2023 Volkswagen Atlas Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Forward collision avoidance and engine issues are the main cause of complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The Volkswagen Atlas, designed and built for North American drivers, originally launched in 2017. It’s big and bold, and has done well in the SUV sector. Still in its second generation, the 2023 model is marketed as having “competitive levels of technology and spaciousness combined with hallmark Volkswagen driving dynamics and attention to detail.” But owners are complaining that there are lots of safety and technology glitches along with engine and transmission problems.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2020   2021   2022

Most Common Problems with the 2023 VW Atlas

There are only a handful of complaints from owners of the 2023 VW Atlas to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). The most common of these are related to forward collision-avoidance and lane departure issues. Other problems relate to the engine and electrical system. Contributors to the VW Atlas Forum indicate that there are transmission issues too.

It also seems that the 2023 VW Atlas isn’t escaping the never-ending saga of shattering sunroofs either!

Additionally, there are nearly as many recalls for 2023 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles as there are complaints.

Deployment of Front Side Airbags May be Delayed

In March 2022, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. recalled 222,892 Atlas vehicles including the 2019-2020 Atlas, 2020-2023 Atlas Cross Sport, and 2021-2023 Atlas FLs. This was after they discovered that the door wiring harness electrical harness electrical contacts may corrode. If this happens it is likely to disrupt the electrical connection and delay deployment of front side airbags if there is a side-impact crash.

Luckily, the NHTSA has awarded 5 star ratings to the 2023 Atlas for all side crash tests. But the nearly quarter of a million owners affected, have been urged to have the front door wiring harnesses of their Atlas vehicles checked. If they show a fault code, the harness will be replaced free of charge.

Brake Lines May Leak

A much lower number of vehicles are affected by this recall, but they are all 2023 Atlas models, the Atlas FL and the Atlas Cross Sport.

The problem here is that there are brake lines that may leak at threaded connections. This will increase the distance the SUV needs to stop successfully, which increases the risk of it crashing.

Damaged Connecting Rod Bearing May Cause Engine Failure

A total number of 74,071 vehicles manufactured by VW America have been recalled because of the possibility of damaged connecting rod bearings. The recall warns that a damaged engine can result in engine failure that would likely cause the vehicle to stall. This, of course, increases the risk of a crash. But there’s another serious caveat. If engine failure causes an oil leak, this can increase the risk of a fire, even though VW says this would only be in “rare cases.”

The vehicles affected are 2022-2023 Volkswagen Atlas FL and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles, as well as 2021-2023 Audi Q5 and Q5 Sportbacks.

2023 Volkswagen Atlas Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Unknown Or Other
Service Brakes
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Fuel/propulsion System
Air Bags
Back Over Prevention: Warnings
Exterior Lighting

Forward Collision Avoidance Problems

An owner from California who admits to being “a defensive driver,” was on a city road, making a right turn on a green light. “I glanced to the left to avoid any driver possibly crossing a red light as I usually do.” But, before I knew it “my SUV had jumped the median divider into the other side of the road and landed on another vehicle.” There had been no signals from the safety system to stop, and it clearly didn’t auto stop. He added that from previous experience, the Atlas did stop if it was close to the concrete side of a street. “But in this situation it did not. None of (the) ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) parts of the system worked! My Atlas is badly damaged, so is the other car.”

The complaint continues to state that he has had other recent issues with the Atlas. They “were not as dangerous, but are glitches in the safety and technology package. I contacted VW but they said that the design does not cover this, which is not correct based on other situations I noticed in the last three months since I purchased this vehicle.”

An owner from Florida had a similar experience when cut off by another vehicle. But the dealership did a check and said the forward collision-avoidance settings were properly configured. After other experiences, including the system setting itself off in an empty intersection. Again, the dealer says, “all of the sensors appear to be working correctly.”

But he is adamant that when the system didn’t turn on while driving on the highway, clearly the system wasn’t working. “Indeed, it should have activated (at least the alarm) under other circumstances, and it did not.” He wrote to VW, but “they have not responded.”

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Engine Problems

Listing a complaint as an electrical system and engine problem, an owner from New York tells how while driving down the road at about 50 mph, the engine of the 2023 Atlas suddenly shut off. “The vehicle lost all power to the engine, dashboard, and steering.” He was unable to move the SUV as he couldn’t shift into neutral to push it out of the roadway. After about 30 minutes he was able to restart the SUV. That was fine for “about 1 mile before it lost all power again.

“This incident created a grave risk, as the vehicle stopped in the lane of traffic, without any warning, and was unable to be moved. The vehicle is approximately 1 month old, with less than 4,000 miles on it.”

There is no indication on the complaint about the cause. So, there is no way of knowing whether this Atlas was the victim of damaged connecting rod bearing that can result in engine failure.

Transmission Problems

A contributor to the VW Atlas Forum reports a problem with the transmission of a new 2023 Atlas. After only 150 miles, he has “noticed that it has this herky jerky thing going on while shifting it (that) seems to be happening in all gears, but I can mostly feel it driving at like 20 mph. It seems like it does not know what gear to be in. Sometimes it shifts hard. Also (when) slowing down to stop, it shifts very abruptly. All in all very unsettling. One thing I have noticed (when it) is in Sport mode it does not happen as bad.”

His research reveals that this was a problem with earlier models including the 2017-2020. “I am assuming that this is still an issue since it is happening on my new 2023.”

Another 2023 owner states, “I have exactly the same issues with the jerking transmissions. Most of the time, the car does not know which gear to use! The gear goes down and immediately up, creating a very unpleasant ride! The dealer’s response – we could not re-create the issues, seriously?”

Several 2021 model owners say they had the same problem. One states, “I have the 2021 model and shutters going from second to third gear. We have tried taking (it) to the dealer and told 3 times they could not recreate the issue.”

Another 2021 owner says that the transmission was replaced at about 7,500 miles because of issues.

Adding to the conversation, yet another owner states: “I had so many problems with my 2021 Atlas Cross Sport that I got rid of it. No quality control, inferior parts and functionality. Get rid of it while you can.”

Sunroofs That Shatter

The spontaneous shattering of sunroofs is a huge problem, not only for Volkswagen, but for many other automakers. The problem for owners, though, is that dealers and manufacturers generally claim that some sort of impact causes them to shatter. They refuse to take the blame.

A 2023 VW Atlas owner from Texas describes in an NHTSA complaint what happened when the sunroof shattered. “I was driving on the highway when suddenly the sunroof shattered, sending broken glass all inside the vehicle right above the passenger seats. Nothing hit the window as there were no cars around us, in broad daylight, with clear skies. It is unknown what caused this other than a manufacturing defect.”

There is no word yet from Volkswagen, but the consumer jury is out! Regardless of the make of vehicle, consumers want manufacturers to accept liability when sunroofs shatter.

What to do if your 2023 VW Atlas is a Lemon?

Could your 2023 Volkswagen Atlas be a lemon? If you have serious problems that recur and affect your use and the value of your SUV, it may be a lemon. But it’s a good idea to have a lemon lawyer on your side to assess your problems before you go head-on with the automaker.

Lemberg Law is a lemon law firm that has helped many clients settle disputes with manufacturers. The fact is that every year automakers like Volkswagen end up buying back, replacing, or paying out substantial cash settlements to thousands of lemon vehicle owners.

If you’d like us to assess your 2023 Volkswagen Atlas free of charge to see if they are likely to qualify your vehicle as a lemon, contact us. All you have to do is call our Helpline or fill out a contact form. Ultimately, VW will be liable for all your legal bills.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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