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Thule Atlantis 1200 + 05 Legacy Wagon


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(Part 1 of 5 -- yes, there are PICTURES!)


Yippee! Fer Reals, man!


I had it. I put up with a Yakima SpaceBooster 11 for three months on my Subaru Legacy wagon, and yesterday afternoon was the last straw!


In sub-freezing temps and blowing snow, I couldn't get the damned thing closed as I was packing up to leave the ski hill.


It's like this: The Space Booster has three latching points spaced along its 88-inch length. The key won't turn and lock unless all three latches are firmly seated. And if you're like me you'll find it pretty difficult to pinch the two extreme latching points tight while simultaneously attempting to turn the key to lock it, especially with gloved hands (or worse yet, un-gloved and numb).


When I finally did get it to close, turning the key felt like I was going to twist it into two pieces. That'd be no good -- I have to lash the box closed, or put the screws to it (literally) to drive it home.


Latching had been problematic a few times now in the snow, and this time out I was solo and didn't have anyone to assist me.


And I wasn't stuffing the thing to the gills, either. Nope, one pair of bagged skis, one snowboard, and a pair of wet and nasty boots. That was it!


On top of that, I noticed this weekend that one of the clamshell's four hinges was a little tweaked, and was pulling against the pop-rivets that held it in place.



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(Part 2 of 5)


Taking full advantage of REI's very liberal return policy, I sheepishly approached the car rack sales guy and explained the problem I was having, and that I wanted to return my three-month-old, well-used Space Booster, and try something better.


No problem, says he. That's the problem with their "low end" Classic series: not the best engineered hinges, and troublesome to lock at times. He showed no qualms about accepting the return.


Then I pulled out my list.


I really liked the idea of Yakima's "Click Lock" locking system found on their Blacktop 12 and other Blacktop- and Platinum-series boxes, and they've got something even cooler looking on their new Skybox series (but I couldn't find one of those to play around with). No need to turn the key, just press and it'll click closed.


The sales guy went on to say that while he had personally seen no trouble with these Yak "Click Lock" systems (although it is a relatively new system, he cautioned), he was a huge fan of the made-in-the-USA Thule boxes, and convinced me to take a look at them. I actually had their Frontier, Cascade XT 1100 and Atlantis 1200 on my list due to their sizes.


In his professional opinion (or what he is paid to say -- I can never tell the difference), he favored the hinge system on the Thule designs, and swore up and down that, even though the Thules don't have the "Click Lock" feature I was so enthusiastic about, they were far superior to the Yakima Space Booster I was having so much trouble with.


To top it off, Thule listed an interesting 82-inch length for their Atlantis 1200. The other 11- and 12-cubic foot boxes I had been looking at were in the 88 to 91-inch range, and those I expected to interfere with (ok, collide with) the spoiler feathered in to the top of my wagon's liftgate. Geez, there's a scar that won't ever go away.


The Atlantis series is apparently brand new this month, and REI was just getting them in.


So's I coughed up the extra Benjamin for the upgrade to the Atlantis, and here's how it played out...

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(Part 3 of 5)


Now that I'm 600+ words in to this essay, let me preface this all by saying that on my dealer-included Yakima EZ Rider cross bars, I mount a pair of Yakima King Cobras and, outside of ski season, a Yakima Boa. That gives me a total of three bikes on the roof, plus a fourth on the Sportworks Mod hitch rack.


Because we ride our bikes year-round, the cargo box has to be narrow enough to allow room for the two Cobras to remain in use. From what I've seen, that limits me to cargo boxes in the 11 and 12 cubic foot categories, which are usually 25 inches in width or less.


My day-to-day skis are 177's (~70"), but I have a pair of 200cm (~80") rock skis which I need my box to accommodate. But the key thing is that the box needs to be long enough to hold my 200's, and that eliminates another handful of cargo box choices.


But I also board, so the box has to be large enough to accomodate some combination of skis and snowboards, for as many as four people. (Anything over that gets lashed -- in a bag -- directly to the crossbars.)


So you finally ready for the pictures?

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(Part 4 of 5)


Accept my apologies for the cluttered backgrounds on some of these shots.


