It’s a great big world out there. And it doesn’t seem to get ANY bigger than when you visit Texas. A simple drive across the limestone and cattle-laden state seems to take days. In some cases, it actually does. If driving ‘cross Texas' immense landscape doesn't send home the feeling of sheer insignificance of oneself in the vastness of this world, looking up at the wide open sky just might.
Awhile back, Chelsea and I were invited out to the lone star state to experience firsthand the new titan of a vehicle Volkswagen is releasing mid-2017. Which titan? Why, Atlas of course! Like the mythological giants of old, the Volkswagen Atlas stands as a giant among mortals. Chelsea does her research before committing to these things, of course, and the most notable criticism she found online stated that the VW Atlas was ‘too big.' What does that even mean in the world of SUVs? That’s like showing up to a rave and saying the music is too loud.
We had to see for ourselves.
We landed in San Antonio and headed north to the Tapatio Springs Hill County Resort to settle in and rest up for a day of driving the next morning. We were shown around the property, which had been adorned with various models of the new German-based SUV. As an adventure seeker myself, and father of four, my mind swam with a school of possibilities while glancing through the leather clad seven-seaters. Chelsea gushed over the second row's capability to go forward to allow access to the third row without having to remove forward-facing car seats. Looking at the sliding glass roof of the Atlas, I imagined the quick night stops made somewhere in Moab on a long road trip, with the seats reclined and the Milky Way slowly sliding overhead.
After a quick introduction at the end of the night, we learned the ins and outs and even were allowed to ask questions about the features of the vehicle. While not entirely autonomous, the Volkswagen Atlas comes with a little piece of technology which helps maintain your lane (should you become slightly distracted) and even “Front Assist” with “autonomous emergency braking.” Look mom, no hands!
Even the entertainment and technology inside the vehicle is impressive, with a seamless eight-inch touch display to control everything and the ability to completely voice-control your phone and text communication. The drivetrain comes with the possibility of all-wheel drive with a 50/50 front-to-back power ratio in the event you might need additional traction with the advanced Electronic Stability Control available to control individual wheel slippage. This means the Atlas is a vehicle with four very sturdy legs. Er, wheels.
The drive was an enjoyable jaunt through the central Texas countryside. For our first stop, we browsed a shop called Wildflower Farms, run by Texas' beloved wildflower harvester John R. Thomas.
I had to talk Chelsea out of wine-tasting in the gardens and also out of dragging this strange wine-bottle sculpture back through TSA. I explained that it's basically an elaborate welding-together of a few garden pikes, and now I'm pretty sure she's going to be recreating it at home.
When she gets something in her mind, there's no point in arguing.
Next up was the German town of Fredericksburg, which we've actually visited before. It was almost as though our Volkswagen belonged there. We ate an absurd amount of truffles at a hip spot called Vaudeville and then spent way too much time (according to me, though Chelsea protested that we hadn't allotted enough time) browsing their gift shop. The place had these pretty cool wrought iron beams running through the store, which is another thing I'm pretty sure Chelsea's going to duplicate at home.
I had to restrain myself from buying…something ridiculous.
And so did Chelsea, once again.
Finally, we were off to the home of real Texas Country music. Luckenbach. This storied place had a strong ghost town vibe. Old guys were standing around crooning outlaw songs while people got drunk at the saloon, danced mid-day at the dance hall and pet the numerous cats lounging around the property.
Of course, Chelsea loved every last thing about it.
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With the perfect weather spring provided, we cruised down the road with the windows down and the roof open wide. We comfortably whisked our way through the windy back roads, saying our hellos to the local horses and cattle and even waving to any friendly stranger going the other way. Because it’s friendly in Texas.
It was a great deal of fun to drive through the countryside with my girlfriend, Chelsea. It didn’t take long for her to start negotiating which of our current cars would quickly be traded in for the new VW Atlas (“It has a 6-year, 72,000-mile warranty!” she justified). As I had done most of the driving and put it through its paces, I came to the conclusion that the Atlas was nothing to shrug at. I would even go as far as to say that the Atlas is a formidable luxury SUV in the US market capable of shouldering a world of weight in its class.