlas has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the Flex SE. The Atlas SEL Premium’s optional 21-inch wheels are larger than the 20-inch wheels optional on the Flex.

Suspension and Handling

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For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is 1.8 inches wider in the front and 2.4 inches wider in the rear than on the Flex.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the Flex SEL AWD pulls only .78 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 Flex’s (38.1 feet vs. 40.7 feet).

Chassis

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The Volkswagen Atlas may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 100 to 200 pounds less than the Ford Flex.

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 Flex (.36). A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Atlas get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

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The Atlas has 2.7 inches more front hip room, 3.1 inches more front shoulder room, 3 inches more rear hip room, 2.7 inches more rear shoulder room, .4 inches more third row legroom, 4 inches more third row hip room and 4.1 inches more third row shoulder room than the Flex.

Cargo Capacity

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

Atlas

Flex

Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

20 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

43.2 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

83.2 cubic feet

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

Atlas

Flex

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

23.8”/53”/85”

16.5”/47”/83.3”

Max Width

61.6”

46”

Min Width

45”

40.5”

Height

37.5”

40”

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

Towing

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Maximum trailer towing in the Ford Flex is limited to 4500 pounds. The Atlas offers up to a 5000 lbs. towing capacity.

Ergonomics

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The Atlas’ power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Flex’s parking brake has to released manually.

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 Flex’s 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 Flex can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Atlas’ power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The Flex’s power mirror switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

The Atlas has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Flex doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Atlas’ rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Flex SE/SEL’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

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 Flex doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Atlas SEL Premium detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Flex doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the Atlas offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Flex doesn’t offer cornering lights. The Atlas SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line also has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

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 Flex’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

Economic Advantages

© 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 2020/08/06

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Atlas is less expensive to operate than the Flex because typical repairs cost less on the Atlas than the Flex, including $52 less for a muffler.

Recommendations

© 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 2020/08/06

The Volkswagen Atlas outsold the Ford Flex by over three to one during 2019.

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

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