The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2009 Volkswagen Routan Review

2009 Volkswagen Routan (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Volkswagen Routan

MORE: Volkswagen Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Volkswagen Buyers Guide

By John Heilig

MODEL: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

ENGINE: 3.8-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 197 hp @ 5200 rpm/230 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode
WHEELBASE: 121.2 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 202.5 x 76.9 x 68.9 in.
TIRES: P225/65R16
CARGO VOLUME: 83/144 cubic feet (3rd/s2nd row sets removed)
FUEL ECONOMY: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway/21.0 mpg test.
FUEL CAPACITY: 20.5 gal.
STICKER: $33,200(base SEL) to$38,500 (plus $750 destination charge)

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Routan gives the impression that Volkswagen benchmarked every minivan (and every one of my minivan reviews) and picked the best features (and my favorites) in designing the Routan. It has some flaws (very few), but it has so many positives that the negatives are easy to overlook.

While I readily admit to being a fan of large vans (and minivans), driving the Volkswagen Routan seemed almost too comfortable. The Routan has all the best features of the other minivans on the road, and does it in an attractive package. Since VW essentially created the minivan with the original Combi, they should have some idea of how to do it right.

But VW has, to be frank, missed the mark with some of its minis, to the point where they have been downright embarrassing. But there was something about the Routan that felt almost too comfortable and familiar. A little research and insider knowledge confirmed that the Routan is built by Chrysler in Chrysler’s minivan plant in Ontario, Canada. The Routan is a Chrysler (or Dodge) with a few Volkswagen features thrown in to differentiate it.

This isn’t a bad thing. Chrysler, as the inventor of the modern minivan, has continually improved its products until they are without peer. VW picked a good company to bond with.

For example, the third row seats fold and stow in a depression in the floor of the “trunk.” This depression may also be used for storage if the third row seats are in place. There’s another “stow and go” hole in the floor ahead of the second row seats that is a convenient storage area. These second row wells are deep and practical.

The 3.8-liter V6 has good power, with 197 horsepower. It powers the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission with the shifter on the dash. This is an interesting location and it really works.

The Routan handles like a minivan, meaning that over-the-road performance is very good. You don’t want to corner too fast in the Routan, though, because its high aspect ratio makes it feel uncomfortable on tight turns. I would say handling is better than the average minivan. Visibility is good all around.

Speaking of comfort, the front bucket seats are comfortable on long rides. We used the Routan for our regular 5-1/2-hour trip to our daughter’s (for Easter this time) and both my wife and I commented on how comfortable the front bucket seats were.

I’m a great believer in cruise control. It aids in economy by keeping a more regular speed, rather than speeding up and slowing down all the time. However, in the Routan, when you’re in cruise control and the transmission downshifts, the gearbox tends to stay in the lower gear with the associated additional noise until the driver takes action.

Both the power tailgate and the powered sliding doors can be operated from the very loaded key fob. You can also operate them from buttons inside the van, so there’s no need to panic.

There are a number of small storage areas and cubbies located throughout the Routan. I was impressed that most of them have rubber mats in the bottom to keep small objects from sliding around. However, there’s a small cubby at the base of the center stack that isn’t deep enough to hold sunglasses or an EZPass without them falling out.

The center console is useful with storage areas on the top and the standard deep well under the arm rest portion. This console is also removable (with a little work) so that front passengers can gain access to the rear of the vehicle. That access is needed if you detect any behavior when sneaking a glance in the “conversation mirror) located in the sunglass holder.

The Chrysler influence is noticed in subtle ways. For example, the struts holding the rear hatch are Mopar labeled. There are audio volume and “change mode” switches located behind the steering wheel, just where you’d find them in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example. The black-on-white are also very Chrysler-like. However, the cruise control stalk is straight out of the Toyota parts bin.

The Routan has an excellent audio system, even if it is a Chrysler system.

While I was somewhat disappointed to discover that the Routan isn’t a pure VW, but an amalgam of Chrysler and VW, but Volkswagen picked a great partner if they didn’t want to completely redesign a new minivan.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate

MORE: Volkswagen Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Volkswagen Buyers Guide