Review: At the beginning of the new millennium, Volkswagen showed
off an exciting New Microbus. Featuring the famous boxy proportions, but
with up-to-date reclined windshield and modern sensibilities (and a
front engine), it would have followed the New Beetle in a wave of
I have a 1/38-scale
model of it sitting on my shelf. Barbie even got one. But, probably
after consulting with their accountants, VW never built it.
often want something larger than a five-passenger Passat sedan. If they
werenít smitten with the Touareg SUV, then what could VW offer? The
solution is embodied in the Routan minivan.
The new VW minivan
represents a compromise for the German giant. In order to come up with a
modern, fully featured vehicle without an enormous investment, they
hired Chrysler to build it for them. Considering that Chrysler invented
the modern minivan (yes, I know, VW was the pioneer with the microbus 30
years earlier), it wasnít a bad idea, really. Millions of
Chrysler Town and Countrys and Dodge Caravans ply the streets of the
U.S.A. today. Chrysler had the know-how, and, apparently, the capacity.
Stylists went to work
putting a recognizable VW face onto and plausible VW interior into the
newest version of Chryslerís bestseller. With its distinctive rounded,
angled eyes and goatee grille, the Routan looks right in the showroom
and on the road. The newest Chrysler minivan, ironically, wears the
sharp edginess of a VW, so the rest of the car seems OK without any
substantial changes. Matching taillamps and a big VW logo dress it right
for Volkswagen duty.
Inside the engineers
and stylists grafted a VW dashboard onto the Chrysler structure. That
means a black, appropriately textured dash top with a rounded instrument
binnacle tucked behind the steering wheel holding instruments with
familiar graphics. The bulge at the top of the center stack has a
traditional squared-off shape that would make any VW owner feel right at
home. The three-spoke steering wheel wearing the legendary logo
completes the effect.
Of course under the
hood are Chrysler engines, in this case either a 3.8-liter or 4.0-liter
V6. My Nocturne Black midrange SE model had the former, which puts out
197 horsepower and 230 lb.-ft. of torque, earning EPA ratings of 16
City, 23 Highway. I averaged 15.9 mpg.
available in the top-of the line SEL model, boosts it to 253 horsepower
and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Oddly, its mileage ratings are better than
the 3.8-liter, at 17 City, 25 Highway. Credit a more modern design, with
a single overhead cam and 24 valves.
Both engines run
through a six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. The shift lever
is mounted high on the dash, rather than on the floor, giving extra
The 3.8-liter earns a
respectable 7 for Air Pollution in the EPAís Green Vehicle Guide, with a
below-average 4 for Greenhouse Gas score. The 4.0-liter improves the
Greenhouse Gas number to 5.
For 2009 all
Volkswagens feature a standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP). It
doesnít read your mind, but uses a system of sensors and a microcomputer
to continuously monitor how the car responds to the driverís steering
input. It then selectively applies individual brakes and modulates
engine power to help keep the vehicle traveling along the path indicated
by the steering wheel position. If an unstable condition develops, the
system instantly uses engine electronics and the brakes to help align
the vehicle with where the driver is pointing it.
Driving the Routan was
painless and pleasant. Although I believe the seats are straight out of
Chryslerís warehouse, they feel appropriately firm. That may be because
the Germans made some adjustments to the suspension and steering to give
the Routan a more Volkswagen feel. Pulling 4,500 pounds, the 3.8-liter
engine felt adequate, utterly unlike any of the snail-like Microbuses of
yore, or even the later Eurovan.
The Routan is a
seven-passenger vehicle, and the rear seats fold down to allow for a
huge 83-cubic-foot cargo capacity. Chryslerís quarter century of minivan
research and development serve the Routan well.
Routans come in three
levels, S, SE and SEL. The S starts at $24,700, the SE jumps to $29,600,
with the SEL priced at $33,200. Add a $690 destination charge to each of
those numbers. Numerous features account for the significant price jumps
between levels, for example, the SEL gets the 4.0-liter engine standard.
Does it matter that VW
is ďfoolingĒ buyers with the Routan, built by Chrysler in Windsor,
Canada? Sales numbers are low, so the Routan may be a short-lived
experiment. However, if you love your Jetta, and really need room for 7,
it offers you an option you didnít have before, even if itís not a real
By Steve Schaefer
© AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Routan Review provided by Tony
Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
VW Home Page
Column Name: VWís new
Microbus for the times
Topic: The 2009
Word Count: 857
Photo Caption: The
2009 Volkswagen Routan
Volkswagen Routan Internet Media
Series #: 2009 - 54
the Microsoft Word version here: 2009
Download the Original Image File here:
2009 VW Routan