2009 Volkswagen Routan Review – A Cross-Cultural Minivan

Friday September 25th, 2009 at 1:99 PM
Posted by: Francois

By Francis Cebedo

Blings:

  • The exterior, though simple is quite attractive.
  • The interior dashboard is simple and elegant
  • Seats are excellent, especially the 2nd row seats
  • Handling and ride quality are good and an improvement over its Chrysler cousins
  • Good power and fuel economy

Dings:

  • All the knobs and electronics are Chrysler quality and not up to VW standards
  • Chrysler’s “stow and go” and “swivel and go” seating options are not available
  • Sliding doors are a bit noisy when opening and closing.
  • There are odd, as in huge storage compartments found in the floor and on the ceiling of the Routan
  • It doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the Chrysler.
  • Pricing rebates and deals of VW will not be as aggressive as Chrysler’s
  • It was named by the same group that gave us the Phaeton and Passat

Introduction
When a family has more than two kids in this country they tend to stray away from the VW mark. Even VW loyalists are lost to the clutches of Honda, Toyota and Chrysler minivans. The convenience of the power sliding doors is alluring and the potential of transporting part of the soccer team or the extended family is inviting.

VW felt they had to offer a minivan in their line-up so they partnered with Chrysler for the task. Designing and building their own van did not support the economics and timing, so Volkswagen worked with Chrysler to create their version of the Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Caravan.

The VW Routan is a mid-sized van that tries to fit in the ‘just right’ category. With the third row seats down, it offers 83 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the Honda Odyssey’s 91. So the Routan is not huge but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this day and age when folks try to buy the size they actually need. In fact a new breed of small vans is gaining popularity like the MAZDA5 that has 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the third row seats down.

So we took a VW Routan out for a week and drove from California to Oregon and back. Is it a good vehicle and does it differentiate itself enough from the competition or from its overseas cousins? Read on and find out.

2009 VW Routan

Driving Impressions
Nobody buys a minivan for the driving experience so we can’t expect this to put a grin on your face when you mash the gas pedal or take it on a mountain road. But the Routan accelerates nicely to freeway speeds with a full load. Also, taking twisty mountain roads was not scary even when exceeding the speed limit. The Routan’s European-tuned suspension has been stiffened up and is more taut and composed than its Chrysler siblings. The wallowy ride typically found in American chassis is absent, yet it’s not a rough ride over uneven pavement.

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