The Bottom Line
The 2011 Volkswagen Routan presents a bit of a conundrum for me. Sure, it wears the VW badge and sells off of the VW dealer's showroom floor. But is the Routan really a Volkswagen? Mechanically and functionally, it is identical to the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans. In fact, it is assembled in the same Windsor, Ontario factory. Competition is tight but stiff in the minivan marketplace, with the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest freshly redesigned the Routan/Town & Country/Grand Caravan lag slightly behind in terms of modern styling and crisp handling. Routan doesn't make the cut.
- Comfortable seating for seven
- Decent fuel economy
- Nicely put together and attractive
- Not really a VW
- Shorter powertrain warranty than Chrysler kin
- Driving experience lacks fun
- Base Prices: $26,930 (S); $31,770 (SE); $37,390 (SEL); $43,240 (SEL Premium)
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6
- Horsepower: 283 @ 6,350 rpm
- Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive
- Curb Weight: 4,494 lbs (S); 4,595 lbs (SE, SEL, SEL Premium)
- Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
- Wheelbase: 121.2"; Length: 202.5"; Width: 76.9"; Height: 67.9"; Ground Clearance: 5.6"
- Cargo: 140.6 - 144.4 cubic feet behind first row; 83 cubic feet behind second row; 33.0 cubic feet behind third row.
- Warranty: 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty; 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty; 3 year/36,000 mile roadside assistance; 3 year/36,000 mile carefree maintenance
Guide Review - 2011 Volkswagen Routan
Chrysler gets credit for starting the minivan craze with the Town & Country back in 1990. But I think Volkswagen really planted the seeds for the minivan in 1950 with the introduction of the Type 2, better known as the VW Bus, "Microbus" or "Hippiemobile." The rear-engine, rear-wheel drive bus was an iconic sight on the road, and still draws squeals of delight (from me, anyway). The Bus evolved into the Vanagon (1980 - 1992), which morphed into the Eurovan (1993 - 2003), which evaporated like the morning dew. Since 2009, VW has sold the Routan on its showroom floors. Notice that I didn't say "produced" the Routan, because the Routan is more of a case of branding than building. VW contracts with Chrysler to build the Routan in its Windsor, Ontario factory. They slap a few VW badges on the Chrysler Town & Country, and a Routan is born.
The good parts of the Routan are the good parts of the Town & Country, and that's not bad at all. The minivan gets a bunch of cool features, user-friendly amenities and a high degree of comfort. All three rows of seating are suitable for adults, with the front two rows excelling in comfort. Routan doesn't get the nifty Stow & Go seat option that T&C can get, so you have to make do with seats that fold flat and tumble forward to provide access to the third row. Storage options abound throughout the vehicle, including under floor storage in front of the second row and a cup holder ratio of nearly 2:1 (cup holder:passenger).
VW kept things simple under the hood. The Routan is available with only one powertrain, a 3.6-liter V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. It's the same Pentastar engine that you get with a T&C, right down to the Chrysler logos under the hood. The V6 will deliver all the performance you need from a minivan, even if it doesn't deliver all the performance you might want. Freeway on-ramps, modest grades and passing are all a breeze. Handling is adequate, with well-controlled body roll and decent braking. Don't expect razor edge performance from the Routan -- you'll never forget that you're driving a minivan.
Routan's big challenge has to be obvious -- it's a Volkswagen in name only. There's no essential "VW-ness" about it. So why would you go to a VW dealer to buy one, instead of a Chrysler or Dodge dealer where you could get the same vehicle with a different logo and a better powertrain warranty? I can imagine scenarios where convenience or familiarity might make the VW connection work better for some buyers, but it's a stretch. Even more of a stretch for me is choosing the Routan over the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey, each of which I prefer over the Routan, Town & Country or Grand Caravan. All I can say about the Routan is that I can't wait until the next VW minivan arrives in the U.S.