Flash Drive: 2009 Volkswagen Routan
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2012.
By Staff of MSN Autos
One has to wonder what the business reasons were behind the creation of the Routan. Yes, VW wants to extend its presence in America, but minivans are not a growing segment here, and the Routan is for the most part a rebadged Chrysler (i.e., the Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country). It does have some VW styling cues, upgraded interior materials and a slightly different suspension, but ultimately the Routan feels and drives like those other large people movers; it has adequate power, mediocre fuel economy and so-so handling. Unfortunately, the VW does not get the cool seating options offered in the Chrysler models — namely the Stow n' Go or Swivel n' Go. Our test Routan was the SE trim, and while its price was more than $32,000, it felt bare. A U-Connect Bluetooth button was present in the dash, but after pressing it, I was informed that the vehicle did not support that feature. And the dual roof consoles in the rear seating area that looked like a DVD entertainment system turned out to be dual sunglass holders. Basically, the Routan is not a bad minivan. However, if you're in the market for a people mover, I'd suggest going directly to the original rather than the "German engineered" copy. – Perry Stern
I was happy to see Volkswagen get back into the minivan segment. Unfortunately, there is nothing about the Routan that feels like a Volkswagen, other than the badges and the geometric pattern of the seat fabric. It's far from being a spiritual successor to the Microbus or even the Eurovan, and there is a reason: The Routan is based on the Chrysler Town & Country and retains most of the mechanicals, including the engines and drivetrain. Volkswagen says the suspension and steering have been retuned, but the Routan feels just as lumbering and cumbersome as the Chrysler. There is plenty of squat and dive under acceleration and braking, and the steering is vague on center. I found the brake pedal too high in relation to the accelerator pedal, making it difficult to go quickly to the brake pedal. Routan styling is different from the Chrysler offering, and it looks good for a minivan, but the driving experience just isn't what is expected from Volkswagen. – Mike Meredith
I am not sure what the German engineers at VW did to improve this rebadged version of the Chrysler Town & Country. Besides the big VW emblems on the front and rear and the more attractive exterior styling, the Routan seems similar to the Chrysler minivan. Nevertheless, the Routan is easy to drive around town. The smooth, 3.8-liter V6 engine tested delivered 17.5 mpg in mixed driving. The easy-to-stow rear seats made transporting large items easy; the automatic sliding doors worked efficiently; and it was helpful to have buttons on the key fob and inside the minivan to easily open the doors for passengers. Overall, the Routan is a decent minivan. If you are cost-conscious and not brand-sensitive, however, you might want to compare it with a Chrysler minivan. – Joe Chulick
The Volkswagen Routan is a typical minivan. Like the similar Dodge minivan, the Routan is built around utility and offers little amusement (unless you count watching a TV from the back seat, which I don't). The steering wheel feels like a stretch from the driver's seat and has a buslike feel, perhaps because of the angle. There is plenty of storage space sprinkled everywhere, and it seems as if there are at least two cupholders for every passenger (is that really necessary?). The materials are sturdy and no doubt easy to clean. Overall, the Volkswagen Routan is exactly what a minivan needs to be. I just think that minivans should aspire to be something more, and the Routan is most definitely not something more. – Paul Hagger