2009 Volkswagen Routan SE Minivan Review
2009 VOLKSWAGEN ROUTAN SE
By Steve Purdy
Volkswagen announced a few years ago a particularly ambitious plan to become one of the major players in the US market, that is, to sell 800,000 units by 2018. At that time VW was more of a niche marketer with mostly great performing small sedans focused on a dedicated bunch of VW aficionados. VW even tried a large, expensive performance sedan, called Phaeton, that failed miserably. Now they’re focused on mass market segments – including the minivan.
But, alas, it didn’t happen. Rather, VW decided to hire Chrysler to make a version of their minivan instead. This one has some VW styling queues and modestly European ride and handling, but it has the proportions and ambiance of a Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country. And that’s what it is, a Chrysler minivan with VW badges and trim.
It’s certainly an entirely competent, useful and OK-looking vehicle as are the Chrysler donor vehicles. But, it’s not as special as I was hoping a VW would be.
Performance is just about the same as the Chrysler products with the same engine and transmission offerings. This one has the 197-horsepower V6 that makes a good 230 pound-feet of torque. For just a few mpg and a couple of bucks more you can have a 4.0-liter unit that makes 251 horsepower and 259 pound-feet. I found our smaller engine entirely up to the task of getting us around expeditiously. I didn’t have it loaded up with teenagers and hitched to a trailer full of their sports gear though. The Routan can pull 2,000 pounds (3,000 pounds with the towing package). All models come with a competent, smooth 6-speed automatic transmission.
EPA estimates fuel mileage to be 16-mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. That’s with the 3.8-liter engine. We managed 20.1-mpg this week in a variety of driving environments. The 20.5-gallon fuel tanks gives us a good 400-mile range in most circumstances.
Routan comes in three trim levels beginning with the S model starting at $25,200. Then the SE version, like our tester, begins at $29,700 and the top-of-the-line SEL begns at $33,600. You’ll find that each of the trim levels is well-equipped with all the common safety and convenience features you would expect. The Routan is priced just about midway between the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, model-for-model. Our SE test car has just one package that includes power sunroof, power adjustable pedals, towing preparation, roof rails and adjustable rear suspension for just about 2-grand. With the $690 destination charge ours stickers out at $32,275.
Warranty coverage is the standard VW 3-year/36,000-mile deal with 5-year/50,000-mile coverage on the powertrain.