Here's the Thule Atlantis 1200 all mounted up. A little more forward biased than I'd prefer (further back is quieter and more fuel efficient), but not too awful:




I spaced the crossbars at 30.5". The minimum crossbar spread recommended by Thule for the Atlantis is just shy of 24". The front crossbar is in the forward-most position.




Hoorah! No more liftgate clearance issues! I can completely open the tailgate and have about a half-inch of clearance between the box and the spoiler. This was completely unexpected.


The edge of my car's spoiler, about 10"x1" right over the center brake light, is pretty scratched up from the three months I had the Space Booster mounted.




The most notable new feature of the Atlantis series is the new "claw" (Thule calls it the QuickGrip mounting system). Granted, it is pretty quick to use.


Drop the box right on top of the crossbars...




...reach inside and crank down on the gray knobs...




...and the "claw" clamps down on the crossbar like a lobster on your finger (well... ok, not really like that).




Where I previously had the Space Booster centered between the two bike racks, I rearranged the order of things. This non-symmetric layout gives me better access to the cargo box, and forces me to run the two bike racks Yin-Yang.



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(Part 5 of 5)


A couple of parting observations about the Atlantis 1200.


Thule's MSRP is $409, and that is what REI charged me for the dang thing (minus my year-end 20% member discount). Even at $327, that's a chunk 'o change for an empty plastic box. Luckily, I already sank $210 into the Yak box back in December, so that credit towards this purchase made it easier to swallow.


The Atlantis series is slightly beefier construction than their other models, evidenced by its 36 pound weight. Compare that to 31 pounds for the similarly sized Cascade, or 33 pounds for the Frontier. But it's still a pretty flexy unit and, for instance, the lid doesn't open evenly without paying attention.


Cost. Ugh. When I told my wife I spent and extra $130 to "upgrade" to this box, she didn't react. Later when I let slip the "real price", she *kinda* flipped.


This box does not represent Thule's top of the line. They're marketing it towards "today's SUVs and wagons", whatever that means. (Well, it clears my lift gate. I guess that's what they mean.) But really, other than the lobster claw and silver finish, it looks pretty similar to their Cascade XT series (which is now being discounted -- perhaps going bye-bye soon?)


Made in the USA quality? Hurmph! Nothing to get overly concerned over, but there are at least three loose-fitting pop rivets holding various parts together. I intend to let Thule know about these; maybe they'll just send me some replacements.


Yes, the lid opens from either side. Kind of ingenious how the latches double as hinges.


The key is standard Thule issue, but now has a fat plastic "grip" on it (ala most car keys). This does, in fact, make operating the lock a pleasingly sensual experience.


But now it takes up room on my key ring.


The "claw" mechanism is nice. But you can't slide the open claw to the extreme ends of the track -- it'll bind. As you close the claw on the crossbar, the box can be scooched closer to the ends of said track. Trust me, you'll see what I mean when you play with it -- a bit annoying, but not a big deal.


The smooth silver finish is nice. It almost matches my car! The 1200 is available in silver only. The other three in the Atlantis series -- the 1600, 1800 and 2100 -- all are shown in Silver or Black.


At freeway speeds, it's not a very noisy box. Not any more so than the Space Booster was. Actually, I prefer the cargo box's dull reverberation compared to the medium pitched whistle of the naked Yakima cross bar, and especially to the high-pitched whine the Yakima Boa makes when the fork mount is centered over my sunroof.


All in all, I'm pretty happy with the fit and finish. Yet another choice for '05 and '06 Legacy and Outback wagon owners! Given the number of Subaru wagons I see up in the snow with similar sized boxes on the roof, it's about time we got one that fit so well!


Lastly, kudos to REI. I really felt bad returning something so used (the old SpaceBooster). But these guys were true to their "100% satisfaction" policy.

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So which company do you work for; REI, Yakima, or Thule?


I hope that was tongue-in-cheek. None of the above, and nobody cut me any deals for posting this. I'm just stoked to finally have a box in this width that fits the 2005 and 2006 Subaru wagons.

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Thank you. I was just about to head to REI to use my 20% and wondering what pod to get. Excellent write up.




Yeah, I was resigned to the fact that any box of this side was going to hit my tailgate. My dumb luck I waited this long before looking into an alternative, 'cause even a few weeks earlier and I'd have been in the same situation, probably with a Cascade.


Hey "dark templer", this what you're talking about?



