Volkswagen heads back to Baja with the Atlas Cross Sport R


Volkswagen hopes to drum up excitement around its upcoming 2020 Atlas Cross Sport by taking a much-modified version to the 2020 Baja 1000. The race vehicle takes the title of Atlas Cross Sport R and will compete in Baja Class 7 division.

The race truck will be powered by the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four that Volkswagen Motorsport currently uses in its World Rally Championship and Rallycross programs. To optimize the balance between performance and reliability, however, the engine will be slightly detuned from its 600 horsepower ultimate form down to roughly 480 hp for the Baja sands. Said power will be doled out to all four wheels in the Cross Sport R—a first for Class 7 competition, according to Volkswagen.

The Cross Sport R features air-craft-carrier-wide bodywork up front that loosely recalls the broad, angular front of the production Atlas, but that’s where the visual similarity between the two models ends. Still, with massive beadlock wheels, a robust tube-frame chassis, and as much suspension travel as the day is long, we ain’t complaining about the change.

2020 Atlas Cross Sport R
2020 Atlas Cross Sport R

2020 Atlas Cross Sport R

The race rig will be co-driven by Tanner Foust and a yet-unnamed second driver. Foust, who recently won the 2019 ARX Rallycross season championship in a Beetle-based rally car, helped introduce the new Baja racer at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

Whereas in decades past, manufacturers would excite enthusiasts by taking their newest car to a road-racing series, recent market trends have shifted buyers toward crossover SUVs and racing as a means of promotion has, accordingly, shifted genres. Case in point: Ford is taking the upcoming Bronco nameplate racing this year at the same Baja 1000 race.

Does the strategy work? Tough to say. Racing is an expressly automotive enthusiast activity, and crossover SUVs are not generally the stuff of dreams for motorsports fans. However, Volkswagen was there for the beginning of Baja racing with the original Beetle, and folks still run Beetle-based cars in the grueling desert race to this day. It’s a logical move from the folks in Wolfsburg, and we’re happy to see a manufacturer find a different way to go racing rather than pull out of competition all together.

What do you think of the new Atlas Cross Sport R? Let us know on the Hagerty Forums.

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