2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2020 Nissan Pathfinder

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 2020/08/13

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 Pathfinder 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 Pathfinder doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

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 Pathfinder doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

Both the Atlas and the Pathfinder 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, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Volkswagen Atlas is safer than the Nissan Pathfinder:

Atlas

Pathfinder

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

232

337

Neck Injury Risk

34%

42%

Neck Stress

441 lbs.

464 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

33/218 lbs.

516/475 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

138

248

Neck Injury Risk

33%

33%

Leg Forces (l/r)

156/231 lbs.

479/476 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Volkswagen Atlas is safer than the Nissan Pathfinder:

Atlas

Pathfinder

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

57

114

Chest Movement

.5 inches

.9 inches

Abdominal Force

48 G’s

120 G’s

Hip Force

345 lbs.

457 lbs.

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

39 G’s

41 G’s

Hip Force

527 lbs.

557 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

14 inches

18 inches

HIC

279

338

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

© 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 2020/08/13

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 Pathfinder’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 Pathfinder’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. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Pathfinder.

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 2020/08/13

The Volkswagen Atlas’ engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Pathfinder’s engine uses 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 Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 15th.

Engine

© 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 2020/08/13

The Atlas’ optional 3.6 DOHC V6 produces 7 lbs.-ft. more torque (266 vs. 259) than the Pathfinder’s 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 Pathfinder doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Brakes and Stopping

© 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 2020/08/13

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

Atlas

Pathfinder

Front Rotors

13.2 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

12.2 inches

12.13 inches

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Atlas has larger standard tires than the Pathfinder (245/60R18 vs. 235/65R18). The Atlas SEL Premium’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Pathfinder (265/45R21 vs. 255/60R18).

The Atlas’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Pathfinder S/SV/SL’s standard 65 series tires. The Atlas SEL Premium’s optional tires have a lower 45 series profile than the Pathfinder Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Atlas SEL Premium offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Pathfinder’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Suspension and Handling

© 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 2020/08/13

The Atlas’ drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Pathfinder doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Atlas’ wheelbase is 3.1 inches longer than on the Pathfinder (117.3 inches vs. 114.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is 1.5 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than on the Pathfinder.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the Pathfinder Platinum 4x4 pulls only .76 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Atlas SE executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.6 seconds quicker than the Pathfinder Platinum 4x4 (27.6 seconds @ .62 average G’s vs. 29.2 seconds @ .53 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Atlas’ turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the Pathfinder’s (38.1 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

For greater off-road capability the Atlas has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Pathfinder (8 vs. 7 inches), allowing the Atlas to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Passenger Space

© 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 2020/08/13

The Atlas has 1.4 inches more front hip room, .6 inches more front shoulder room, 1 inch more rear headroom, 2 inches more rear hip room, .4 inches more rear shoulder room, .5 inches more third row headroom, 3 inches more third row legroom and 3.1 inches more third row hip room than the Pathfinder.

The front step up height for the Atlas is 1 inches lower than the Pathfinder (18” vs. 19”). The Atlas’ rear step up height is 2.8 inches lower than the Pathfinder’s (18” vs. 20.8”).

Cargo Capacity

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

Atlas

Pathfinder

Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

16.2 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

n/a

Third Seat Removed

n/a

47.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

79.5 cubic feet

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Atlas easier. The Atlas’ cargo hatch lift-over height is 29.7 inches, while the Pathfinder’s liftover is 31.5 inches.

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

Atlas

Pathfinder

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

23.8”/53”/85”

19.2”/43.7”/78.9”

Max Width

61.6”

45.9”

Min Width

45”

45.4”

Height

37.5”

31.4”

Servicing Ease

© 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 2020/08/13

The Atlas uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Pathfinder uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The Atlas has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Pathfinder doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

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

The power windows standard on both the Atlas and the Pathfinder have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Atlas is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Pathfinder prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

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 Pathfinder’s standard power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. Only its driver’s window opens automatically. With the Pathfinder SV/SL/Platinum’s power windows, only the front windows open or close automatically.

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 Pathfinder S’ standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The Pathfinder SV/SL/Platinum’s 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 Pathfinder doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Atlas has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The automatic headlight on/off feature is not available on the Pathfinder S.

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 Pathfinder 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 Pathfinder 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.

Manual rear side window sunshades are available in the Atlas to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Pathfinder doesn’t offer rear side window sunshades.

The Atlas’ standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Heated mirrors cost extra on the Pathfinder and aren’t offered on the Pathfinder S.

The Atlas SEL Premium’s Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Pathfinder doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

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 2020/08/13

Insurance will cost less for the Atlas owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Atlas with a number “5” insurance rate while the Pathfinder is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Atlas is less expensive to operate than the Pathfinder because it costs $363 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Atlas than the Pathfinder, including $132 less for a fuel pump.

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 2020/08/13

The Volkswagen Atlas outsold the Nissan Pathfinder by 24% during 2019.

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

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