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Made in the USA quality? Hurmph! Nothing to get overly concerned over, but there are at least three loose-fitting pop rivets holding various parts together. I intend to let Thule know about these; maybe they'll just send me some replacements.


A follow-up on the loose rivet I reported:


It turned out those "three loose-fitting pop rivets" was really just one. (The others I thought were loose were really just plastic rivet head covers that needed the press of my thumb to fully seat themselves.) You can see it dangling in background of the 4th photo above


I emailed Thule and asked for a handful of replacement rivets. They said No Go -- they wouldn't warranty any field repairs -- and to visit the dealer to make a phone call.


I felt stupid making a fuss over one lousy rivet, but thought maybe they would send a spare to the dealer to install.


Nope. The REI rack guy called Thule customer service, they told him to swap it out for a new box (can you imagine the return shipping charges this insignificant 1¢ rivet is going to generate?!?!), and I'm a happy camper.


I peered into a number of other boxes while I was there, looking for a similar occurance, and couldn't find any.



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  • 3 weeks later...

For anybody looking for a cargo box, PacCoast is spot on with his write up - measurements and all. I've got about 1/4 clearance between the box and open rear gate. Atlantis 1200.


You've got to have the front bars all the way forward and the rear you get some room to play with. It's a little sloppy in the wind up front when empty since the box is maxxed forward, but she works. 10 minutes in the REI parking lot to put on.


If anyone has a Subi sponsored cross bar set like I do, I was wondering about their keys. Are all ours different, or could someone just go up to our rack and twist and carry the whole dang thing away?


Thanks PacCoast for the excellent write up.

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  • 10 months later...
great write up!




It's holding up well with a season's worth of use. The finish has a few scrapes from taking it in and out of storage, but those are cosmetics you don't see once it's mounted up. Zero operational problems, unlike the Rocket Box it replaced.


I'm surprised I haven't seen many of these out on the road or in the ski area parking lots. Still seeing tons of Subarus with long boxes overhanging the tail gate.

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  • 1 year later...


I liked the thread you started about your Thule Atlantis 1200 a couple years ago. I'm going to pick one up for my wagon this week and I was wondering what your thoughts are after using it for a long period, if you've even been using it this long. Anything you're unhappy with about it? Are there any fitment issues to be aware of? Etc. Thanks!


Got this in my PM box, and figured an update is in order.


I've got a full two ski seasons of use on this box, and it has held up well. Again, no problems operating the lock, the rivets all appear to be holding, and in general, I'm pleased.


It's a little cramped. I've managed to get two snowboards and two pairs of skis inside. 181's sit at a slight angle, but not so bad that I can't put a 14" square Igloo-style cooler in there with them (along with some shorter skis and a board). I haven't even tried putting my old 205's in there -- mainly because I never use them -- but I think they would give me a problem.


Pay attention to the clamps. They need to be snug "plus". I got a little sloppy and the box moved sideways a few inches on the crossbar. You can see from the photos that the claws don't have a lot of surface area to grip the crossbars, so they really need a good amount of clamping force dialed in to hold in the box place.


If I could change something, I only wish the rear clamp was further back on the box, so that I could have my rear cross bar mounted further back on the Legacy's roof rails. This isn't a problem for the box, necessarily, but I would like a wider crossbar spread for other attachments I use.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...
205's don't fit. This isn't optimal because my XC skis are 205cm long and the intention for the box was to use it in the winters when I go skiing, and also in the summers when I can have 2 bikes and a box on the roof. The next model up (the Ascent line, I believe) is 11 sq.ft and a few inches wider, making the installation of 2 bikes and a box up super cramped.
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  • 8 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 9 months later...

I have an 05 Outback, and I just bought a used Thule box on Craigslist for a steel. But when I put my Thule (I think it's an Excursion XT) box on the factory rack the box rides so low that I can't open the sunroof all the way. I don't know if your roof does this: but when I open it, the front part of it lifts upwards (skywards), then when I open the roof more the front part lifts up even higher. That's when it hit the box...kinda lame. I could move the box back, but then I can't lift the tailgate.


Did you have this problem?


From your pictures it doesn't look like this would be a problem, but that means I'm going to have to buy towers and bars. What towers did you buy to fit the factory rack?


BTW, the snow is pretty good in Utah right now...I'm going up tomorrow!

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