Video: The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Does Some Light Off-Roading – AND Towing!

vw atlas basecamp

Not as cool as the Concept, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp has a few cool upgrades that make it nifty on dirt roads.

The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp is simply a regular Atlas V6 SEL that has a few components added to make it look a little more off-road-ish. The main addition, that’s worth mentioning, are the 17-inch wheels that easily accept thicker all-terrain tires – if you’re so inclined. The “Basecamp” option can only be found on the VW parts webpage. It’s not part of the VW configuration page. You have to go to parts.vw.com site to get the Basecamp bits. Volkswagen sells everything you need as a kit to install, or you can buy the pieces individually.

As an example: the 17″ x 8″ Traverse MX wheels by fifteen52 (in Radiant Silver). They cost $250 bucks a pop. You have to add your own rubber. The test vehicle Volkswagen gave us had Continental TerrainContact A/T tires, which were good. I estimate they run about $200 -each. I would prefer BFG’s or Goodyear Wranglers as a personal choice, but the ride, handling, and off-road grip was pretty good. Still, you have to supply your own rubber, which is a pain.

The rest of the package mainly consists of add-on bits for appearances. That includes fender flares, cladding, and badges. If you get the whole Basecamp package, it will run $2,498, and that’s before wheels and installation.

I know that the 4Motion system in this Atlas is stock, as such, it is not built for anything that’s challenging. Much like a majority of large crossovers, the system is best suited for bad weather and dirt roads – at best. I decided that I would hit a few trails that I knew the Atlas Basecamp could handle. That’s after unhitching my trailer.

(Light) Off-roading in the Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp

Yep – I pulled a trailer from Boulder, CO to Moab, UT using the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp – and it did very well. Better than many other large crossovers. You can read about the towing part of the adventure (here).

Using the 276 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that makes 266 lb-ft of torque, towing was a breeze – and I averaged 17 mpg while pulling 1,200 lbs. That’s not too shabby as I had to traverse the Rocky Mountains. The Atlas’ V6 is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. You can get a 2.0-liter turbo, with less punch, but it only tows 2,000 lbs, while the max towing of the V6 is 5,000 lbs.

On the road, the squishy tires help make the ride tranquil and a bit quieter than the lower-profile tires it normally comes with. I noticed no real difference in handling, and the performance felt just as peppy as the regular Atlas V6.

Off-road, it was fine on minor rocky roads and handled a few ruts just fine. I had traction issues on one steep section that was littered with small rocks. After backing down the hill, I opened the taps and used greater momentum – and it made it up just fine. Momentum helps a lot – but there’s an issue… no real underside armor.

I was a bit disappointed in the ground clearance. There is no lift with the Basecamp, and the chunkier tires don’t give much of a boost either. It forced me to go around obstacles a Honda Passport could straddle. Even on a lighter path, I worried about the faux skid-plates. This forced me to mellow my driving further.

Conclusion

At the end of the trip, I came away with two major impressions: the Atlas V6 is a great camping vehicle (if you have a light trailer), and that it’s happy on light trails. If you understand its limitations, you may be surprised by this friendly family mover. I don’t know about the Basecamp option. It’s a pain to get, it doesn’t add to the vehicle’s overall capability in the dirt – other than the tires that you have to supply – and it’s pricy.

My tester was a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SEL V6 and it was well equipped. The total came to $45,215 before the additional Basecamp components. That’s a lot of money. Still, it treated me well, did everything I asked of it and it was a brilliant tow vehicle.

Check out this video as we take you through a tour of the Basecamp!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.