2012 Volkswagen Routan

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First Drive Review: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2012.
By Jared Gall of Car and Driver

In spite of a booming world population, melting ice caps, and not yet having sprouted gills, humans continue to mate and bear young. For other species, feeding offspring and keeping them from the jaws of predators are major problems, but for mankind, it's mostly transporting the kids that gives us headaches. Volkswagen PR people tell us that the presence of two or more little ones in an American family significantly reduces the likelihood of that family's purchasing another VW, regardless of past ownership experience. The Touareg, starting a parking ticket shy of 40 large, is too pricey for many families and doesn't have a third-row seat anyway.

So to help meet its goal of 800,000 U.S. sales by 2018, the company decided it needed a minivan in the lineup. Convenient, then, that Chrysler had some spare manufacturing capacity lying about after euthanizing the Pacifica.

Building a Minivan Without Any of the Work
VW reps talk around the C-word when discussing the Routan, but the Routan is built on a Chrysler platform in a Chrysler plant by people and bots who used to build Chryslers in their day jobs but now assemble Chryslers and Volkswagens. It gets VW-ish sheetmetal and a dedicated interior and rides on an exclusive suspension, but those who expect the Routan to be more Chrysler than Volkswagen are not too wide off the mark. Think of it as a Volkswagen interpreted by Chrysler.

It still looks like a Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan from the outside. Although the Routan wears unique front sheetmetal and VW claims that all body panels have been massaged, the upright profile and hard edges of the Chrysler box can't be covered with mere makeup.

Inside, the Routan looks rich and feels solid but is clearly a Chrysler dressed up in prettier Volkswagen materials. Although the overall design is more thoughtful, the buttons and switches are all Chrysler, and the domestics' innovative but remarkably cheap-feeling center console remains, ready to be yanked out and tossed from the vehicle at a moment's notice. The shifter feels as though the odds of its finding drive or snapping off in your hand are dead even.

On the plus side, Chrysler's dual-screen, dual-input entertainment system and 115-volt power outlet are available in the Routan, as is the 30-gig in-dash multimedia system for storing music and photos, called the JoyBox by Volkswagen. Driver and passenger front and three-row curtain airbags are standard on all Routans (Routen?).

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BB01 - 7/31/2014 10:43:46 AM