Unless you’ve been living under the rock over the past few years, you’d know that the SUV “coupé” craze is well and truly upon us, with almost every regular sport utility having a low-slung variant. Volkswagen has hinted of such a version of its eminently practical three-row Atlas for more than a year, and it has now revealed the real deal in the form of the five-seater Atlas Cross Sport for the United States.

Next to the standard Atlas, the Cross Sport is 71 mm shorter and 58 mm lower, taking those measurements to 4,955 mm long and 1,720 mm tall. It remains 1,989 mm wide and, crucially, retains its 2,979 mm wheelbase, freeing up more than a metre of rear seat legroom. The boot measures a commodious 1,141 litres, expandable to 2,203 litres with the rear seats folded.

The Cross Sport is mostly identifiable by its shorter length, lower roofline and faster rear windscreen rake, but it also sports (excuse the pun) a few other upgrades that enhance the Atlas’ already imposing design. The front end has been revised significantly with a more aggressive bumper design, a subtly re-profiled bonnet and a new three-bar grille, the middle bar being integrated with the redesigned LED daytime running lights.

Meanwhile, the rear end gets new L-shaped tail lights and a new rear bumper, and as with its larger sibling, there’s an R-Line variant – now with a new logo – that adds sportier front and rear bumpers with chrome and gloss black accents, as well as different wheel options measuring up to 21 inches.

Inside, the Cross Sport retains the Atlas’ sober cabin design, but with a few key changes. It adopts a new steering wheel, which is identical to that of the facelifted European-market Passat save for the adoption of the new VW logo (which is also found on the exterior badges). You also get accent stitching on the doors and seats, plus new features such as Qi wireless smartphone charging.

As usual, the options list include a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, rear sunshades, a 12-speaker Fender sound system and a Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrument display. The Car-Net suite is upgraded for the 2020 model year with an updated mobile app, new subscription options and free services for the first five years, including remote locking and start. There’s also 4G WiFi for up to four devices.

Safety-wise, the Cross Sport gets standard autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, plus available features such as adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go feature and park distance control. New options include Traffic Jam Assist that centres the car in its own lane at speeds of up to 60 km/h, along with traffic sign recognition.

The engine options are the same as the standard Atlas – a 235 hp 2.0 litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 276 hp 3.6 litre naturally-aspirated V6. Both are paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and are available with either front- or 4Motion all-wheel drive.