The real test of any vehicle: How well does the 2020 VW Atlas work with the iPhone?

VW Atlas driving
Credit: Volkswagen

It’s the biggest company in all of tech. When they announce an event or release a new product, the world notices. There’s another tiny little tech company you might know about called Google, but this one is responsible for one of my all-time favorite products. I’m talking about Apple, of course–and the remarkable iPhone. It’s been said a few million times, but this particular phone has always been a game-changer for me even from day one.

Which is funny because when it comes to vehicle testing, this transport mechanism sure better work with my phone. Forget the seats that fold down quickly in the back so I can stash a bike I’m testing or the fact that it’s so speedy. (The Volkswagen Atlas has a V6 engine with 276-horsepower. That’s much better than the Subaru Ascent or Honda Pilot. The VW Atlas can also tow a 5,000-pound trailer.) Ignore the smooth driving mechanics (this is a VW after all) of this large SUV, ample cargo space, and 4motion AWD. You might be impressed by the lane-keeping tech, adaptive cruise control, excellent fuel economy, or the fact that the VW Atlas can automatically dim the high beams when another vehicle approaches you on the highway at night.

Does this midsize SUV work with my phone? That’s all I wanted to know.

VW Atlas phone charger
Credit: Volkswagen

The good news is that modern vehicles have noticed how important these shiny thin slabs of metal and plastic are to us. And I mean really noticed. When you first climb into the Volkswagen Atlas, you’ll see a tray right in a cubby hole to your right so you can place your phone on a wireless pad. I noticed it’s almost instant, unlike some of the low-end chargers I use at home (which require me to place them ever so perfectly to get the charge going). Drop in the cubby, get a charge.

Something else I noticed about the Atlas is that it is designed for families who may or may not be super delicate with their phone (or themselves). There is a lot of rubber and protection in the VW Atlas. I mentioned the bike in the back. I never worried about any scrapes or dings…on the bike. When I dropped my phone into that compartment, I literally mean dropped.

The VW Atlas also works with CarPlay, which is also helpful. Not only do I need to charge, but I also need to access all of my apps, contacts, and podcasts. There were times when I didn’t care and just needed a charge and had a conversation with passengers, so I didn’t bother connecting the phone using the USB port. In other instances, I skipped the wireless charging pad. It’s good to have options. I’m also happy to see how common wireless pads are in many makes and models these days, but the Atlas seems well-designed for quick charges.

I liked being able to check text messages easily and make calls without the hassle of configuring anything or learning any settings. I’m seeing CarPlay and Android Auto is almost every new vehicle these days, and I’m surprised when it doesn’t work. It’s really all about convenience and ease-of-use. That level of familiarity also impacts how we drive. When you don’t have to learn anything new, you can focus on the road instead.

One other nice perk with the Atlas is that the improved Car-Net app for iPhone means you can start the vehicle remotely and also send navigation waypoints. Here’s a nice video about that: 

Other things I liked apart from the phone connection: The VW Atlas has a blind spot monitor, automatic emergency braking, alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and leather upholstery. It compares nicely against the Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Palisade, and Chevy Traverse.

I’m mostly kidding about the phone integration, by the way. I mean, with a base price of $30,545 for the Volkswagen Atlas, would anyone really make the biggest priority whether it works with their phone? Actually, that answer to that question is a resounding yes.